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How to Become a Police Officer in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a great state to start a career for aspiring police and sheriff’s deputies. In terms of both officer and civilian recruitment, the state offers a wide range of rewarding career opportunities. There are about 27,460 police and sheriff officers in Pennsylvania and at many major police agencies in the state recruitment is ongoing.1 Below you will find detailed information about state and local requirements for those looking to become Pennsylvania police officers, state troopers, or sheriff’s deputies.

Pennsylvania Police Officer Requirements

As in most states, there are a number of requirements candidates must meet before being eligible for active duty in Pennsylvania. The Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) oversees the process of becoming a Pennsylvania cop or sheriff’s deputy and sets minimum standards. However, local departments may stipulate their own requirements on top of the state requirements. For example, although the MPOETC requires a high school diploma or GED equivalent, local departments may require an associate’s degree or higher. Even if a college degree isn’t mandatory for employment, most departments look favorably upon college experience.

The MPOETC minimum standards state that to become a Pennsylvania police officer candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a US citizen
  • Not have a record of any disqualifying criminal offenses
  • Be able to read at at least a 9th-grade level
  • Have visual acuity of at least 20/70 correctable to 20/20
  • Score in at least the 30th percentile in physical fitness according to Cooper Institute standards

Required Exams

All aspiring Pennsylvania police recruits must submit to a full background check that shows a clean criminal record as well as satisfactory credit and employment history. Part of the process includes an extensive interview, polygraph test, and drug screening. Additionally, the background check and the face-to-face interview must show that the candidate has a high moral character with genuine respect for law enforcement.

Aspiring Pennsylvania officers must also complete a series of medical, physical, and psychological exams. Candidates will usually take the physical fitness test first. Tests also typically include the Nelson-Denny Reading Test and a computer-administered personality assessment. This will be followed by a psychological evaluation with a licensed psychologist. Candidates will also be required to undergo a medical examination by a licensed physician.

“Talk to people that are already doing the job. Show some initiative and contact your local PD and ask to speak to the recruiting officer. In a small agency, that may very well be the chief of police. Most will give you some time on the phone, or better yet schedule some face time, to discuss the hiring process at their agency. Don’t assume that all agencies hire alike; they do not. The same advice holds true for your state and federal agencies.” – Chief Thomas Medwid, President, Police Chiefs Association of Montgomery County, PA

Pennsylvania Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are responsible for traffic control and enforcement on state highways as well as crime scene response and investigation on state property or in cooperation with local law enforcement. Anyone looking to become a Pennsylvania state trooper must meet MPOETC standards and:

  • Be between 21 and 40 years of age
  • Be a registered resident of Pennsylvania
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have at least 60 college credit hours OR four years of full-time law enforcement experience OR two years of law enforcement experience with powers of arrest plus 30 college credit hours
  • Satisfy the PSP’s personal appearance policies regarding hygiene, body art, and hairstyle

Once admitted to the recruitment program, all candidates must complete a training period of approximately 27 weeks, during which trainees will train in an intense paramilitary-style environment. The starting salary for Pennsylvania state troopers is $61,820 per year.2

Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Deputy Requirements

There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania and each county has an elected sheriff. For anyone looking to become a Pennsylvania sheriff deputy, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff Education and Training Board oversees the training and certification process. Requirements above state minimums may differ from county to county, but in order to be certified, all new recruits must complete a basic training program of at least 760 hours. The training is quite comprehensive and covers all facets of law enforcement in Pennsylvania including civil law and procedure, criminal justice, firearm use, patrol procedures, ethics, and professional standards.

Philadelphia County

The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office (PSO) has jurisdiction over the county that includes the major metro of its namesake city, Philadelphia. The PSO is responsible for providing protection to witnesses, juries, judges, defendants, and the public in the county court system; tracks fugitives through the Fugitive Warrant Unit; and carries out sheriff’s sales on foreclosed properties. Prospective deputies who meet MPOETC requirements for law enforcement officers and who can fluently understand and speak English, as well as a designated non-English language, are invited to submit a resume through the PSO website.

