Embarking on a career as a police officer in the Commonwealth of Virginia is a noble pursuit, steeped in both tradition and a commitment to community service. Aspiring to don the uniform comes with a rigorous set of requirements and a clear path designed to equip candidates with the skills, knowledge, and integrity needed to uphold the law and protect the citizens they serve. From the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley to the bustling streets of Norfolk, Virginia offers diverse opportunities for law enforcement professionals.

This article will guide you through the essential steps of becoming a police officer in Virginia, outlining the physical prerequisites, educational qualifications, training mandates, and the character standards pivotal to advancing through the ranks of Virginia’s law enforcement agencies. Whether you’re drawn to the job by a sense of duty, a desire for a dynamic work environment, or the call to make a tangible difference, the journey to becoming a Virginia police officer is a distinguished path that begins with understanding the process and meeting the challenges head-on.

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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) and O*Net Online

How to become a police officer in Virginia
How to become a police officer in Virginia

Virginia Police Officer Requirements

To become a police officer in Virginia, candidates must navigate through a series of stringent requirements that are designed to ensure only the most suitable individuals are entrusted with the badge. The Commonwealth of Virginia mandates these standards to maintain a high level of competence, professionalism, and integrity within its law enforcement agencies. Here are the key requirements for those looking to join the ranks of Virginia’s finest:

  • Age and Citizenship: Applicants must be at least 21 years old at the time of hire and must be U.S. citizens.
  • Education: A high school diploma or GED is typically the minimum educational requirement. However, some agencies may prefer or require some college coursework or a degree.
  • Driving Record: A valid Virginia driver’s license with a clean driving record is necessary. Past driving offenses may be scrutinized and could disqualify a candidate.
  • Background Check: An extensive background check is conducted, including checks of criminal history, credit status, and previous employment. A history of criminal activity or dishonest behavior can disqualify a candidate.
  • Drug Screening: Applicants must pass a drug screening test as drug use is strictly prohibited.
  • Physical Requirements: Physical agility tests assess each candidate’s fitness level. The requirements can include running, push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises to measure endurance and strength.
  • Medical Examination: Candidates must pass a thorough medical examination to ensure they are in good health and capable of performing the duties required of a police officer.
  • Psychological Evaluation: A psychological assessment is administered to determine the candidate’s mental fitness and suitability for the stresses of police work.
  • Training: Candidates must complete approved training at a Virginia police academy, which includes classroom instruction and practical training in areas such as law, defensive tactics, firearms proficiency, and emergency vehicle operations.
  • Certification: Upon successful completion of the police academy, candidates must become certified as law enforcement officers by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
  • Continuing Education: Virginia police officers are required to complete ongoing training and re-certification throughout their careers to stay updated with the latest laws, techniques, and best practices in law enforcement.

It’s important for candidates to research the specific requirements of the municipality or agency they are interested in joining, as some may have additional standards or preferred qualifications. The journey to becoming a Virginia police officer is competitive and demanding, but it offers the reward of serving and protecting the community with distinction.

According to the state of Virginia’s website, once you have passed the hiring process, the Virginia State police starting salary for academy trainee will be $55,427. This goes up to $60,418 a year after graduating from the academy. Once the candidate passes the academy training and goes through the FTO (Field Training Officer) part, he/she gets a $5,000 hiring bonus too.

Virginia Deputy Sheriff Requirements

To become a deputy sheriff in Virginia, there are several requirements and qualifications that you must meet, which are somewhat similar to those for police officers but with certain differences pertaining to the office of the sheriff. Here’s an overview of the general requirements to become a deputy sheriff in Virginia:

Age and Citizenship

Candidates must be at least 21 years old and must be citizens of the United States.


A high school diploma or GED is typically required. As with police officers, some sheriff’s departments might prefer additional education, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Driving Record

Applicants must have a valid driver’s license and a driving record that reflects responsible and law-abiding behavior.

Background Investigation

A thorough background check is performed. This includes a check of criminal history, financial history (such as credit checks), previous employment verification, and character references. Any history of criminal activity or other serious issues may disqualify a candidate.

Drug Testing

Candidates must pass a drug test. Any history of drug abuse may result in disqualification.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness requirements must be met, and candidates may need to pass a physical agility test similar to that required of police officers.

Medical Examination

A complete medical examination, often including vision and hearing tests, will be conducted to ensure the candidate is physically capable of performing the job duties.

Psychological Assessment

A psychological evaluation may be required to assess the candidate’s mental stability and suitability for the stressful and demanding job of a deputy sheriff.


Candidates must attend and successfully complete training at a regional or state academy that meets or exceeds the standards set by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).


After academy training, candidates must pass the state certification exam to become a certified law enforcement officer in Virginia.

Field Training

Newly hired deputies typically go through a period of field training where they work alongside experienced officers before they are allowed to operate independently.

Continued Education and Training

Deputy Sheriffs must complete mandatory in-service training each year to maintain their certification and to stay current with legal updates, procedural changes, and advances in law enforcement techniques.

Keep in mind that each Virginia county sheriff’s office may have additional specific requirements, and it’s important to check with the particular office where you are seeking employment for detailed information. It is also noteworthy that sheriffs’ offices in Virginia handle a wide array of duties, which can include court security, prisoner transport, service of legal documents, and traditional law enforcement functions, making the role of a deputy sheriff quite diverse.

Major Virginia Counties

Virginia, officially known as the Commonwealth of Virginia, is divided into 95 counties. The following list identifies some of the more populous and historically significant counties in Virginia:

  • Fairfax County: The most populous county in Virginia, Fairfax County is part of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and is home to many government contractors and agencies.
  • Prince William County: Another rapidly growing county in the Washington, D.C. metro area, it includes cities like Manassas and Woodbridge.
  • Loudoun County: Located to the west of Fairfax, it’s one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing counties in the country. The county has seen significant development in the Ashburn and Leesburg areas.
  • Chesterfield County: Located in Central Virginia, it is part of the Greater Richmond Region.
  • Henrico County: Also part of the Richmond metropolitan area, Henrico County surrounds the city of Richmond on the west, north, and east.
  • Arlington County: Directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Arlington is a densely populated urban county. It is home to the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Stafford County: Part of the D.C. metro area and situated between Prince William and Spotsylvania counties along Interstate 95.
  • Spotsylvania County: Located south of Stafford County, it is known for its Civil War history, including the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
  • Hanover County: Located north of Richmond, it’s known for its rich history and suburban communities.
  • Albemarle County: Home to the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, it’s a region known for its scenic beauty and historical significance.
  • Montgomery County: Home to Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech University, it’s located in the southwestern part of the state.
  • James City County: An important site in early American history, it is home to Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World.
  • York County: Along with James City County, it’s part of the Historic Triangle, which also includes Williamsburg. The county is known for the pivotal Revolutionary War Battle of Yorktown.

Police Departments in Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to numerous police departments that serve its diverse cities. Here are some of the major police departments and a brief overview of each based on their jurisdiction and prominence:

Richmond Police Department (RPD)

Jurisdiction: City of Richmond, the state capital.

Overview: As the police force of the capital city, RPD has a rich history dating back to the 1800s. The department is responsible for ensuring safety in a bustling urban environment with various neighborhoods, commercial areas, and government buildings. They emphasize community engagement and offer various programs to foster police-community relations.

Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD)

Jurisdiction: City of Virginia Beach.

Overview: VBPD serves the most populous city in Virginia and one of the most visited beach destinations on the East Coast. The department manages not only regular urban crime but also scenarios specific to tourist-heavy regions.

Norfolk Police Department (NPD)

Jurisdiction: City of Norfolk.

Overview: Serving a city with significant naval history, the NPD addresses challenges unique to a coastal city with major naval installations. The department prides itself on its community-oriented policing strategy and technological advancements in law enforcement.

Arlington County Police Department

Jurisdiction: Arlington County.

Overview: Situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., this department handles security concerns relevant to a region with national landmarks like the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. Their community-focused initiatives aim to bridge the gap between officers and residents.

Newport News Police Department (NNPD)

Jurisdiction: City of Newport News.

Overview: NNPD serves an area with a mix of urban settings, naval shipyards, and commercial districts. With its community programs, the department emphasizes proactive policing and community collaboration.

