How To Become a Traffic Cop (With Job Duties and Skills)

There are several career paths in the field of law enforcement that can offer stable job security and exciting work environments. One example of a popular law enforcement career is a traffic cop or officer …

How To Become a Traffic Cop (With Job Duties and Skills)

There are several career paths in the field of law enforcement that can offer stable job security and exciting work environments. One example of a popular law enforcement career is a traffic cop or officer who maintains the safety of drivers on the road. If you’re interested in becoming a police officer, you might consider a career as a traffic cop as a way to specialize in a particular area of law enforcement.

In this article, we explain what a traffic cop does, what skills they need, how to become a traffic cop and how much they earn in this career.

What is a traffic cop?

A traffic cop is a police officer who monitors drivers and pedestrians on the road to ensure their safety. They typically work in the traffic bureau within a police department, and they can sometimes focus on patrolling one specific area of a city or community. Because traffic cops can spend much of their job driving and responding to emergencies, it’s crucial for them to have strong physical fitness and stable mental health.

What does a traffic cop do?

Here are some of the common job duties that a traffic cop can have:

  • Monitoring the traffic in a particular area to identify drivers who are disobeying traffic laws or driving unsafely

  • Issuing tickets to drivers who disobey traffic laws, such as speeding tickets or parking tickets

  • Patrolling roads to ensure they remain safe

  • Directing traffic in areas with dense traffic and minimal signs or stoplights

  • Investigating accidents

Traffic cop work environment

The most common work environment for a traffic cop is inside of a police vehicle, often traveling on the road for most of the day. While some duties might require a traffic cop to remain stationary, much of their job involves driving to conduct patrols and issue tickets. Some traffic cops might also use motorcars or bicycles, especially those who work in large cities with high volumes of pedestrian traffic.

Traffic cop skills

Here are a few skills that can be essential for traffic cops:

  • Reading speed-measuring apparatuses

  • Using and interpreting equipment, such as breathalyzers and mass-measuring apparatuses

  • Rapid response time

  • Strong reflexes

  • Physical fitness

  • Attention to detail

  • Communication skills

How to become a traffic cop

Here are some steps you can use to start your career as a traffic cop:

1. Earn your high school diploma or GED

The first step toward becoming a traffic cop is typically to complete your high school diploma or to earn a GED equivalent. This is because the minimum education requirement for most police departments is a high school diploma or GED. While in high school, it can be helpful to take part in any opportunities that could prepare you for work as a traffic cop. For example, you might look for the chance to shadow a traffic cop on the job or visit a police department to discuss their application process so that you’re prepared to apply once you’re ready.

2. Consider pursuing a college degree

Earning a college degree is usually voluntary for traffic cops. However, some police departments might ask for candidates to have completed some college-level coursework in criminal justice or law enforcement. While you can often find colleges that allow you to enroll in only the courses you need to qualify for work as a traffic cop, it can be beneficial to consider earning a degree in order to receive a complete education in advanced subjects that relate to job duties you might have later.

3. Apply to a police department

Because a traffic cop is a member of the police force, interested candidates can apply to the police department they want to work for in order to start the process of becoming a traffic cop. When applying to work at a police department, candidates need to be at least 21 years, be U.S. citizens and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Police departments also typically consider a candidate’s criminal background, including driving records, to make sure they have no criminal record.

Once you fulfill all of these qualifications, you can submit an application and a personal qualifications essay to the department of your choice. If they want to hire you, you can then undergo a background investigation, physical fitness exam, psychological evaluation, department interview and polygraph test. If you complete each of these assessments, you can then qualify to be appointed to a training program.

4. Complete a police academy training program

Undergoing training at a police academy is often considered one of the most important steps in becoming a traffic cop, as this is where you can learn the specific details and skills you need to succeed in the position. In a police academy training program, recruits can complete tasks like classroom lessons about best practices in policing, training in driving police vehicles and using firearms and coursework in subjects like law and human relations. Most police academy training programs take between 22 and 32 weeks to complete.

5. Work through a probationary period

After passing a police academy training program, you can start working as a traffic cop. However, new hires typically need to complete a probationary period where they work with training officers while on the job. This can be a very effective way to develop your skills and hone your expertise, as you can complete the job duties that a traffic cop has while also having a resource that you can ask questions. A probationary period for a traffic copy usually lasts around six months.


FAQ: Do You Need a Degree To Be a Cop?


Being a police officer is a worthwhile and impactful job that serves the community. Experience and skills are key to a role as a police officer. They undergo specialized academy training and pass exams to gain employment, though often no formal education is required. In this article, we explore the career of a police officer, including their duties, experience, skills and how to become one to help you decide if this is the right career for you.

