Pennsylvania Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

    Pennsylvania has a population of more than 12.9 million people.1 Though many fugitive recovery agents, also known as bounty hunters, work in Pennsylvania, the state is relatively silent on the rules and restrictions for these professionals. Pennsylvania allows the practice of bounty hunting in the apprehension of fugitives, but bounty hunters must be employed by a licensed professional bail bondsman. To learn more about the basic requirements and process for becoming a bounty hunter in Pennsylvania, continue reading.

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    Requirements for Prospective Bounty Hunters in Pennsylvania

    As of early 2022, Pennsylvania law set no specific requirements for bounty hunters in the state. As a result, bounty hunters in Pennsylvania are not currently required to become licensed, although in recent legislative sessions efforts have been made to more tightly regulate the profession. However, you may be interested in becoming licensed as a professional bail bond producer through the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, especially if you wish to work independently. Only licensed bondsmen can issue bail bonds and direct the recovery of “skips” from bail in the state.

    Steps to a Career as a Bail Fugitive Recovery Agent in Pennsylvania

    Although there are no required steps to becoming a fugitive recovery agent in Pennsylvania due to the state’s lack of bail agent licensing, it is recommended that prospective bounty hunters gain some formal education and experience in order to be successful in this career. To be hired as a bounty hunter, candidates should also be at least 18 years of age and have no felony convictions.

    1. Obtain the appropriate training.

    While there is no formal training requirement for prospective Pennsylvania bail agents, those who wish to carry a firearm while performing bounty hunting tasks must complete firearms training and registration through the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to be in compliance with Lethal Weapons Training Act 235. PSP training and registration qualifies agents to carry a lethal weapon (including a firearm, or any other instrument or material that is capable of causing great bodily harm or death). To become certified, fugitive recovery agents must complete a program from a certified school, complete the application, and pay the $50 application fee (as of April 2022). Applicants must be fingerprinted ($22.60 fee) and undergo physical and psychological exams for certification. Approved applicants will need to pay a final certification fee of $30, for an estimated total of $102.60 in fees across all steps (as of April 2022).

    2. Identify a mentor.

    Especially in states where there is no formal education requirement for bounty hunters, identifying a mentor with experience in fugitive recovery is an essential step to learning the tools of the trade. Many local bondsmen and schools offer bail enforcement training courses. You might also consider earning a two- or four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field to bolster your credentials.

    3. Begin working as a bounty hunter.

    Once you have acquired the skills needed to work in fugitive recovery, you are ready to start seeking work with licensed bail bond agencies. You should also work to develop relationships with local law enforcement agencies to avoid possible misunderstandings regarding your activities. Having strong relationships with law enforcement can also lead to additional professional assistance with your fugitive recovery tasks.

    4. Consider an insurance license to work independently.

    While Pennsylvania bounty hunters do not have to be licensed, bail bond agencies are licensed through the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Pennsylvania’s bail bond producer laws are commonly interpreted to mean that a bail bond agency takes responsibility for the professional actions of its agents. Therefore, while bail bond agents frequently work on a freelance basis, earning a professional bail bondsman’s license can enable you to work on a more independent basis. To learn more about the requirements for a bail bondsman’s license in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Insurance Department website.

    Related Careers

    Most bounty hunters are self-employed, meaning they don’t receive a regular salary and their income is based on how much work local bail bondsmen send their way. To supplement their income and to gain valuable experience, many bounty hunters work in similar professions such as private detectives or process servers. Read below to learn more about both professions and how those professions are regulated in Pennsylvania.

    Private Investigator/Private Detective

    A private investigator (PI) or private detective (PD) provides specific information or intelligence to his or her client in exchange for a fee. The information can be legal, financial, personal, or business-related. According to the Pennsylvania Private Detective Act of 1953, the state requires that private investigators be registered at the state level, and you must also be licensed by your county clerk to practice as a PI or PD.

