Security Guard Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania regulates the private security industry at the state level. However, an individual may submit materials to a local/ county authority.

Like other states, Pennsylvania distinguishes between individuals who run security agencies and those who are employed by them. The Private Detective Act of 1953 (as amended) covers requirements for watch, patrol, and guard businesses. It also sets minimum hiring standards for employees.

Armed guards must conform to a separate, higher set of standards.

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Select a Pennsylvania Security Guard Topic:

Requirements for Security Businesses

A security business must be licensed. Practice must be covered under a surety bond. The state has set requirements that must be met by a sole proprietor or by at least one member of a corporation or partnership. The applicant must be at least 25 years old. He or she must have no fewer than three years of qualifying law enforcement or investigative / detective experience.

The qualifying member and other applicants (partners or members of the association) must be fingerprinted.

There may be minor procedural differences in credentialing from county to county. The following is from Monroe County ( Applicants who are having trouble finding their local authority should recognize that security businesses are covered under a private detective act and that print/ website materials may use the term ‘private detective’.

Requirements for Security Guards as Employees

State law also governs hiring of employees. They are ineligible if they have been convicted of any felony or any crime specifically referenced in the Act. Disqualifying crimes include, among others, possession or use of dangerous weapons, trading in stolen property, making or possessing burglar instruments, aiding prison escape, unlawful entry, picking pockets, and possession or distribution of narcotics. The ban is not in effect if an executive pardon has been granted.

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The prospective employee must provide basic information including a three year work history with names of employers. The employer will ensure that the employee is fingerprinted.

Armed Guard Requirements and Application Process

The Lethal Weapons Training Act 235 covers requirements for armed security officers. By definition, “lethal weapons” includes weapons other than firearms that are designed to cause serious physical harm (for example, nightsticks). An armed guard will need to complete training mandated by Act 235. Completion of the academic module may result in “nonfirearms” certification ( Completion of academic and firearms modules will result in firearms certification, provided other requirements have been met.

Before the individual will be able to attend the training, he or she will have a background check, physical examination, and psychological examination. Standards (including uncorrected and corrected vision) are delineated in Pennsylvania administrative code.

There are various exemptions available to current and former peace officers. These will vary according to individual circumstances. A recently retired municipal police officer who has at least 20 years of service may be eligible for waivers of initial training as well as physical and psychological evaluation. Exemption forms can be downloaded from the website of the Lethal Weapons Training Unit.

Other individuals may be considered for waiver based on recent comparable training ( There are separate standards for academic and firearms waivers. Applicants will find ACT 120 waivers on the Unit website.

Background Check Requirements

The background check will be carried out through the vendor, Cogent. Registration can be carried out online ( The applicant may instead call 888-439-2486. The applicant will submit a total of $77.50 to Cogent. Some applicants, such as police officers who retired less than three years earlier, will pay lesser fees. There are fingerprinting sites located throughout Pennsylvania ( A summary of the registration process is also found on the Cogent site (

Out-of-state applicants are required to submit two passport-type photographs to the State Police.

The Pennsylvania State Police website includes forms for the physical and psychological evaluation. In addition to measuring heart and lung function and carrying out other required tests, the physician will seek answers to all questions found on the form (for example, whether the prospective guard takes medication). The form must be submitted, no matter what the determination. The professional must be a physician (not a nurse practitioner or physician assistant) and must be licensed in Pennsylvania.

The psychological evaluation will be carried out by a Pennsylvania-licensed psychologist. It will include at least two components: an interview and history and a personality test. The state adopted personality test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The psychologist is authorized to employ additional testing methods if necessary but will need to provide a thorough explanation as to their use.

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A prospective armed guard will receive an approval or denial letter. The individual must complete training through an Act 235 school. The State Police website includes a list of certified schools (

A $30 fee is due after training requirements have been met. Forms are available on the website of the Pennsylvania State Police (

Application status may be monitored online (

Additional Information

The text of the Private Detective Act is available online ( The Act is periodically amended. Further information about regulation of private security may be available from county courts.

Information about armed guard qualification is available from the Lethal Weapons Certification Unit ( The Lethal Weapons Certification Unit can be reached by telephone at (717) 346-4087 or by email at ‘mpolethalweapcert at’.