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How to Become a Private Investigator in South Carolina

Updated: Jul 15

Becoming a Private Investigator in South Carolina is different from most other places. The difference is that South 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 South Carolina PI agency. You will get a license for this: PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR EMPLOYEE. You will need a PI sponsor/ employer to get this license. However, you won’t be a licensed 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 (three years). A full PI license does not really exist in South Carolina. The equivalent is a PI business license. 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 or test (most other places you do). In South Carolina, the government body that controls licensed Private Investigators is the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements and experience to SLED, you will get your South Carolina PI business license. Most jurisdictions will have a PI beginner’s license. In South Carolina, this license is the Private Investigator Employee license. Getting this beginner's license is when your struggle will begin.

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Your Private Investigator beginner’s license equivalent in South Carolina is just being support staff to a South Carolina PI agency with the Private Investigator Employee license. This will allow you to work for a South 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 South Carolina PI agency. However, the term “under supervision” will be in namesake only. You will not be supervised or guided by an experienced South Carolina 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.



Private Investigator Employee (Beginner) License Requirements


  1. You need to be 18yo or older.

  2. You need to be an American citizen.

  3. You cannot have a history of mental illness.

  4. You must have a clean criminal and personal record.

  5. You need a PI sponsor/ employer.


PI employee application SC
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PI Employee Application


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This lack of guidance is why so many rookie South Carolina Private Investigators burn out and quit and why many experienced South Carolina 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.


Private Detective Aptitude Test

So, the time comes for you to work investigations in South 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 South Carolina 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 of PI experience, you be qualified to work for yourself with your own South Carolina PI agency. Hopefully, when you are hiring new Private Investigators, you will appreciate the importance of proper PI education.



South Carolina Private Investigator Agency Requirements


  1. You need to be 18yo or older.

  2. You need to be an American citizen.

  3. You cannot have a history of mental illness.

  4. You must have a clean criminal and personal record.

  5. You need to be finger printed.

  6. You need a surety bond for your business for $10,000.

  7. A degree in a criminal justice type field will count as experience.

  8. You need three years of full time experience as an Investigator for a PI agency or law enforcement agency.





Application information











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