    State regulations mandate that PIs and PDs in Pennsylvania must be at least 25 years of age and have no felony convictions. PIs and PDs must also generally regularly work for a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. They cannot have pled or been found guilty of any of the following offenses:

    • Unlawful entry of a building
    • Aiding an escape from prison
    • Buying stolen property
    • Committing simple assault
    • Illegal use/carry of a firearm
    • Making threats of terrorism
    • Pick-pocketing
    • Possessing instruments of a burglar
    • Possession or distribution of narcotic drugs
    • Reckless endangerment
    • Soliciting a person to commit a lewd act

    Because licensure actually takes place at the county level, fees and other requirements may vary.

    Process Server

    Several states allow independent process servers to “serve” others with legal papers relating to a case. In Pennsylvania (231 PA Code, Rule 400), members of the sheriff’s department are the primary process servers of the state. An adult age 18 or older may serve process for civil actions, partitions, and declaratory judgments. Process servers in Pennsylvania are not required to be licensed. Visit the The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania for more information on becoming a process server.

    Training and Education Options in Pennsylvania

    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not require formal education for bounty hunters. Still, there are many educational opportunities offered throughout the state that can benefit your career as a bounty hunter, including many two-year criminal justice programs and certificate programs. This additional education will help you understand criminal justice issues and how to deal with them legally, and may increase your chances of landing a job. Here are some schools that offer criminal justice programs in Pennsylvania.

    Allentown Police Academy
    435 Hamilton St
    Allentown, PA 18101

    Central Pennsylvania College
    600 Valley Rd
    Summerdale, PA 17093

    Indiana University of Pennsylvania Criminal Justice Training Center
    650 S 13th St
    Indiana, PA 15705

    Lackawanna College at Hazelton
    145 East Broad St
    Hazleton, PA 18201

    Finding Work

    To be a successful bounty hunter, you must know how to search for steady work. Bounty hunters just starting out should look for a mentorship or an apprenticeship with a more experienced agent. This can give you an opportunity to learn how to avoid, and if necessary, manage common issues in fugitive recovery. This can also help you build out your contact list, as you may interact with other bail bondsmen and law enforcement agents, building relationships to support your career in the process.

    Featured Bail Agents in Pennsylvania

    In addition to taking advantage of education and training opportunities, it’s a good idea to build relationships with bail agents in Pennsylvania to find job and mentorship opportunities. To give you a head start, we’ve listed some prominent, well-known, and highly-rated bail bondsmen in Pennsylvania.

    ABC Bail Bonds
    215 W Bridge St
    Morrisville, PA 19067

    Cutting Edge Bail Bonds
    325 Chestnut St
    Philadelphia, PA 19106

    Liberty Bail Bonds
    1139 Penn Ave
    Ste 1
    Pittsburgh, PA 15222

    Philadelphia Bail Bonds
    1700 Market St
    Ste 1005
    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    Shamrock Bail Bonds
    327 Dekalb St
    Norristown, PA 19401

    Tri-County Bail Bonding
    17 N Duke St
    Lancaster, PA 17602

    To find even more bail agents and bondsmen in your area, use the Member Search tool on the PBUS website.

    Bounty Hunter Salary and Outlook in Pennsylvania

    When embarking on a new career, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the salary outlook and job growth opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary data for bounty hunters, but because the career of a bounty hunter and private detective are similar, we use private detective data as a proxy. Pennsylvania boasts the highest average salary for private detectives in non-metropolitan areas ($55,780) and has the fourth-highest level of employment for private detectives in the US.2 In Pennsylvania, 2,180 private detectives were employed as of 2021, earning an average annual salary of $50,740.3 Employment opportunities for PDs in Pennsylvania are projected to increase by 9.5% through 2030 with an expected average of 200 job openings per year (including replacements).4

    City or Metropolitan AreaNumber Employed3Average Annual Salary3
    Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD630$50,800

    Additional Resources

    Another way to find work is by joining bounty hunter and private investigation associations. Professional memberships can also help you build your network and add to your skillset.

    1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Pennsylvania: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/PA/PST045221
    2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wages, Private Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm
    3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
    4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm