How to be a Private Investigator in Texas is similar to most other places: you need to meet basic requirements such as age, language proficiency, have a clean criminal record, and other usual requirements of this nature. However, there is one large difference: you do not need to take a "government approved" Texas Private Investigator licensing course or Private Investigator training. This is a requirement of many states and provinces but not Texas. To become a Private Investigator in Texas, you need to be sponsored by a local Texas Private Investigator agency as well as meet the basic Private Investigator requirements mentioned before. Because in-depth and practical Private Investigator training does not exist, your sponsor is most likely going to want you to have a background in policing/ military or education in criminal justice. Both of these will help you to become a detective but will not set you up for guaranteed success the way a practical Private Investigator educational course would. The Texas government body that controls a Texas Private Investigator's license is called the Private Security Bureau, which is under the purview of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements and proof of a Texas PI sponsor, the PSB will give you your Texas PI beginner’s license. This is where your struggle will begin.
How to become a PI in Texas starts with a PI/ detective beginner's license. Your Private Investigator beginner’s license in Texas is just a regular Private Investigator license. 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 PI license means you must work under the supervision of a fully licensed Texas 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 policing/ military and criminal justice 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 new Private Investigators burn out and quit and why many experienced Private Investigators are jaded. On top of this, Private Investigator 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 experience or education. Your background in policing/ military or criminal justice will offer little to no real practical Private Investigator knowledge. 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 Private Investigator 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 with over three years of experience, you will qualify to work for yourself (run your own PI agency). In lieu of three years of experience, a Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice, a BA in any field + six months of PI experience, and an Associate degree in criminal justice + one year of PI experience will also allow you to run your own Private Investigation agency. Furthermore, having at least 200hrs of Private Investigator education will also qualify you to work for yourself as a Private Investigator. Hopefully, when you are hiring new Private Investigators, you will appreciate the importance of proper PI education.
Texas Private Investigator Requirements for License
Age: You must be 18 or older.
Sponsor: You must be sponsored by a Texas PI agency.
Criminal Record: You cannot have a criminal record.
American Citizen: You need to be a citizen and submit a copy of government ID to the PSB.
English: You must be able to speak and write in English
Passport Photo: You have to provide the PSB with a certified passport photo.
Fingerprinting: You will need to submit your fingerprints
Fee: You will have to pay a small licensing fee. Consult the PSB for the fee amount.
Submitting: The documents can be sent to the PSB via mail or online uploading.
Private Investigator Jobs: How to Get Hired?
Texas Private Investigator Business License (Working for Yourself)
-Texas PI license
-Business liability insurance
-18hrs of continuing education in PI subjects
-Two hundred or more hours of PI education
-Three years of verified PI experience
-BA in a criminal justice field
-Any BA+ 1000hrs of verified PI experience
-Associates degree+ 2000hrs of verified PI experience
Texas Department of Public Safety
5805 North Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78752-4431
PO Box 4087
Austin, TX 78773-0001
Thinking of Becoming a Texas Private Investigator?
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Become a Great Texas PI
Yes, you can become a great Texas Private Investigator. How? Through Private Investigator education. Not through the short Texas government licensing course, but through at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator education. This can be online Private Investigator training classes or in an in-class training environment. In order to become a successful Texas Private Investigator and meet Private Investigator requirements, you need to become educated on the complexities of the private investigation industry (this will also help you decide if you want to pursue the PI career) and how to set yourself up to become a successful Private Investigator. Secondly, you will need to become educated on how to perform investigations.
To learn the complexities of the Texas private investigation industry you will need to understand a few Private Investigator industry topics. Regional licensing requirements for Private Investigators will teach you what you need to obtain your Texas Private Investigator license. To help you decide if you want to enter the career of private investigation you, will have to learn the common misconceptions about the Private Investigation industry. Understanding the learning curve of a Private Investigator will set you up to become a successful PI.
Before entering the Texas PI industry, it is useful to know the challenges encountered as a Professional Private Investigator. This will also help you make career decisions. Then you need to learn what you will be doing as a Private Investigator. Learning the areas of specialization as a Professional Private Investigator and types of clients and corresponding file requirements will help with this. You will need to learn how Texas Investigators obtain assignments and hours of work to determine if this work environment is right for you.
If you are concerned about your ability to perform as a Texas Private Investigator, learning what factors will determine your aptitude as a Professional Private Investigator and what makes a “good” Professional Private Investigator will be essential. It is also important to know the physical and health requirements and health considerations. Then there is equipment. Learning about equipment needed in order to get started in a career as a Professional Private Investigator is a must.
Furthermore, you will need to educate yourself on communication devices and their role in private investigation. Lastly and most importantly, you must learn “The Investigative Mindset.” This will teach you how to think like a Private Investigator. After you learn these concepts, you will be well on your way to becoming a Private Investigator even without experience.
After learning the complexities of the Texas private investigation industry, you will need to develop practical skills in various areas. The most important areas are Desk Investigations, Pre-surveillance, surveillance, mobile vehicle surveillance, on-foot surveillance, obtaining evidence, and litigious reporting. To learn Desk Investigations, you will need to understand what is a Desk Investigation, Desk Investigation nomenclature, corroborated/ circumstantial evidence, The Evidence Document, The Desk Investigators Mindset, Google Basics for North America, and social media search basics for North America. Surveillance will be the largest subject to learn. Under this field you should learn about setting up a proper surveillance vehicle, surveillance spot checks, and surveillance set ups for various investigative operations.
