How To Become North Carolina Highway Patrol

The North Carolina Highway Patrol operates under the Department of Public Safety to protect drivers on the state’s 78,000 miles of paved streets, roads and highways. The primary focus of the North Carolina Highway Patrol is law enforcement and safety for automotive travelers, but they have jurisdiction anywhere in the state with the exception of Federal or Military property. The North Carolina Highway Patrol came into existence in 1929, and today is second to only the Department of Correction as the Department of Public Safety’s largest division.


With a reputation for law enforcement excellence and an organizational structure similar to the military rank system, it’s not surprising that the North Carolina Highway Patrol employs an extremely rigorous screening process for prospective troopers. The first step for any potential candidate is to submit an online application. After processing, applicants must complete a three-part test battery that includes a physical fitness test, a reading comprehension test and the Law Enforcement Candidate Record (LECR) exam. You can usually find a study guide on Amazon.

Applicants who score within the selection parameters then proceed to the background check component of the application process. This screening begins with a polygraph test and upon its successful completion, the Department of Public Safety begins an in-depth background check. If the background check doesn’t turn up any disqualifiers the candidate must then complete a personal interview with the North Carolina Patrol Applicant’s Review Board. The Review Board will question the candidate about any problematic issues that have come up during the application process. After this step, the applicant will undergo a medical and psychiatric evaluation as well as a drug test.

Once the candidate reaches this stage of the application process the likely outcome is that he’ll receive an offer of employment contingent upon successful completion of a 29-week training program at the Highway Patrol Basic School. During this program, the officer trainee will receive instruction in law enforcement theory, firearms, physical fitness and participate in instructional exercises in the field. Successful graduates from the program will receive the rank of ‘Probationary Trooper’ at a swearing-in ceremony. The newly minted trooper will then receive his District assignment before he begins a twelve-week field training program.


The North Carolina Highway Patrol has been at the center of state political imbroglios on several occasions during the past decade. The result of this budgetary wrangling has been periods of hiring and wage freezes and occasional layoffs. The latest news, however, is positive for aspiring troopers. In August 2014 the approved state budget increased the starting salary for troopers to $34,000 per year. At the same time, the maximum salary was capped at $57,000.

In a roundabout way, the pay freezes for Highway Patrol Troopers has greatly improved the chances for applicants to land a job. The freeze had the result of shrinking the department’s applicant pool and producing fewer qualified applicants. Simply put, anyone capable of qualifying for the North Carolina Highway Patrol could find a higher paying job elsewhere. The need for additional manpower didn’t slow down during the budgetary issues and, as a result, the state is in the process of hiring officers to fill a backlog of openings.


The starting point for new members of the North Carolina Highway Patrol will likely be in traffic enforcement. Officers are responsible for enforcing laws and speed limits on state highways along with public safety functions like accident investigation, traffic direction and helping to facilitate an orderly vehicle flow during inclement weather. Officers may also serve as an educational liaison with the public, assist other law enforcement agencies with investigations or suspect apprehension and conduct DUI checkpoint searches.

In most cases, three years of traffic enforcement service is required before requests for promotion are considered. Officers can seek promotion into supervisory roles or other specialized areas of the department. Due to the budgetary issues of recent years the specifics of the specialized opportunities available to North Carolina Highway Patrol Troopers are in a state of flux. Discussion continues about possible reorganization of the Highway Patrol and/or the entire Department of Public Safety. In addition, there is a fair amount of interest in consolidating other North Carolina state government agencies under the auspices of the Department of Public Safety.

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