What is a police officer?

A police officer is a law enforcement officer and government employee who protects the community, enforces the law, investigates crimes and addresses issues of public safety. A police officer works for a local, county, state or federal agency and has an official rank based on the level of skill, experience, education and length of employment.

What does a police officer do?

A police officer enforces the law by patrolling assigned areas to respond to emergency situations, look for crime, enforce traffic infractions and investigate criminal complaints. Their primary concern is the safety and protection of people and families within their community.

A police officer handles a variety of responsibilities, including:

  • Writing and filing reports for traffic violations, accidents, arrests or other occurrences

  • Responding to 911 calls, which can range from minor to major incidents

  • Deterring crime within the community

  • Interacting with neighbors and building rapport

  • Providing backup to fellow officers and first responders

  • Giving first aid to injured individuals

  • Dealing with lost, stolen or found property

  • Gathering witness statements

  • Conducting arrests

  • Testifying in court cases

  • Staying alert and thinking tactically

Situations police officers encounter vary day by day and can include:

  • Traffic stops

  • Car accidents

  • Criminal investigations

  • Missing persons

  • Domestic disputes

  • Theft

  • Death notifications

  • Crime scene protection

  • Event security

Do you need a degree to be a cop?

You do not need a degree to be a police officer in certain states, though it may be helpful to have one. A high school diploma is often the minimum requirement in many states to join a police academy, which is the most necessary step to becoming a police officer.

Within each state, a police agency or department may have various education requirements. While an associate or bachelor’s degree is rarely mandatory, they provide opportunities to earn higher wages or advance in the career. Federal law enforcement positions, like ones within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), require a four-year degree.

You can pursue a criminal justice degree and join a police force later or be an active law enforcement officer and earn a degree to gain promotions or positions with specialization, like computer forensics or cyber criminology. Other specialized units can include:

  • Homicide detective unit

  • Special weapons and tactics team (SWAT)

  • Identity, internet and financial fraud units

  • Cyber criminology unit

  • Gang intelligence unit

  • Undercover or narcotics unit

What is police academy training?

Police academy training is the crucial step to becoming a police officer. It lasts three to four months and is offered locally, regionally or at state level.

To train as a police officer in an academy, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen

  • Be at least 21 years old

  • Have a high school diploma or GED equivalent

  • Have no criminal convictions

  • Pass a written, physical and psychological exam and a polygraph test

  • Get medical clearance

As a recruit at the academy, you’ll take classes to learn about state laws, criminal investigations, firearms training, patrol procedures, traffic control, self-defense and first aid. The academy is an intensive learning experience and you’ll spend the entire day training, learning or exercising. Each state has its own training parameters and testing methods to graduate from the academy.

What skills does a police officer need?

A successful police officer should possess a variety of hard and soft skills to best protect their community. Here are some examples:

  • Physical strength and stamina: As a police officer, you’ll encounter long days and potentially be on your feet for several hours. Your ability to restrain someone or rescue a person from a burning vehicle, for example, relies on physical strength.

  • Communication: Strong writing skills aid in your capability to complete reports, and speaking skills allow you to interact with the public or give directions to others.

  • Attention to detail: Being perceptive and intuitive helps you as a police officer. Your ability to notice details is important at crime scenes and accidents and for writing reports.

  • Leadership: Your capacity to be assertive, lead people and fellow officers or make critical decisions is important, particularly during dangerous situations.

  • Self-motivation: Being determined, disciplined and organized matters, as you may often work alone as a police officer.

  • Mental acuity: Your ability to keep a focused mind, stay alert at all times and think tactically to reduce risk can help protect yourself, fellow officers and your community.

  • Good judgment: You will face challenging or sensitive situations that require quick thinking and a strong sense of awareness, and your ability to make the best possible decision can affect a situation’s outcome.

  • Empathy and patience: As a police officer, you’ll interact with people who have lost loved ones or have been victims of a crime, and your ability to empathize and connect with their viewpoint can aid in the investigation and your career.

How much does a police officer make?

A police officer earns an average of $53,517 per year, though salaries are often higher in larger metropolitan areas or with federal departments. For example, the lowest 10% earned less than $37,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $109,620.

The salary of a police officer varies based on location, police agency or department, education and experience level or specialty skills. Police officers mostly work full time, though some departments hire part-time employees.



How To Become a Traffic Cop (With Job Duties and Skills)
How To Become a Traffic Cop (With Job Duties and Skills)