A career as a private investigator can be both challenging and interesting, providing a wealth of experiences and opportunities. To become a private investigator in the state of Illinois, you’ll need experience and training. Whether you’ve always dreamed of becoming a private investigator or are considering a career change from law enforcement, this guide is for you. We’ll take a look at what being a private investigator entails as well as walk you step-by-step through the process of becoming a PI in the state of Illinois.
What Does a Career as a Private Investigator Look Like in Illinois?
Private investigators often work outside the scope of law enforcement agencies and have different areas of expertise. In Illinois, private investigators can work in various fields and industries, providing rich opportunities and experiences. Depending on your interests or expertise, you may find yourself drawn to a specific type of investigation or be interested in working for certain industries as a PI. Private investigators in Illinois can also establish their own private investigation agencies and offer a combination of services based on their expertise and the demands of their clients.
In Illinois, there are many career opportunities for PIs in a wide variety of sectors.
- General Private Investigations: PIs in Illinois can conduct general private investigations, such as locating missing persons, conducting background checks, working infidelity cases, and more.
- Corporate Investigations: Private investigators may be hired by corporations to conduct internal investigations related to theft, fraud, employee misconduct, or intellectual property violations.
- Insurance Investigations: PIs in Illinois can sometimes work solely with insurance companies to investigate fraud, examine workers’ compensation claims, and more.
- Legal Support: Many private investigators in Illinois work alongside attorneys to help gather evidence, locate witnesses, and conduct interviews for civil and criminal cases.
- Cyber Investigations: With the increasing prevalence of cybercrime, private investigators specializing in digital forensics and cyber investigations are in demand. They investigate computer-related crimes, data breaches, and online fraud among other digital crimes.
- Financial Investigations: PIs can also work solely in financial investigations for companies or individuals. Financial investigations can include locating hidden assets, conducting due diligence for financial transactions, investigating financial fraud, or assisting in embezzlement cases.
- Child Custody Investigations: Private investigators in Illinois can work on child custody cases, conducting investigations to gather evidence related to the well-being of a child and to determine the suitability of a parent or guardian.
How to Become a Class A Private Investigator in Illinois
To become a private investigator in Illinois, you must fulfill specific requirements set by the state. Here are the general steps to becoming a licensed private investigator in Illinois:
1. Meet the Minimum Background Requirements
To be eligible for a private investigator license in Illinois, you must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be a United States citizen or legal resident
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have a clean criminal record
- Not have any mental illness or condition that would impair your ability to perform investigative work
2. Obtain a PERC License
In order to work as a private investigator in IL, you need to obtain a PERC (Permanent Employee Registration Card) from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The PERC card is a state-issued identification card that confirms you have met the qualifications to work as a PI in Illinois.
How to Apply for Your PERC License in Illinois
Applying for your PERC license is a straightforward process. All of the steps below can be completed through the IDFPR online portal.
- Submit a Copy of Your Fingerprints. The IDFPR needs a copy of your fingerprints to verify your identity and perform a criminal background check. Fingerprints must be taken within 60 days from the date that the application is submitted and sent to an approved fingerprint vendor.
- Submit Your Social Security Number. Your SSN is necessary to identify whether you’ve failed to comply with a child support order, defaulted on a student loan, or defaulted on paying or filing taxes.
- Complete the PERC Application Packet. Complete the application packet and submit it via the online portal.
- Pay the Application Fee. Currently, the PERC application fee is $55.
3. Gain Experience as a Private Investigator
Illinois requires aspiring private investigators to gain a minimum of three years (2,000 hours per year) of investigative experience under a licensed private investigator or a law enforcement agency. This experience must be obtained within the past five years of your license application.
Alternatively, aspiring investigators can fulfill two of the three-year experience requirement by receiving a bachelor’s degree or higher in law enforcement or a related field, or a business degree. A corresponding associate’s degree would fulfill one year of the three-year requirement.
4. Receive the Required PI Training
Once employed by a private investigative or law enforcement agency, prospective PIs must complete 20 hours of required training within 30 days of employment.
The 20-hour training course covers the following:
- Illinois laws and statutes
- Communication and interview skills
- Surveillance techniques
- Investigation ethics
- Courtroom preparation
- Report writing and field notes
5. Complete the Class A Private Investigator Application
When you have completed the required training and received the required experience, you can then complete an application to become a licensed private investigative company in Illinois. Submit a completed application to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).
The application should include copies of supporting documents that showcase your required experience, a copy of your fingerprints for processing, your social security number, and any other qualifications you may have. You can also register to take the Class A license exam along with your application.
6. Pass a Background Check
Once your application is submitted, the IDFPR will conduct a background check, including a fingerprinting process, to ensure you have a clean criminal record. Note that a fingerprint processing fee will likely be required at the time of the application submission.
7. Take the Class A Licensing Exam
After your application is approved, you must pass a written examination administered by the IDFPR. The Illinois Private Investigator exam is administered twice a year and currently has a required fee of $298. The exam consists of 75 questions and takes roughly 90 minutes to complete. The exam assesses your knowledge of Illinois laws, regulations, and ethics related to private investigation.
Upon successful completion of the exam, applicants must also submit proof of at least $1,000,000 of liability insurance directly to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
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8. Maintain Licensure and Continuing Education
Once licensed, private investigators in Illinois must complete continuing education courses to stay up to date with changes in laws and techniques related to their profession. Continuing education courses can often double as professional development and create better career opportunities down the road.
How Much Do Private Investigators Make in Illinois?
The hourly wage for a private investigator in Illinois averages around $23, with Chicago-based PIs earning slightly more at an average of $24 per hour.
The average salary for a private detective in Illinois was over $65,000 in 2020, significantly higher than the national average of approximately $57,000. The highest earners in the field exceeded $90,000, depending on their area of expertise.
Learn more: Illinois Private Investigator Salary Guide
Online Learning on Your Terms
Take the stress out of PI training by taking courses online on your schedule. NITA is proud to offer state pre-licensing and continuing education courses for private investigators in Illinois. Our courses will prepare you for the license exam and enhance your career as a PI. Jumpstart your career today by partnering with NITA for all your training needs!
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