Due to the large size of the USA, you must become a Private Investigator in the U.S. by becoming a licensed PI in the individual U.S. state you are a resident of. You can also become a PI in an American state you are not a resident of; however, if you are just starting your journey as a Private Investigator you will most likely want to become licensed in your home state.
In most of America, you can use your state PI experience and credentials to help obtain PI licenses in other American states. America has one great advantage for rookie Private Investigators: in most U.S. states you can immediately become an unlicensed PI if you work under a fully licensed American Private Investigator agency.
American Private Investigator licensing requirements by state:
Private Investigator Jobs: How to Get Hired?
Average PI License USA State Checklist
You must be 19yo or older.
You must have a clean criminal record.
You have to take a government licensing course or just be employed by a PI agency.
You must obtain 2400hrs of experience with a PI beginner's license.
Example: How to Become a USA Private Investigator
The process of becoming a Private Investigator is similar in a lot of U.S. states: you need to meet basic requirements such as age, language proficiency, and other usual requirements of this nature. Furthermore, you need to take a government approved PI licensing course. In a lot of jurisdictions, there is a specific government body that controls licensed investigators. So, it is this U.S. government body that will have a list of approved PI licensing courses. Some of these can be online courses. As mentioned before, there is also a large amount of American states that allow you to work as a new PI with no licensing requirements. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements and completion of the licensing course to the government body, you will get your Private Eye beginner’s license. This is where your struggle will begin.
Your Private Investigator’s beginner’s license will be called something such as, “PI Under Supervision License.” You’ve guessed it, an “Under Supervision” license means you must work under the purview of a fully licensed American PI. However, the term “Under Supervision” will be in namesake only. You will not be supervised or guided by an experienced Private Investigator. In fact, PI agencies are not economically structured to have mentor/ student surveillance teams. And that licensing course you took? It does not teach investigation, only what U.S. laws Private Eyes need to be aware of. This is useful; however, new Private Investigators still need to know how to be successful working investigative operations.
This lack of guidance and Private Investigator education is why so many new American Private Investigators burn out and quit and why many experienced Private Investigators are jaded. On top of this, PI clients with small budgets typically get the new unqualified Private Investigators, nobody wins in this situation. It is also not fair to small PI clients to use their files to haphazardly train new Private Investigators.
Now the time comes for you to work investigations with no PI experience or education. The licensing course you took focused on legal matters with no real practical PI subjects or topics. You will always be told by employers that “soon you will get some training,” which never happens. It took me over five years to figure out the industry and get good at a few specialized fields. During that time, I struggled and probably lost several hundred thousand dollars due to losing work opportunities from a lack of skill and education. What is sad is that this is a common story in the private investigation industry.
If you make it through this meat grinder of an industry with over 2400hrs of experience, you will qualify for a "full Private Investigator license." Some jurisdictions allow you to skip over needing to obtain 2400hrs of Private Investigator experience if you have a degree in a criminal justice type field. So, you get your 2400hrs of PI experience and or a relevant degree and you can get your full Private Investigator license. This basically means you can open your own PI agency. Hopefully, when you are hiring new Private Investigators, you will appreciate the importance of proper PI education.
Example: USA Private Investigator License Requirements
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR UNDER SUPERVISION
Restrictions: you can only work as a PI employee.
You must be 18 or older.
You cannot have a criminal record.
You need to be an American citizen and submit a copy of U.S. government ID.
You must be able to speak and write in English.
Government Approved PI License Course
You will need to complete a license course approved by the state government and submit proof of completion. This can be an online course.
Typically, a degree in a criminal justice type field will qualify you for a PI license.
You have to provide a certified passport photo.
You have to get your fingerprints taken.
You will have to pay a small licensing fee.
The documents you submit can be sent via mail or online uploading.
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR (FULL PI)
Permissions: You can apply for a PI business license and work for yourself.
Private Investigator Under Supervision License
You must provide the state government with a copy of your PI Under Supervision license.
2400 Hours of PI Experience
You have to submit proof of your PI experience. The easiest way is to submit your employee payment documents that show the hours you worked.
Private Investigator Business License(Work for Yourself)
You will have to provide your full PI license and maybe proof of PI experience and education.
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About the Author
Peter is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 15 years as a Professional Private Investigator. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for insurance agencies, corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities. Thru NDIL, Peter has helped many in the USA become Private Investigators.