How to Become a Police Officer in Pennsylvania


Police officers are an important aspect of any city in Pennsylvania as they work to keep citizens safe. Sworn to uphold and enforce the law, police officers must go through a rigorous application process and training before being given the public’s trust. There are many steps that must be followed for those that are interested in how to become a police officer in Pennsylvania.

  • Find a city or municipality in Pennsylvania where you want to work and submit an application with their local law enforcement center. Some cities in Pennsylvania will only accept applications during specific periods, thus you may need to wait to turn the application in until a certain date. Philadelphia is an example of this since they only accept applications after a scheduled exam date has been announced.

  • Take the Pennsylvania written exam. After receiving and approving your application, your local law enforcement center will schedule you to take the Pennsylvania written exam, which consists of 100 multiple choice questions. It will test your knowledge and skills to determine if you have the capacity to become a police officer in Pennsylvania. The test is conducted by the Municipal Police Officers' Training and Education Commission, which is the state organization that oversees the certification and approval of applicants to become full-time police officers in Pennyslvania.

  • Submit information at your local PA law enforcement center for a background check. Criminal convictions will prevent you from becoming a police officer in Pennsylvania, and a background check is done to ensure you have no previous convictions that would disqualify you. In addition to the criminal records check, inquiry will also be made into your credit history, past employment and motor vehicle records. You will also be required to submit references who can attest to your character.

  • Pass a physical exam. There are certain physical requirements that you must meet in order to become a police officer in Pennsylvania. The laws for the state (which can be found on the MPOTEC website, see Resources)) regarding physical abilities for police officers include no debilitating conditions, correctable eye vision, hearing abilities without the aid of a hearing aid, color vision and appropriate depth perception. The physical exam will be performed locally in Pennsylvania by a medical doctor and it will include a drug screening to ensure no illegal drugs in your system.

  • Undergo a psychological exam. Police officers in Pennsylvania must be able to remain calm in stressful situations. All applicants will be required to have a psychological exam with a licensed psychologist prior to beginning basic police training. The psychologist must have a Pennsylvania license in good standing for the psychological exam to be considered valid.

  • Meet the physical fitness standards set by MPOTEC. Physical fitness is a major part of being a police officer in Pennsylvania. This is especially true for urban areas in the state where cops patrol on bicycles and foot. The physical fitness standards used by the state of Pennsylvania come from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research. They require applicants to run one and a half miles and 300 meters as well as perform sit-ups and bench press repetitions according to the standards for your age.

  • Attend a police training course or academy in Pennsylvania. If you have made it through the previous steps, your local law enforcement center will sponsor you while you complete the police training required to become certified in Pennsylvania. While there are multiple locations across the state to receive the training, each sites training lasts for several weeks and ends with a certification exam offered by MPOTEC that you must pass to become a police officer in Pennsylvania.

  • Keep Pennsylvania police officer certification current by renewing every two years. Continuing training and education is required to keep your certification as a police officer current in the state of Pennsylvania. MPOTEC requires this to be done every two years.

Tips & Warnings

  • While certification as a police officer in Pennsylvania actually comes from the state, you will work with your local law enforcement center where you want to be employed during most steps in the application process.
  • You must be 18 years of age or older to become a police officer in Pennsylvania.
  • A high school diploma or GED is required prior to submitting an application for a police officer position in Pennsylvania.
  • All applicants must have a reading level of at least 9th grade or higher to be considered for a police officer opening in Pennsylvania.
  • Some of the local law enforcement departments in Pennsylvania have weight restrictions for applicants. Your weight will need to be proportionate to your height to be employed.
  • Certification for police offices in Pennsylvania can be revoked at any time for conviction of criminal offenses and physical or mental impairments.

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