• Peter Sandru

How to Become a Private Investigator in New York

Updated: 6 days ago

Becoming a Private Investigator in New York is different from most other places. The difference is that New York does not require much for you to work as a PI for a Private Investigator agency. You simply need to be registered as support staff for a PI agency. However, you won’t be a licensed PI but you can work as one. This can be viewed as you being a Private Investigator under supervision. A full PI license allows you to work for yourself (your own business.). This requires you to have previous investigative experience. Other than investigative experience, you need to meet basic requirements such as age, language proficiency, and other usual requirements of this nature. Furthermore, you do not need to take a government approved PI licensing course (most other places you do). However, you will need to take a New York government PI test. In New York, the government body that controls licensed Private Investigators is The New York State Division of Licensing Services. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements and completion of the Private Investigator licensing test to the NYSDLS, you will get your PI license. Most jurisdiction will have a PI beginner’s license, New York does not. However, being registered support staff is similar to a beginner’s PI license. This is where your struggle will begin.

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The problem with New York requiring previous investigative experience is that there is no such thing as equivalent Private Investigator experience. Sure, a career in law enforcement will gain you some transferable skills to bring to the PI world. However, an investigative career outside of PI work will not provide you the skill-set to perform what we do the most: single person surveillance for insurance fraud investigations. Furthermore, PIs typically obtain all evidence via quality and litigious video. This is uncommon for most other investigative careers. Being a police officer will not make you a good PI the same way being a PI will not make you a good police officer.

Your Private Investigator beginner’s license in New York is just being support staff to a PI agency. It will allow you to work for a PI agency, but you will not be able to work for yourself (your own PI company). This means you must work under the supervision of a fully licensed New York PI agency. 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. Furthermore, a background in non-PI investigations will give you some transferable knowledge but it will not set you up to become a successful Private Investigator. New Private Investigators still need to know how to be successful working operations. This is why practical Private Investigator education and training specifically for Private Investigators is necessary.

This lack of guidance is why so many rookie New York 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.

So, the time comes for you to work investigations with no Private Investigator experience or education. If you took a PI course or PI training, it most likely focused on legal matters with no real practical Private Investigator training or topics. You will always be told by employers that “soon you will get some PI 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 loosing work opportunities from a lack of skill and education. What is sad is that this is a common story in the industry. If you make it through this meat grinder of an industry and get a New York PI license, you be qualified to work for yourself with your own PI agency. Hopefully, when you are hiring new Private Investigators, you will appreciate the importance of proper PI education.

Requirements to Work as a PI in New York

You simply need to be registered as support staff for a NY PI agency. This means you need to be legally allowed to work in NY. Your PI agency is most likely going to want you to have investigative experience. This is where proper PI education can help. Your PI agency will help you with registration.

New York Private Investigator License Requirements (work for yourself)

You need to have a NY PI license to operate a PI business


You must be 25yo or older.


You will have to be an American citizen.

High School Graduate

You will need a secondary school diploma or equivalent education, such as a GED.

Investigative Experience

You will need three years (full time) of experience as an Investigator for a PI agency or government agency. Or, 20+ years of law enforcement experience. You will need notarized/ verified documents indicating your experience to be submitted.

PI Test

You will need to pass a NY state PI test.


You will have to pay a $500 PI licensing fee.

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