As a Texas Private Investigator, you will spend the majority of your time performing investigations solo. This is why learning single person surveillance is crucial. Furthermore, you will occasionally work in surveillance teams, so you will need to learn how to perform surveillance with two or more surveillance operatives. Texas Private Investigators perform a lot of their surveillance from a surveillance vehicle, but also on foot, you will need to learn this also. The entire reason Texas Private Investigators are hired, is to obtain evidence. Obviously, learning how to obtain evidence, mostly in video form, is a must. As a Texas Private Investigator, you will need to obtain quality video that is litigious and that will satisfy your client. At the end of all this, you will need to learn how to create an investigative report that will most likely be used in litigation. After you learn all of this, you will have no trouble becoming a successful Texas Private Investigator.
It should be apparent now, why and how you can become a Texas Private Investigator. Yes, the government licensing course is necessary but it will not set you up for success as a Private Investigator. You will always need at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator education. You will need to learn the PI industry, as well as how to perform. In fact, becoming a Private Investigator through proper education will set you up to become more successful than Investigators with many years of experience but who have not developed a strong foundation with proper Private Investigator education.
What You Need to Learn to Become a successful Texas PI
-Regional licensing requirements for Texas Professional Private Investigators
-Common misconceptions about the Private Investigation industry
-The learning curve of a Professional Private investigator
-Personal challenges encountered as a Texas Professional Private Investigator
-Areas of specialization as a Texas Professional Private Investigator
-Types of Texas clients and corresponding file requirements
-How Texas Investigators obtain assignments and hours of work
-What factors will determine your aptitude as a Professional Private Investigator
-What makes a “good” Professional Private Investigator?
-Physical health requirements and health considerations
-Equipment needed in order to get started in a career as a Professional Private Investigator
-Computers, tablets and peripherals
-NATO – Phonetic Alphabet
-The Investigative Mindset
What You Need to Learn to "Perform" Texas Investigations
1 -How Desk Investigations are performed
2 -Corroborated & circumstantial evidence
3 -What is evidence & how to structure it
4 -The Evidence Document
5 -The Investigative Mindset
6 -Google as an investigative tool
7 -Social media & investigative search basics for North America
8 -Daily Gear Protocol
9 -Data & evidence security
11 -Surveillance vehicle
12 -Surveillance set-up
13 -Pre-surveillance research
14 -Communication protocols
15 -Clients perspective
16 -Active mobile surveillance two or more investigators
17 -Skill vs, luck and circumstances
18 -Risk vs. reward
19 -Subject identification
20 -Understanding & managing Heat
21 -Traffic conditions
22 -Driving methods for different areas or environments
23 -Filming best practices
24 -Organizational necessities
25 -Transitioning to foot surveillance
26 -Transitioning back to a surveillance vehicle
27 -Mobile foot surveillance
29 -Required equipment
30 -Identifying the subject
31 -Clothing and props
32 -The physics or mechanics of foot surveillance
33 -Covert equipment & techniques
34 -On foot following techniques & best practices
35 -Transitioning in and out of buildings
36 -Video framing and quality
The Learning Curve of a Texas Private Investigator
A novice in any of the Texas Private Investigator fields or disciplines is an individual who has less than 2400 hours of experience and Private Investigator training. Once Texas PIs achieve 2400 hours of Private Investigator experience, they will have the confidence and expertise to work independently. When a Texas Private Investigator acquires over 10,000 hours of experience in a given field, they are considered to be proficient in that particular field or discipline. Due to the many disciplines in the Texas Private Investigator industry, it would take many years of hard work and effort to master them all. Most PIs choose to specialize in a few fields rather than trying to become experts in all areas.
A novice Texas Private Investigator, no matter how intelligent, must learn through experience. Private Investigator school is an excellent way to build a solid foundation; however, to become fully capable a novice Texas PI will need experience. The learning curve is defined by specific skills one can only obtain by working in the professional investigative industry.
An experienced Texas Private Investigator will have a better ability to predict situations and know what information to look for. A novice Investigator is more likely to experience tunnel vision of thought and action due to stress and other contributing factors. These factors will contribute to the novice missing details that a more experienced investigator would have spotted and leveraged to move the investigation forward.
The experienced Texas Professional Private Investigator will have seen many typical situations in a particular field and will adapt their methods as they apply knowledge from past experiences.
In the Texas Private Investigator profession, you will never stop encountering new situations that will act as learning opportunities to increase your knowledge and skills. If you ever arrive at a point in your career when you believe you can do no wrong, be prepared to be reminded that this is a lifelong journey. The Professional Investigator draws from the past, uses that information in real time to make calculated decisions and anticipates things yet to happen. Effective experience-based decisions will benefit the client and shape your reputation as a Texas Investigator.
At the 10,000-hour mark, a Texas Private Investigator is considered a master in whatever field they obtained those hours. They will have encountered nearly every situation imaginable in that field and have a vast repository of experiences to work with. When a new situation does occur, the master Investigator will be able to apply the Private Investigator knowledge gained from past experiences to the new situation. Furthermore, the master Investigator will not be susceptible to tunnel vision and will be able to think clearly in new situations, even intense ones.
About the Author
Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 11 years as a Professional Private Investigator. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities. Thru NDIL, Peter has helped many Texans aspiring to become Private Detectives.