Steps on How to Secure a Private Investigator License

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 34,900 private investigators working in the United States as of 2014. As a matter of fact, the demand for licensed private investigators is expected to grow by 5% from 2014 to 2024. With these numbers, it’s important to make sure that the one you’re hiring is properly licensed to do their work. This ensures that the people you get are skilled enough to be certified by the state they operate in.

The steps to acquire this license varies by state, but there are common requirements. These include a high-school diploma and experience in law enforcement or military outfits. Another option to gain this experience is to start as an intern in private investigation firms. It’s also important to remember that states also issue examinations for those applying. With that said, let’s take a look at the steps to secure a license.

  1. Determine your state’s age requirement

Each state has different age requirements before applying for a license. While some states require applicants to be at least 18 years of age, others like New York have to be at least 25 years old to apply. Those applying also need to undergo a background check to verify that they are clear of any criminal records.

  1. Arrange your credentials and pay the fee

Your educational background and work experience will be needed for this step. High school diplomas are part of the minimum requirements, but the experience requirements can be more stringent.

Some states like New York require at least three to five years of experience as an employee of an investigative agency. In other cases, applicants may also need at least 20 years’ worth of prior experience as a police officer or a fire marshal. Once you meet these requirements, you can then pay the processing fee.

  1. Pass the state licensure exams

Each state will issue licensure exams for applicants. While the subjects included can vary depending on where you take them, these can cover various topics. In Washington for example, topics such as federal laws, court systems and legal procedures are recommended areas for study. Similar to the exams for doctors and lawyers, these tests can gauge whether or not the person is ready to work within the legal boundaries of private investigators.

  1. Obtain mandatory firearms training (if applicable)

Some states allow private investigators to concealed firearms in their line of work. If yours has these provisions, then taking the mandatory firearms training is the next step. Depending on where you apply, these tests can be administered by the FBI, the NRA or through other accredited firearms instructors.

  1. Submit the required documents

Once you pass the required tests, the accreditors will send you an application for your private investigator’s license. Depending on the state, these will require consent forms, proof of fingerprinting, and sworn statements that confirm your credentials. The licensing authority will be responsible for processing these documents. They can either be the state police or other public safety organizations.


These are the main steps that any aspiring private investigator will have to go through to acquire their license. For more information, you might want to check the requirements per state before applying.

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Jeremy Kaplan

A 50-something year old lifestyle, career, and education blogger based in Atlanta, Georgia. Years of experience in the office setting working with others and still loving it year-after-year.

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