How to Become a Cop in Montana

Becoming an officer of the law can be an incredibly rewarding career path. The best cops are pillars of their chosen communities, serving their constituents and protecting individuals from criminal activity. In these tough times when the police are experiencing some severe media criticism, there’s never been a more important time to get good people into the blue uniform.

Choosing a career in law enforcement isn’t for everyone, but it can still be a great option if you enjoy variety, public interaction, and looking after your community.

What do the police do in Montana?

Montana police officers are sworn to uphold the law and are first responders to most forms of social emergency. This means they’re the main point of contact when something goes wrong and are required to secure and investigate crime and accident scenes, arresting and interviewing suspects, and protecting the public from all forms of criminality.

It’s not all high-octane vehicle pursuits and adrenaline, however. There’s a lot of bureaucracy acssociated with police work, so the average patrol officer will spend plenty of time doing paperwork, writing incident reports, and testifying in court.

In fact, there’s a whole range of career pathways you can take in law enforcement. Montana is no exception to this. The state’s prodigious farming industry means there’s no shortage of jobs in the livestock department, regulating the transportation of animals, upholding state livestock law and responding to bouts of infectious disease. Not to mention the usual varieties of police work such as managing a K-9 unit, carrying out bicycle patrols, running drug awareness programs in schools, and training as part of a specialist response unit.

How much does a cop earn in Montana?

Most cops aren’t in it for the money but Montana patrol officers draw an average salary of $48,985, on a par with average earnings in the state. Of course, how much you earn will vary based on where you are stationed, how much you work, what your level of experience and training is, which rank you hold, and a whole host of other factors. There’s always room at the top in law enforcement for those who serve with distinction. Once you’ve passed the basic training, supplementing this with a police studies course will help you ramp up your pay and vastly increase your chances of advancement.

Where can I become a cop in Montana?

In Montana, there are five major hubs for cop training:

  1. Billings
  2. Bozeman
  3. Butte
  4. Great Falls
  5. Helena

How to become a cop in Montana

While recruitment varies a little bit across the state, there are six basic steps you’ll have to undertake before you can get out on the beat.

Meeting basic requirements

Before you stand a chance of becoming an officer of the law, you’ll need to prove that you:

  1. Are at least eighteen years old
  2. Have a high-school diploma or a GED
  3. Are a US citizen
  4. Possess a state driver’s license
  5. Can demonstrate strong moral character
  6. Have no convictions for felonies
  7. Have not been to federal or state penitentiaries for committing crimes

These stipulations do not hold throughout the state with some police departments waiving the need for a driver’s license (Bozeman). Great Falls is the most rigorous in its basic requirements, blocking certain individuals with impaired vision and vetting on the basis of body mass index (BMI). As well as this, Great Falls also goes one step further by insisting on candidates with “upstanding moral character” and “good interpersonal skills”.


Wherever you’re trying to pick up your first job, you’ll need to complete both a written exam and the Montana Physical Abilities Test (MPAT) to put yourself in the running for jobs. Most departments outsource testing to agencies who create a pool of successful candidates. It’s worth preparing well for the tests if you want to increase your chances of coming out at the top of the pile to land your first law enforcement job.

Written tests will typically be straightforward assessments of your basic arithmetic, writing and reading skills with a weighted pass rate of 70%.

The MPAT is common, and assesses potential officers on nine physical activities the state has identified as being central to frontline policing: walking, running, jumping, climbing, vaulting, lifting, carrying, pulling, pushing. In some areas of Montana, (notably Great Falls) there are additional requirements such as scenario testing, which analyses your instinctive response to policing scenarios.


If you make it past the testing phase and get yourself into the Department’s recruitment pool, you stand a reasonable chance of making it to the interview stage. Expect to be questioned about your work history, your academic track record, your character, and your motivations for becoming an officer of the law in Montana.

At this phase in the process, officials will generally be trying to rank your performance against other candidates, so it’s important to impress. Recruiters are increasingly putting a premium on strong interpersonal skills. Showing that you are a clear communicator who is capable of succinctly taking the lead in a tough situation will help you stand out from the crowd.

Background checks

If you make it past the interview stage, you’ll be subjected to a rigorous series of background testing, which will investigate and verify your driving history, financial past, criminal records, work and education transcripts and evaluations, and military records (if applicable).

You’ll also probably be asked questions about your character, and whether you’ve ever taken drugs, committed a crime you weren’t caught for, taken advantage of anyone, or been dishonest in the workplace. Investigators may even seek interviews with people who’ve known you in a personal and professional capacity: former teachers, colleagues, school friends, army buddies, accountants and neighbors.

Medical and psychological evaluations

Once investigators have confirmed there’s nothing serious in your past disqualifying you from working as a law enforcement official, you’ll undergo tests to make sure you’re up to mental and physical challenges of the job. This will include:

  1. A full medical exam
  2. Drug and alcohol testing
  3. Cardiovascular scanning and EKG (electrocardiogram) testing
  4. Breathing tests
  5. Hearing and vision tests
  6. A full talking assessment with a trained psychologist of the department’s choosing.

Police training academy

If you make it past all the vetting and show signs of potential, then you have a great chance of ending up as a serving officer. As a member of the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, you can expect to receive top-of-the-line training that will leave you with transferable skills in a range of areas. Most new recruits undergo an intensive twelve week course that will teach them everything they need to know to serve as a law enforcement officer in the state:

  • Firearms training
  • Crime scene investigation
  • CPR and first aid
  • Driving maneuvers
  • Patrol operations
  • Traffic enforcement
  • Human psychology and behavior
  • The state judicial system
  • Juvenile justice system

If you make it through all that in one piece, you’re more than ready to start your career out under the big sky.