# Checking properties of matrices

Given a sparse matrix $A$ in $\mathbb{Z}^{n\times n}$, how easily could one check whether a coefficient $\alpha_k$ of the characteristic polynomial $P_A$ of $A$ is equal to $0$ (without the need to compute $P_A$)? Are there any known deterministic/randomized algorithms for this task?

The Faddeev-Leverrier algorithm seems to be a good start to answer your question, since it reduces the computation of $\alpha_k$ to matrix multiplications and traces. It runs in polynomial time (even in NC) and I guess any efficient treatment of sparse matrix operation carries to this algorithm.