How to Become a Private Investigator in North Carolina
Updated: Jun 19
Becoming a Private Investigator in North Carolina is different from most other places. The difference is that North Carolina does not require much for you to work as a PI for a Private Investigator agency. You simply need to be employed/ registered under a licensed North Carolina PI agency as an apprentice. You will get a license for this: "PI Associate." You need a PI sponsor/employer to get this license. However, you won’t be a licensed NC Private Detective 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 (3 years). 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/ test (most other places you do).
In North Carolina, the government body that controls licensed Private Investigators is the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements and experience to the NCDPS, you will get your full NC Private Investigator license. Most jurisdictions will have a PI beginner’s license. In NC, this license is the PI Associate license. Getting this beginner's license is when your struggle will begin.
Your Private Investigator beginner’s license equivalent in North Carolina is just being support staff to a North Carolina PI agency with the PI Associate license. This will allow you to work for a North Carolina 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 North Carolina PI agency. However, the term “under supervision” will be in namesake only. You will not be supervised or guided by an experienced NC 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 surveillance operations. This is why practical Private Investigator education and training specifically for Private Investigators is necessary.
PI Associate License REQUIREMENTS
-You need to be 18yo or older.
-You need to be an American citizen/ legal resident.
-You cannot have a history of mental illness.
-You must have a clean criminal and personal record.
-You need a high school diploma/ GED.
-You need a PI sponsor/ employer before applying.
-You must fill out an experience log during your time as a PI Associate.
This lack of guidance is why so many rookie North Carolina Private Investigators burn out and quit and why many experienced NC 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 in North Carolina 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 NC 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 three years (full time average) of PI experience, 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.
FULL Private Investigator License Experience REQUIREMENTS
-Three years of full time PI Associate experience.
-Three years of investigative experience with a government agency.
-Post secondary degrees may also count as experience.