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  • Peter Sandru

How to Become a Private Investigator in America

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:


Alabama


Alaska


Arizona


Arkansas


California


Colorado


Connecticut


Delaware


Florida


Georgia


Hawaii


Idaho


Illinois


Indiana


Iowa


Kansas


Kentucky


Louisiana


Maine


Maryland


Massachusetts


Michigan


Minnesota


Mississippi


Missouri


Montana


Nebraska


Nevada


New Hampshire


New Jersey


New Mexico


New York


North Carolina


North Dakota


Ohio


Oklahoma


Oregon


Pennsylvania


Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota


Tennessee


Texas


Utah


Vermont


Virginia


Washington


West Virginia


Wisconsin


Wyoming


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Average PI USA State Checklist


  1. You must be 19yo or older.

  2. You must have a clean criminal record.

  3. You have to take a government licensing course.

  4. You must obtain 2400hrs of experience with a PI beginner's license.


Example: How to Become a 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 PI beginner’s license. This is where your struggle will begin.


Private Detective Aptitude Test


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 PIs need to be aware of. This is useful; however, new Private Investigators still need to know how to be successful working investigative operations.

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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.


Learn How to Write a Surveillance Report


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: Private Investigator License Requirements

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR UNDER SUPERVISION

Restrictions: you can only work as a PI employee.

Age

You must be 18 or older.

Criminal Record

You cannot have a criminal record.

Citizen

You need to be an American citizen and submit a copy of U.S. government ID.

English

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.


Equivalent Education

Typically, a degree in a criminal justice type field will qualify you for a PI license.

Passport Photo

You have to provide a certified passport photo.


Fingerprinting

You have to get your fingerprints taken.

Fee

You will have to pay a small licensing fee.

Submitting

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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