Illinois has a police force made up of around 31,230 officers and sheriff deputies. And with a population of 12.68 million as of 2015, the demand for police officers in the state is consistently on the rise. The multi-level police force, state highway patrol and several sheriff’s departments are what the state’s law enforcement is comprised of. For individuals who want to learn about how to become a police officer in Illinois, the following information would be quite helpful.

Requirements to Become a Police Officer in Illinois

The requirements for becoming a police officer have been outlined by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, which oversees the state’s law enforcement. The Board sets standards of hiring and eligibility that all aspiring candidates need to be aware of. Here are the pre-employment requirements you will need to fulfill, set by the Illinois State Police Merit Board:

  • The applicant must be at least 21 years of age
  • The applicant must not have been convicted of a felony
  • The applicant must be a United States citizen
  • The applicant must have a valid driver’s license at the time of the submission of the application
  • The applicant must have fulfilled all the relevant educational requirements

Education Requirements to Become a Police Officer in Illinois

With education, you have various options. The first thing you need to get is a high school diploma or a GED. Following this, you may go for the following educational options:


Option 1: A 4-year long Bachelor’s degree in a field related to law enforcement, such as criminal justice or forensic science.


Option 2: An Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science Degree or equivalent coursework, along with meeting one of the following two job experience requirements:

  • 3 years of consecutive and continuous, full time work as a police officer with the same police department
  • 3 consecutive years of active military duty

Option 3: An Associate of Applied Science Degree with a major in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice, along with meeting one of the following two job experience requirements:

  • 3 years of consecutive and continuous, full time work as a police officer with the same police department
  • 3 consecutive years of active military duty

Option 4: The education requirements are waived off in some cases. Applicants will not be required to fulfill the above stated requirements in the following circumstances:

  • The applicant was honorably discharged from the armed forces of the United States after serving active military duty along with being awarded at least one of the qualifying medals
  • The applicant is currently an active member of the Illinois National Guard or a reserve component of the United States Armed Forces and has been awarded at least one qualifying medal.

Qualifying medals are as follows:

  • Southwest Asia Service medal
  • Kosovo Campaign Medal
  • Korean Defense Service Medal
  • Iraq Campaign Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Afghanistan Campaign Medal

*These educational requirements have been outlined by the Illinois State Police Merit Board.

Required Exams

Aspiring Police Officers in Illinois are required to pass several written and physical exams before they can enter the field. The first two tests are in the written format. These assess the candidate’s ethics and moral attitude, along with overall work ethic and employment suitability. In addition to that, the second test, known as The National Criminal Justice Officer Selection Inventory includes an attitude and cognitive ability test. After clearing these written tests, aspiring police officers will also be required to participate in an oral interview.


Once all these exams have been passed by the candidates, they will be certified by the Director of the Illinois State Police, which will be followed by a medical exam. This test is carried out by the Illinois State Police to determine the overall physical health, strength and ability of the applicants and their suitability to work in a high pressure environment. Candidates are required to have an uncorrected vision of minimum 20/40 and an aided corrected vision of 20/20.

Background Clearance

All candidates applying to the police force will have to go through an extensive amount of background investigation which will involve personal references along with a record of traffic, criminal and history investigations. Once this information has been cleared, a committee will assess the final report and determine which applicants deserve to be advanced into the oral interview stage. Candidates may also be required to submit a polygraph test at any stage of this background clearance process. Any candidate who has been convicted of a felony or consistent serious offenses will automatically be disqualified.

Police Departments in Illinois

The Police Department in Illinois has 21 districts and is the fifth largest police force in the country. Illinois has three local police departments:

  • Chicago: The Chicago Police Department is the second largest city police force and it dates back to 1837. The requirements for the Chicago PD might vary a little from the state-wide requirements.
  • Aurora: The Aurora Police Department is currently under the Police Chief Gregory S. Thomas, who not only has an extensive background in law enforcement, but is also a bachelor’s degree holder in criminal justice from the Aurora University.
  • Rockford: The Rockford Police Department takes care of the third largest city in Illinois, under the current chief, Chet Epperson. The requirements for this local police department also vary a little from the state-wide requirements.

Salary Info for Police Officers in Illinois

The following comparative table between Illinois salaries and national salaries might help you draw out a better picture of the career outlook for police officers in Illinois:

State v National High Median Low
Illinois $99,650 $74,230 $37,500
United States $98,510 $59,680 $34,230

*Source: O*NET OnLine


The projected employment numbers in the state of Illinois also look very promising at 33,010, behind only 4 states: California (73,700), Texas (72,290), New York (59,900) and Florida (45,860). The overall job outlook is highly positive for police officers in Illinois.

An Added Benefit of Becoming a Police Officer in Chicago

According to the latest Huffington Post article, titled Here’s The Salary You Need To Afford A Home In 22 U.S. Cities, the median home price in Chicago is $244,652. Those earning a median annual salary of $66,084 can afford a home in the city. As mentioned above, the median annual salary of police officers in Illinois is $74,230.