Are you an aspiring law enforcement officer looking for a challenging and rewarding career? Consider becoming a Sheriff in Pennsylvania! As a Sheriff, you will be responsible for maintaining law and order in your county, serving legal papers, providing court security, and transporting prisoners.

Before considering this career, it’s essential to understand the skills and qualifications required to become a Sheriff in Pennsylvania. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the Pennsylvania Sheriff Department encourages aspiring individuals who want to join the profession.

Let’s explore the necessary skills and qualifications, training programs, salary, and career outlook for aspiring Sheriffs in Pennsylvania.

Featured Programs and Schools

The Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association provides training in various aspects of law enforcement, such as the following:

  • Courtroom Security Updates
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Jail Evacuation
  • Methamphetamine Lab Awareness
  • Improvised Explosive Devices
  • Flying While Armed Certification
  • Deputy Involved Shooting
  • Critical Incident Management
  • Courtroom Bombings

If you are interested in being of service to the state of Pennsylvania as a sheriff, the following information would be of great use to you.
Bear in mind though, that the following information is not county-specific. To get detailed information about the requirements to become a sheriff in Pennsylvania, you will have to do some research on individual counties. For now, the following general guidelines should give you a basic idea of the process.

How to Become a Sheriff in Pennsylvania
How to Become a Sheriff in Pennsylvania

Requirements to Become a Sheriff in Pennsylvania

The basic eligibility criteria you need to satisfy for becoming a sheriff in Pennsylvania is almost the same as that of many other states. For a look into the details of this criterion, you will need to check with individual counties.

  • Candidates should be US citizens
  • Candidates must not be less than 18 years old
  • Candidates should have a high school diploma or GED
  • Candidates need to be in a good physical and mental state
  • Candidates should have a residency status in the county where they are running for sheriff

Steps to Become a Sheriff in Pennsylvania

Once you have met the basic eligibility criteria, you need to plan and begin the application process. The following steps would be of help to you:

Step 1: Enroll in a Police Academy

The work of a sheriff involves a lot of law enforcement activities. A police training academy is, therefore, the ideal way to prepare for the job. Some counties might have their own training programs for sheriffs, though most would require you to complete a police training program. This would give you a detailed understanding of the following:

  • Use of weapons
  • Managing crime scenes
  • Procedures for arresting
  • Crowd controlling
  • High speed driving
  • Witness questioning
  • Constitutional law
Step 2: Work as a Police Officer

Since the position of a sheriff is a leadership position, you will be required to have some relevant experience before being able to head a complete department. For this, you will need to work as a police officer for a few years before you can apply to become the sheriff of your county. This experience requirement varies from county to county. Some might need only one year of experience as an officer, while others might require at least five years.
Be sure to check if your county or state requires you to have a license or certificate to verify your proficiency as an officer.
Tip: If you get an opportunity to develop your leadership skills, by leading projects or taking on supervisory roles, you should take full advantage of it. These skills and experience will certainly come in handy at later stages.

Step 3: Get a Law Enforcement Related College Degree

This is not a requirement in every state or county. However, getting a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in criminal justice would certainly set you apart from other candidates and improve your job prospects. In addition to that, a higher educational qualification would make the voters feel more confident in your abilities to perform as a sheriff. By taking classes in subjects such as criminology, psychology, writing skills and public speaking, you would be helping yourself set a foundation for your future career. You may also intern at a sheriff’s office while you complete your degree.

Step 4: Meet the Requirements to Run for Sheriff

Once all your prerequisites have been taken care of, you will need to meet the requirements to run for sheriff in your county. Again, these would vary from county to county, but on a general note, the following requirements would be common to most areas:

  • Clear a written exam
  • Pass a background check
  • Pass an interview
  • Clear a physical fitness exam
Step 5: File the Paperwork with the County

Make sure you have completed your entire application package and meet all the necessary requirements before filing. Be mindful of the deadline to apply in your county.

Step 6: Plan your Campaign and Kick Things Off

The campaigning would be the most important part of the whole process. This would be the do-or-die part of becoming a sheriff. Have a complete plan ready of how you plan on going about it, and gather a big enough team to get your message across. Give interviews, distribute fliers and get ads printed in the newspaper to spread your message to the residents.

Step 7: Get Elected and Become Sheriff

If you win, you will be required to take an oath of loyalty, sign a contract and begin your four-year long term as the sheriff of your county. Some counties have sheriffs for shorter terms as well, but by-and-large, four years is a standard, after which you may go for re-election.

Skills and Qualifications Required to Become a Sheriff in Pennsylvania

To become a Sheriff in Pennsylvania, you will need to possess the following skills and qualifications:

  • US Citizenship
  • A valid Pennsylvania driver’s license
  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • A clean criminal record
  • Completion of a state-approved Sheriff’s training program
  • Knowledge of Pennsylvania state laws and criminal codes
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Physical fitness and agility
  • Ability to handle firearms and use non-lethal weapons
  • Leadership and decision-making abilities

Schools Offering Sheriffs Training Programs in Pennsylvania

Several schools offer Sheriff’s training programs in Pennsylvania. Here’s a table with some of the notable ones:

School Name


Training ProgramCourses/Skills TaughtDuration
Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ AssociationSheriff’s AcademyLaw Enforcement, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Physical Fitness19 weeks
Delaware County Community CollegePolice AcademyCriminal Justice, Firearms, Emergency Vehicle Operations25 weeks
Lackawanna CollegePolice AcademyCriminal Law, Investigation, Defensive Tactics18 weeks
Harrisburg Area Community CollegePolice AcademyCriminal Law, Police Operations, Physical Fitness22 weeks

Career Outlook of Sheriffs in Pennsylvania

The career outlook for Sheriffs in Pennsylvania looks promising, with O*Net Online projecting a growth rate of 5% between 2020-2030. Moreover, Sheriffs can pursue various career growth opportunities, such as becoming a police chief or FBI agent, later on in their careers. Becoming a Sheriff in Pennsylvania requires hard work, dedication, and the right skills and qualifications. With the right training and experience, however, this career can be rewarding and fulfilling.

How much does a Sheriff Make in Pennsylvania?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage of sheriffs in Pennsylvania was $74,270 in 2021. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association offers various benefits to its members, including health and life insurance, retirement plans, and professional development opportunities.