How to Become a Private Investigator in Washington
Becoming a Private Investigator/ Private Detective in Washington is similar to most other places: you need to meet basic requirements such as age, language proficiency, and other usual requirements of this nature. Furthermore, you need to take a government PI licensing exam before getting licensed. Also, you will need to be sponsored/ employed by a Washington PI agency in order to get a license. In Washington, the government body that controls licensed Investigators is the Washington State Department of Licensing. So, it is the department of licensing that will administer the PI exam. Once you submit the proof of your ability to meet the requirements/ completed PI exam and a PI agency sponsor, the department of licensing will give you your PI license. Most jurisdiction will have a PI beginner’s license, Washington does not. You will get to start out with a full Private Investigator license. This is where your struggle will begin.
Your Private Investigator beginner’s license in Washington 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 Washington 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, the Washington PI licensing exam 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.
Private Investigator License Requirements
You must be 18yo or older.
You need a clean criminal and personal record.
You must be an American citizen/ legal resident.
You must be sponsored/ employed by a Washington PI agency.
You need to take a PI license exam before submitting your application. The exam is in regards to Washington legislation. Contact the department of licensing for information on taking the exam.
This lack of guidance is why so many new Washington Private Investigators burn out and quit and why many experienced Washington 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 Washington with no Private Investigator experience or education. The licensing exam you took 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 losing 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 and get a Washington Private Investigator business license, you will 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.
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