Are you ready to pursue a new career as a Private Investigator? Today in the United States, nearly 100,000 people work as private investigators, and new opportunities in the field are steadily growing each year. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of getting licensed as a private investigator.
What is a private investigator license?
A private investigator license is a state-issued license that enables an individual to work as a private investigator in the state in which it is issued. Each state sets its own licensure requirements, with more than half of the states requiring applicants to pass a state-administered exam to receive their license.
Do you need a license to be a private investigator?
In most cases, you need a license to be a private investigator. In fact, 46 out of 50 states require investigators to have a license to operate. Currently, the only exceptions are:
- South Dakota
However, it’s important to note that certain jurisdictions within states (i.e., Anchorage, Alaska) have local requirements that private investigators must follow. In addition, all states require private investigators to meet all business requirements and may even require a business license to operate.
How to get a private investigator license
If you’re ready to take the next step, here’s how to start the process of obtaining your PI license. (Please note that this guide outlines the general requirements for getting a private investigator license, but your experience may vary depending on your state’s specific requirements. Each state has a governing board that details the rules and regulations.)
- Complete minimum license requirements. The first step in your journey to becoming a private investigator is to research and understand your state and local requirements for private investigators. These requirements often include pre-licensing training, investigative experience, or a state-licensed examination.
- Meet experience requirements. In some cases, you may be required to have a certain number of hours or years of experience in a relevant field, such as military or law enforcement or courses from a criminal justice program..
- Satisfy educational requirements. Several state licenses require individuals to go through private investigative training and earn ongoing continuing education (CE) credits to maintain their licenses. Be sure to explore NITA online courses, which can prepare you to meet your state’s pre- and post-licensing requirements.
- Complete the background check and fingerprinting process. Private investigators are typically required to undergo a complete background check and fingerprinting process. Most states require that any individual who wants to become a private investigator have a clean legal record without:
- Any felony convictions
- Being under an indictment for a felony
- Being registered as a sex offender
- Being on parole or probation
- Any misdemeanor convictions for violent acts, fraud, theft, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, or narcotics violations within a specified time frame
- Provide documentation, fees, and other licensing requirements. After pre-licensing training is completed, check with your state’s licensing board to make sure that you are aware of the current fees involved with licensing and the terms for renewal of your license. Several of the larger states may require that you work under another PI’s license for your first couple of years.
- Complete the license application. With prerequisites out of the way, the next step is to complete the license application and provide any required documentation. Your state’s licensing agency handles this essential step.
- Pass the state examination. If your state requires a state license exam, the next step is to complete this examination with a passing grade.
- Maintain your license. Many licenses require regular renewal and the completion of continuing education courses to stay current. Be sure to know your state’s particular requirements so you can stay on top of them.
Is my state license valid in other states?
Some states have reciprocity agreements in place, which allow private investigators to conduct business in other states without holding separate licenses. However, even when reciprocal agreements aren’t in place, private investigators can often conduct investigative activities outside of the state where they are licensed, as long as they initiated the investigation within their licensing state. In either situation, private investigators must abide by all applicable state and local requirements when conducting investigations in a state other than the one where they are licensed to operate.
Where can I find courses to help me meet pre-licensing and license renewal requirements?
Whether you are pursuing a first-time license, satisfying continuing education (CE) requirements, or pursuing professional development (PD) on your own, you’ll find the training courses you need at NITA!
Since launching our training program in 2012, NITA has become the premier provider of state- and board-approved online training for Private Investigators and Security Professionals. We combine high-quality instruction and personalized support to deliver an educational experience to equip you to build a successful career as a private investigator. If you’re ready to start or advance your career, our knowledgeable team is ready to help. Contact us today to get started!
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Our enrollment counselors are here to answer any questions you might have about our state- and board-approved status, pre-licensing training, or professional development programs.