How to Become a Traffic Officer in the US

Traffic officers, colloquially known as traffic cops, play an important role in ensuring a smooth flow of traffic on our highways and neighborhood roads. They also enforce traffic laws and regulations and, as a result, improve the safety of motorists and other road users. If you are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, and you love working outdoors, you could become a traffic officer.

See Also: How to Survive Rush Hour Traffic on Your Work Commute

1. What Do Traffic officer Do?

In detail, they perform the following tasks:

  • Using hand signals to control the flow of traffic, typically at intersections and roundabouts
  • Responding to traffic accidents—This involves administering first-aid to injured people
  • Patrolling roads to identify and arrest people who violate traffic laws, such as over-speeding drivers
  • Verifying the driving licenses of motorists and running the license plates of a vehicle to check whether a driver has previously committed other offenses
  • Searching vehicles for illegal drugs and other substances
  • Pursuing fleeing motorists
  • Issuing Citations or traffic tickets to the violators
  • Explaining traffic regulations to motorists
  • Investigating the causes of motor accidents and compiling reports of their findings

2. Work Environment

Law enforcement is a round-the-clock service, so traffic officers usually work on a shift basis. Opportunities for paid overtime are also often available.

You will spend most of your professional life outdoors controlling traffic flow or patrolling roads on foot or with motorcycles and cars. This means you may be exposed to harsh weather conditions such as rain and snow.

The work of a traffic officer is potentialy dangerous. On the road, you stand the risk of confronting dangerous people, such as armed robbers who may use violence.

3. Salary

According to Simply Hired, traffic police officers earn an average annual salary of $43,000.

4. Entry Requirements

Although a high school diploma is typically sufficient to land you this job, pursuing an associate degree in law enforcement will make you more attractive to employers. The program will equip you with knowledge of:

  • Traffic control and enforcement
  • Accident investigation
  • Police procedures
  • Investigative report writing

After earning the degree, you must apply to join a police academy and complete additional training. Unlike academic training, police training focuses on building your physical strength and practical skills.

To qualify for employment, you must also be an American citizen aged 21 or older. A clean criminal and drug background is also an important requirement.

5. Important Qualities

The skills and abilities you need to be an accomplished traffic officer include:

  • An interest in law enforcement
  • Physical fitness
  • Good judgment
  • The willingness to help the public
  • Good communication skills
  • Good driving skills
  • Emotional stability – You must not be overwhelmed by emotions when rescuing accident victims
  • Good investigative skills for investigating accidents
  • The ability to work alone for long periods of time
  • Good practical skills
  • An understanding of legal and court processes
  • The ability to stay alert at all times
  • Good interpersonal skills

6. Career Advancement

In law enforcement, it often takes several years of hard work to move to the next level. After getting hired, therefore, you should focus on gaining several years of traffic law enforcement experience.

In the processes of gaining experience, also pursue a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice to expand your professional knowledge.

You can also secure membership in the North American Motor Officers Association to stay abreast on various industry issues and receive advanced training on safely riding police motorcycles.

7. Job Opportunities

The employers of traffic officers include:

  • State police departments
  • Sherriff’s departments
  • Federal agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration
  • State and local departments of transportation

With vast experience and a degree in law enforcement, you can advance to become a traffic superintendent and later on, traffic sergeant.

Lastly, between 2012 and 2022, there will be 243,000 new jobs for police patrol officers, including traffic officers. This is according to the Occupational Information Network.

So if you want to make our roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, there will be enough employment opportunities for you to work as a traffic officer.