Private Investigator Licensing, Training, and Services
Following is guide to assist you in learning how to become a licensed private investigator. This reference guide includes a state-by-state listing of contact information for obtaining a private investigators license, links to private investigator training courses, and a list of potential services a private detective may provide.
What is a Private Investigator?
A licensed private investigator, or PI, is a person who completes investigations, usually at the request of a private citizen or a company. Licensed Private Investigators often work for attorneys in civil cases or on behalf of defense attorneys. Many licensed private detectives work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious or fraudulent insurance claims.
Many private investigators are hired by spouses to obtain proof of adultery or other illegal conduct to establish grounds for a divorce. Collecting evidence of adultery or other bad behavior by cheating spouses and partners is one of the most common and profitable activities that licensed private investigators perform.
Many states require PIs, or private eyes, to be licensed, and may be permitted to carry firearms depending on local laws. Some investigators are ex-law enforcement officers. Investigators typically keep detailed notes during each case and testify in court regarding their observations on behalf of clients. Licensed private detectives take care to remain within the law (e.g., they are forbidden to trespass on private property or break into homes) on pain of losing their licenses and facing criminal charges. Irregular hours may be required when performing surveillance work (e.g., outside a subject’s house during early morning hours).
Private detectives undertake work that is not usually associated with the industry in the public’s view. Many PIs are involved in process serving (delivery of subpoenas) and other legal documents to parties in a legal case. The tracing of debtors can also form a large part of a PIs workload. Many detective agencies specialize in a particular field of expertise. For example, some PI agencies deal only in skip tracing. Others may specialize in technical surveillance countermeasures, which is locating and dealing with unwanted forms of electronic surveillance (for example, a bugged boardroom for industrial espionage purposes).
Increasingly, Private Investigators prefer to be known as “professional investigators”. This may be a response to the sometimes negative image that is attributed to the P.I. profession and an effort to establish the industry to be a proper and respectable profession.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an article in the Occupational Outlook Handbook for Private Detectives and Investigators, that describes the nature of private investigation work, working conditions, qualifications, employment, training and advancement, earnings, job outlook, and related occupations. If you want to become a private detective, this is a great place to begin.
Private Investigator Services, Training, and Reference Material
- List of potential private investigator services
- Private Investigator training courses and training books
- List of Private Investigator books in our book store
- Private Investigator salary information
- List of Private Investigator Jobs
Getting Your Private Investigator License
Following is a state-by-state listing of contact information for obtaining a private investigator license, or to find out if a private investigator is properly licensed.
Some states don’t require a license specifically for private investigations, but may require a business license, or have other legal requirements such as training or professional certifications. Many states require that you pass a test to become a licensed private investigator.
If you conduct business in more than one state, consider getting a private investigator license in each state.
State Private Investigator Licensing Requirements
Following is a list of links to pages that provide an overview of the private eye licensing requirements for each state.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
Licensing requirements are somewhat different for each state and those requirements may change as new legislation passes. Be sure to check the state’s licensing website for the most up to date information.
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