How To Get a Private Investigator License

Get a Private Investigator License
Learn how to get a private investigator license in any state.

Learn How to Get a Private Investigator Licensing in any State

This article explains how to get a private investigator license in any state in the United States of America. For example, the article includes a general overview of the private investigation profession, a state-by-state listing of licensing authorities, state contact information, and website links. In addition, it includes helpful advice on the application process, how to join an association, where to find training, and much more.

What is a Licensed Private Investigator?

A licensed private investigator is sometimes referred to as a P.I., detective, gumshoe, sleuth, and sometimes even a spy. Generally, the terms refer to someone who uncovers facts and information, finds missing persons, and gathers evidence. Usually, professionals in this industry do so at the request of a citizen or a company for which they are employed.

Often, detectives work for attorneys and lawyers in civil and criminal court cases. In addition, many professional investigators work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious or fraudulent insurance claims.

Often, states require PIs to be licensed, and some may be permitted to carry firearms (guns) depending on local and state laws. Sometimes, detectives have prior military experience, and many work as police officers or law enforcement officials. Due to the nature of their work, PIs keep detailed notes and records during each case and often testify in court regarding their observations on behalf of their clients.

In many cases, detectives work irregular hours, especially when conducting surveillance (e.g., sitting outside a subject’s house during early morning hours hoping to get a photograph or video of their activity).

The Private Investigator’s Licensing Handbook: How to Get a Private Investigator License in any State

The Private Investigator’s Licensing Handbook: How to Get a Private Investigator License in any State

Conveniently, all the information in this section is available in my handy eBook, “The Private Investigator’s Licensing Handbook. The eBook, available at for just $3.69 (the paperback is available for $14.95), explains how to get an investigator license in any state. In addition, it includes an overview of the profession, general information on training and education, and advice for starting your business.

Also, the book includes a state-by-state listing of private investigation industry associations. Plus, it has a helpful section on how to get your business up and running.

Job Functions

Often, spouses hire professional investigators 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 services offered.

Also, PIs provide process serving, which is the delivery of subpoenas and other legal documents to people involved in a legal case. People who work in this capacity are known as process servers. However, they are not required to be an investigator to do so.

Many detective agencies specialize in a particular field of expertise. For example, some agencies deal only in skip tracing related to finding missing persons or tracking down debtors.

Other professionals may specialize in technical surveillance countermeasures. This involves locating and dealing with unwanted forms of electronic surveillance devices. For example, electronic bugs in a corporate boardroom for industrial espionage purposes.

Increasingly, detectives prefer to be known as “professional investigators.” In part, this is a response to the sometimes negative image of the P.I. profession and an effort to establish the industry as a fair and respectable trade.

The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an article in the Occupational Outlook Handbook for Private Detectives and Investigators. Accordingly, the annual article describes the nature of the work. In addition, it describes the working conditions, qualifications, employment, training and advancement, earnings, job outlook, and related occupations. This is a great place to begin if you want to become a professional detective.

Services, Training, and Reference Material

Here are some recommendations to help you learn more about the profession:

How to Get a Private Investigator License in any State

Following is a state-by-state listing of contact information for obtaining a license and links to verify licensing credentials. Remember, some states don’t require a license specifically for private investigations. However, they may require business credentials, permits, or other legal requirements such as training or professional certifications. In addition, states may require individuals to pass an exam or complete a series of educational courses. So, if you conduct business in more than one state, you should consider getting a license in each state.



  • The state of Alaska does not require a private investigator’s license. Yet, some individual cities in the state of Alaska, such as Fairbanks and Anchorage, may have their licensing requirements. Also, a business license and other requirements may be necessary. First, check the individual city websites for more information on licensing, insurance, and fees.






  • Connecticut – The Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection handles licensing in the state.


  • Delaware – The Delaware State Police evaluates and processes all applications.



  • Georgia – The Georgia Board of Private Detectives and Security Agencies manage the process for Georgia.


  • Hawaii – The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Professional & Vocational Licensing Division, and Board of Private Detectives and Guards handle licensing in Hawaii.





