As of 2015, the state of Pennsylvania had nearly 12.8 million people. To protect their life and property, there were nearly 27,570 police and sheriff officers in the state and recruitment is still ongoing. If you are among the people who are interested in knowing how to become a police officer in Pennsylvania, here is all the information that will be of help to you.
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The first thing you would need to decide upon is whether you want to work for the municipal police departments or become the state law enforcement agent. These are the two types of Pennsylvania police officers careers you should look into in great detail, since the regulations and training methods for these vary as well.
Requirements to Become a Police Officer in Pennsylvania
Like most states, aspiring police officers in Pennsylvania need to meet a number of requirements before they can be eligible for duty. The Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission is responsible for supervising the entire process. However, many local departments have their own set of requirements as well, in addition to the state-level requirements. For instance, the MPOETC has the minimum education requirement set at a high school diploma or a GED, whereas many local departments require at least an associate’s degree or a higher qualification. Following are some of the requirements that you will need to clear:
Nationality and Age
The state of Pennsylvania has set the following minimum personal requirements:
- The candidate must be between the ages of 21 and 40, at the time of hiring
- The applicant should be a US citizen with all relevant paperwork in place
- The applicant must possess a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license
Education Requirements for a Pennsylvania Police Officer
Candidates applying to become police officers in Pennsylvania need to have at least a high school diploma or GED certification. In addition to that, they may be required to have completed an associate’s degree or 60 semester credit hours from an accredited college level institution. This credit requirement can be waived off if the candidate meets the following conditions:
- Candidate has four complete years of law enforcement experience in any capacity
- Candidate has two complete years of law enforcement experience – in this case, 30 of the 60 credit hours will be waived off
- Candidate has four complete years of full active military duty and was honorably discharged from service
- Candidate has two complete years of full active military experience, with an honorable discharge – in this case 30 of the 60 credit hours required will be waived off
In addition to personal requirements and educational criteria, individuals applying to become police officers in Pennsylvania need to clear certain background checks. They will need to show a completely clean criminal record and pass a polygraph and drug screening test. In addition to that, they will also need to clear an extensive interview which will judge their capabilities to work in this field. Any applicant who has a felony record or repeated misdemeanors will be disqualified automatically. Being of a high moral character and understanding the general ethical criteria is also very important when applying to any field in law enforcement.
Medical and Psychological Requirements
Being a police officer is a mentally and physically strenuous task. Therefore, the department would require you to meet certain medical and psychological requirements, before you can become a Police Officer in Pennsylvania. All recruits are required to pass the Nelson-Denny Reading Test, along with the MMPI-2, which is a computer administered personality assessment test. After this, you will be put through a psychological evaluation test conducted by a licensed psychologist. After clearance of these assessments, candidates will be required to carry out a medical examination. If they are given the green signal here, they will then be eligible to take the required agility and fitness tests.
Pennsylvania Highway Trooper or Patrol Requirements
These officials are responsible for taking care of traffic concerns, and responding to crime scenes. People looking to become a trooper in Pennsylvania would be required to fulfill the basic medical, psychological and educational requirements, along with the completion of a training program lasting nearly 27 weeks.
Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Deputy Requirements
There are 67 counties in the state of Pennsylvania and each county has its own elected sheriff. The training and certification process for sheriffs is overseen by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff Education and Training Board. In addition to completing the basic medical, educational and background check requirements, applicants for the office of sheriff will be required to complete a basic training program of around 760 hours. This comprehensive training program would expose applicants to a variety of topics such as civil law and procedure, criminal justice, anti-terrorism training, patrol procedures, ethics training, etc.
Job Outlook for Pennsylvania Police Officers
According to 2016 data by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 26,970 Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers in the state with an annual mean wage of $65,130. Here is a comparison of Pennsylvania state figures with national estimates:
|Mean Annual Wage (2016)||$65,130||$62,760|
|Number of Jobs)||26,970||657,690|
According to this data, people applying to become police officers in Pennsylvania are certainly making a wise choice.
Police Officers in Pennsylvania are hired by both local and state governments. Here is a breakdown of the sectors that hire the most officers all across the country:
|Industry||Employment||Annual Mean Wage (2016)|
|Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools||14,440||$52,920|
|Federal Executive Branch||12,060||$54,980|
|Elementary and Secondary Schools||4,500||$51,260|
According to this data, most police officers in the country are being employed at the local level, with state government coming in at the second place. The highest annual mean salaries earned are by the state government hired police officers.
Police Education and Training
Police education prepares candidates to work as dedicated law enforcement officers in their respective state. Just like all the other states, Pennsylvania, PA also has specific education requirements to become a police officer. According to Pennsylvania State Police’s cadet eligibility requirement, applicants must have an associate’s degree from an accredited university or 60 semester credit hours. Degree can be obtained in any related area like criminal justice, legal studies, criminology, forensic science, and law enforcement administration. Many people also consider getting a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement related field for better job opportunities and career advancement
Police Officer Training in Pennsylvania
With the standards set by Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC), basic police officer training in Pennsylvania is quite comprehensive. The Basic Recruit Training Program is designed to cover at least 20 subjects and the candidates are required to complete 919 hours of training. Besides academic studies, recruits are also given hands-on-training that prepares them for real-life situations. Recruits go through rigorous training in criminal law, firearms, vehicle code, patrol procedures, defensive tactics, first aid, surveillance, and investigations. It takes approximately seven months for candidates to successfully graduate from the academy.
Training Institutions for Police Officers
Police training academy prepares recruits for just about anything and everything. A highly unpredictable job, police officers encounter many dangerous situations on duty. In Pennsylvania, PA, Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) establishes the curriculum and sets training standards for municipal police officers. Below are some of certified academies in Pennsylvania that provide basic training to the police officers.
- Pennsylvania State Police Academy
Operated by Pennsylvania State Police Department, the academy complies with Act 120 to develop minimum courses to provide basic training to municipal police officers. The academy effectively educates, prepares, and trains recruits in different areas like firearms, surveillance, preparing reports, criminal investigation, traffic enforcement, patrolling, and drug and alcohol testing. This is quite a comprehensive training program and takes around 7 months to complete.
- Pittsburgh Police Training Academy
A certified training academy, it follows the mandated MPOETC curriculum that includes 919 hours of training. The basic training program concludes with 40 hours of mock setup and live scenario evaluation. Recruits are then graded based on their ability to assess a situation and respond in an effective manner.
- Allentown Police Academy
Credited by Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC), the academy complies with the Act 120 Basic Recruit Training Program. Recruits study up to 20 subjects during the program and are required to take 27 written tests. Other than this, they must also pass practical tests that puts them through mock situations.
- Temple Police Academy
A certified Municipal Police Academy, Temple University Police Academy offers 350 hours training program. During this time, candidates learn about the role and function of MPOETC, PA criminal justice system, report writing and notes, authority and jurisdiction, and use of force in law enforcement. All police training academies have programs that include both academic studies as well as intense physical training.