Allegheny County

The Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) serves warrants, investigates crimes in the county’s jurisdiction, and oversees the civil process, among other duties. The ACSO periodically hires qualified sheriff’s deputies who meet state standards and:

  • Are a US citizen
  • Have completed at least 60 college credit hours OR have two years of military service OR meet another waiver condition with a combination of law enforcement experience and/or education
  • Have passed the department’s qualifying deputy sheriff’s exam, which is offered periodically

Deputy sheriffs in Allegheny County earn a starting salary of $35,280 per year, which can be increased to up to $82,797 per year after years of service.3

Police Departments in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has approximately 27,460 police and sheriff officers working in more than 150 local police departments throughout the state.1 To become a law enforcement officer in the state you must meet MPOETC qualifications plus any additional requirements held by the hiring agency. Once hired, police officers will undergo rigorous training at one of the state’s numerous police academies.

Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) is the largest police force in the state, the fourth-largest police force in the US, and the oldest municipal police agency in the United States.4 Over 6,300 sworn officers and 800 civilian personnel work together to protect and serve the 140 square miles and 1.5 million residents of the city.4 In order to become a Philadelphia police officer, candidates must meet state standards and:

  • Be at least 21 years old (22 on the date of appointment)
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Be a registered Philadelphia resident within six months of hire

While it is not a requirement, applicants will receive preference points in the competitive hiring process for holding an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree; experience in law enforcement, fluency in another language, and Philadelphia residency can also result in the award of additional preference points. For more information on the Philadelphia Police Department, take a look at our in-depth guide on How to Become a Police Officer in Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh

Going back to 1857, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (PBP) is one of Pennsylvania’s most experienced police forces. Today, the force of approximately 900 sworn law enforcement officers proudly provides the community with the services of a major metro police department, including specialty units as well as uniform patrol.5 To become a Pittsburgh police officer, candidates must meet state requirements and:

  • Be a resident of Pittsburgh no later than the date of hire
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have 30 college credit hours by the date of the written exam, and 60 credit hours by the date of hire (a waiver of up to one calendar year may be requested)

During training, Pittsburgh police recruits earn $14.96 per hour.5 The salary is raised to $44,720 annually for the first year of service, with periodic increases thereafter.5

Police Training Academies in Pennsylvania

The Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission is responsible for the certification and training of future Pennsylvania police recruits. The training process hinges on a comprehensive curriculum that is based on theoretical and hands-on training. The entire training program can take up to six months.

There are 25 MPOETC-approved basic training academies in Pennsylvania that are approved to provide aspiring recruits with the training necessary to become a Pennsylvania police officer or sheriff’s deputy. These include:

  • Allegheny County Police Training Academy – Allison Park, PA
  • Gerald M. Monahan Sr. Police Academy – Allentown, PA
  • Philadelphia Police Department Recruit Training Division, Philadelphia, PA
  • Pittsburgh Police Training Academy – Pittsburgh, PA
  • PSP Academy – Hershey, PA

For a complete list of approved academies, consult the MPOETC website.

Pennsylvania Police Jobs Outlook

The average salary for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Pennsylvania is $66,460 per year.1 Careers in law enforcement in Pennsylvania are on a positive trajectory. Employment of police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Pennsylvania is expected to increase 4.1% through 2026, with 1,910 average annual openings including replacements.6 Many of the job openings in the coming years will be due to replacement openings, mainly due to a large number of baby boomer-era veteran officers who are expected to retire over the next 10 years.

For more information current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs page.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Pennsylvania

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton1,750$66,790
Philadelphia6,800$70,500
Pittsburgh5,620$63,050
Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton1,530$54,050

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.1

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
2. Pennsylvania State Police: http://www.patrooper.com/
3. Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office: http://sheriffalleghenycounty.com/index.html
4. Philadelphia Police Department: https://www.phillypolice.com/
5. City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police: http://pittsburghpa.gov/police/
6. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm