How to Become a Private Investigator in Pennsylvania
Updated: Jun 19
Becoming a Private Investigator in Pennsylvania is different from most other places. The difference is that Pennsylvania does not require much for you to work as a PI for a Pennsylvania Private Investigator agency. You simply need to be registered as support staff for a Pennsylvania PI agency. However, you won’t be a fully 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 (three 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 course/ test (most places you do). In Pennsylvania, the government body that controls licensed Private Investigators is the individual county court system you are in. You will need to contact your Clerk of Court to obtain an application for a full PI license. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements and experience to the county, you will get your Pennsylvania full PI license. Most jurisdiction will have a PI beginner’s license, Pennsylvania does not. However, being registered support staff is similar to a beginner’s PI license. This is where your struggle will begin.
Your Private Investigator beginner’s license equivalent in Pennsylvania is just being support staff to a Pennsylvania PI agency. Your Pennsylvania PI employer will register you with the government. This will allow you to work for a Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania PI agency. However, the term “under supervision” will be in namesake only. You will not be supervised or guided by an experienced Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania Private Investigators burn out and quit and why many experienced Pennsylvania 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 case files to haphazardly train new Private Investigators.
So, the time comes for you to work investigations in Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania PI 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 Pennsylvania PI industry. If you make it through this meat grinder of an industry with three years of experience (full time average) and get a Pennsylvania 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.
Pennsylvania PI License (work for yourself) Requirements
-You need to be 25yo or older.
-You need to be an American citizen.
-You cannot have a history of mental illness.
-You must have a clean criminal and personal record.
-You will have to pay a small licensing fee.
-You will need three years of full time experience as an Investigator for a PI agency or law enforcement agency.
-You need to be fingerprinted.
-You need five personal references.
-You need a certified passport photo.
-You need $10 000 in business liability insurance.