The Iowa Department of Public Safety, Administrative Services Division handles licensing in the state of Iowa. The department’s contact information is as follows:

Bail Enforcement / Private Investigative / Security Licensing Program Services Bureau
Administrative Services Division
Iowa Department of Public Safety
Department of Public Safety Building
215 East 7th Street, 4th Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319-0045

Other special licensing requirements such as education requirements, experience requirements, examinations, and insurance may be required. To get started, visit the state licensing website for more detailed and up-to-date information.


  • See the Kansas page for more information.




  • The Maine State Police Licensing Division handles private investigator licensing in Maine. Also, the Maine State Police Licensing Division is responsible for licensing professional investigators, investigative assistants, and Professional security companies. Requirements may change, so please visit the website for the most up-to-date instructions related to the licensing application process. In addition, there may be special licensing requirements. For example, education requirements, experience requirements, examinations, and insurance may be required. To get a private investigator license in Maine, check the state licensing website for specific details.





  • Licensing in Minnesota is handled by the Department of Public Safety Private Detective & Protective Agent Services Board. The Board ensures that investigative and security service practitioners meet statutory qualifications and training for licensure and maintain standards outlined in Minnesota Statutes and Administrative Rules. Also, other special requirements such as education requirements, experience requirements, examinations, and insurance may be required. Check the state website for more information.




  • Licensing in the state of Montana is handled by the Montana Board of Private Security. The Board provides information about the licensing and regulation of professional investigators. In addition, it oversees trainees, process servers, firearm instructors, and other professionals in the security industry in Montana. 



New Hampshire

  • The New Hampshire Department of Safety – Division of State Police – Division of Permits and Licenses handles licensing in the state. First, visit the website for application forms, a list of requirements for obtaining your credentials, and the laws that govern private investigators in the state. Special licensing requirements such as education, experience, examinations, and insurance may be required.

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

  • The North Dakota Private Investigative & Security Board handles private Investigator licensing in the state of North Dakota.  The North Dakota Board licenses and regulates the Investigation and Security industries. For example, the board establishes the qualifications and procedures for classifying, qualifying, licensing, bonding, and regulating persons providing professional investigative and security services. Also, the board oversees the regulation of armed security personnel.





  • Pennsylvania – The Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas handles private investigator licensing in the state. First, visit the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania website for contact information. To apply for a license, contact the court clerk in the county where you want to get a permit. Also, contact the Clerk of Courts for your county to find out how to apply.

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota





The Secretary of State Board of Private Investigative and Security Services oversees private investigator licensing in Vermont. The board ensures that applicants are qualified to obtain an investigator license in Vermont. Also, the board sets professional standards for the professional investigative profession.



Washington D.C.

The District of Columbia Security Officers Management Branch (SOMB), Metropolitan Police Department handles private investigator licenses. First, visit the D.C. SOMB website for more specific information on obtaining your official investigator license.

West Virginia

Any person or group performing investigative or security guard functions in West Virginia must be professionally licensed unless one of the exemptions specified by the law applies. If you want to become a professional investigator in West Virginia, licensing in the state goes through the West Virginia Secretary of State. To start, visit the state’s website for more detailed information on requirements and exemptions for each certification type.



Licensing requirements are somewhat different for each state, and those requirements may change as new legislation passes. Always check the state’s licensing website for the most up-to-date information.

Reciprocity Agreements

Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow PIs to do investigative work in both states. California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia have reciprocity agreements. Of course, these agreements are always subject to change. So, please check with the appropriate agency to verify their current status.

Start Your Business

After you get a private investigator license, start thinking about the next steps. For more information, read our article, How to Get Your Investigation Business Up and Running, for helpful tips. Furthermore, the article covers essential steps such as Business Licensing and insurance considerations. In addition, it provides helpful information on purchasing equipment and supplies, how to create an online presence, and much more.

Questions or Comments

If you have any questions about how to get a private investigator’s license, please leave a comment below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at
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