Alexandria Police Department

Jurisdiction: City of Alexandria.

Overview: Located just south of Washington, D.C., the Alexandria Police Department oversees a historic city known for its old town, waterfront, and historic sites. The department has a tradition of community policing, focusing on transparency and engagement.

Roanoke Police Department

Jurisdiction: City of Roanoke.

Overview: As the main force in the Star City of the South, the Roanoke PD provides services ranging from crime investigation to community outreach in this gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Chesapeake Police Department

Jurisdiction: City of Chesapeake.

Overview: With vast stretches of wetlands, forests, and urban areas, the Chesapeake PD manages diverse challenges in a city that spans multiple landscapes.

Each of these police departments plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety and security of its residents while also fostering community relationships. Their presence is crucial in addressing both the day-to-day concerns of Virginians and larger, more complex public safety challenges.

Police Training Academies in Virginia

In Virginia, police training academies play a pivotal role in preparing future law enforcement officers for the challenges they’ll face in their careers. These academies, certified by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), offer rigorous training curricula that combine both classroom instruction and practical exercises. Here’s an overview of some of the primary police training academies in Virginia:

Virginia State Police Academy

Location: North Chesterfield.

Overview: Serving as the training ground for the Virginia State Troopers, this academy provides comprehensive training that includes traffic law, criminal investigations, firearms proficiency, defensive tactics, and more. The training environment is modeled after a paramilitary structure, emphasizing discipline, physical fitness, and professionalism.

Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy

Location: Salem.

Overview: Catering to multiple jurisdictions in western Virginia, the Cardinal Academy emphasizes community-oriented policing, investigations, legal procedures, and emergency response. The academy also offers in-service training and specialized courses for veteran officers.

Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy

Location: Weyers Cave.

Overview: This academy serves the Central Shenandoah Valley region and provides a broad spectrum of training for law enforcement, from basic recruit training to specialized courses. The academy emphasizes a blend of classroom instruction with hands-on practical scenarios.

Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy

Location: Ashburn.

Overview: Serving the densely populated Northern Virginia region, including jurisdictions like Arlington, Loudoun, and Fairfax counties, this academy covers various facets of law enforcement training. In addition to the basic recruit training, the academy offers advanced courses in topics like forensics, cybercrime, and community policing.

Tidewater Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy

Location: Newport News.

Overview: Catering to the Tidewater or Hampton Roads region, this academy offers training that mirrors the unique needs of a coastal region with urban centers, naval bases, and port facilities. The curriculum encompasses maritime law, anti-terrorism measures, and community engagement, among other topics.

Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy

Location: Newport News.

Overview: Another significant training institution in the Tidewater region, this academy focuses on preparing officers for urban and suburban policing, with courses on investigations, traffic enforcement, and community relations.

Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy

Location: Fredericksburg.

Overview: Serving the Rappahannock region, this academy offers both basic recruit training and specialized courses for law enforcement agencies in its jurisdiction. Topics of training include criminal law, emergency driving, and use of force protocols.

These academies ensure that law enforcement officers in Virginia are well-prepared, knowledgeable, and skilled in their profession. Through a mix of academic learning, practical exercises, and scenario-based training, these institutions maintain a high standard of policing throughout the Commonwealth.

Virginia Police Jobs Outlook

In Virginia, Police and Sheriffs Patrol Officers are expected to enjoy an 8% job growth between 2020 and 2023, as per O*Net OnLine. This means that around 1,510 new openings will be there for prospective new police officers. 17,920 Police and Sheriffs Patrol Officers were working in the state as of May, 2022 according to the information provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Metropolitan Area Employment Annual Salary
Richmond, VA 3,010 $60,390
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 3,850 $57,620
Charlottesville, VA 430 $53,420
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 14,920 $77,480
Roanoke, VA 620 $51,290

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022)

1)Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
2)Virginia Employment Trends: https://www.onetonline.org/link/localtrends/33-3051.00?st=VA
3)May 2022 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm
4)Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47260.htm
5)Charlottesville, VA: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_16820.htm
6)Washington-Arlington-Alexandria: https://bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47900.htm
7)Roanoke, VA: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_40220.htm

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