Getting a private investigator license in the USA is not easy. 

For starters, private investigator licensing in the USA is byzantine. Almost every state has it's own licensing requirements based on their own laws. Only Mississippi, Idaho, and South Dakota have none.

The licensing requirements are stringent, too. Some states require security bonds of up to $25,000, and/or $1,000,000 in general liability insurance, not to mention hundreds of dollars in fees for fingerprinting and application fees. Many states have experience and education requirements as well, including some that demand college degrees and 5 years of investigative experience.

We made this definitive guide to private investigator licensing in the USA to help aspiring investigators and to inform people interested in hiring a private investigator about the industry. The guide includes who issues licenses, how to check a license, and how much it costs to get a private investigator license from Alabama to Wyoming

Click on a state below to see its licensing requirements and how to verify a private investigator license online if possible.

 

This guide is intended to be informational only. We did loads and loads of research to put it together, but laws are complicated and we take no responsibility for the accuracy of this guide if you use it for a legal matter. If you intend to get a license (or need to know more about a state's licenses) you should follow the links to that state's licensing authority and refer to them directly. This is a blog post and not legal advice. Enjoy!

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Alabama

Issuing Authority

Private investigators in Alabama are required to be licensed by the State of Alabama Licensing Board, and each license lasts for 2 years. You can check the license of any investigator in Alabama using their license roster. The board exists to protect the citizens of Alabama from unauthorized, dangerous, or unethical conduct, and to review complaints filed by consumers and, if necessary, take disciplinary action against license holders.

Personal Character Requirements

In order to be licensed, investigators must not be a convicted felon or have been convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude”, must not have been declared incompetent by a court, and must be at least 21 years old.

Experience and Education Requirements

Investigators need to pass an examination to get their license. After they have a license, they need to have at least 8 contact hours (meaning actual hours in a classroom or with a trainer) of continuing education a year with an approved organization, such as a university, for a total of 16 hours during each 2 year license period.

Other than the continuing education requirements and the license examination, there are no educational requirements.

Costs and Other Requirements

Investigators must pay a licensing fee, a fee for their examination, as well as applicable fees to the FBI for fingerprinting, which they must include with the rest of their application.

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Alaska

Issuing Authority

Private investigators in Alaska require a business license only, although the cities of Fairbanks and Anchorage require people to have a Private Investigator License from that city to operate in their area. Business licenses are obtained from the Alaska Department of Commerce, and private investigator licenses for Anchorage and Fairbanks can be obtained from the Department of Public Safety and the City Clerk's offices respectively.

Personal Character Requirements

In order to be licensed in Fairbanks and Anchorage, private investigators are required to demonstrate that they are a US citizen, have good moral character, have no felony convictions, and are at least 18 years old.

Fairbanks also requires applicants to pass a detailed background check.

Experience and Education Requirements

Private investigators applying in Anchorage need to show a detailed work history. Other than this, there are no specific experience requirements.

There are no education requirements to get a private investigator license in Alaska from either Anchorage or Fairbanks.

Costs and Other Requirements

Private investigators in Fairbanks need to have a valid driver’s license, as well as to post a fee of up to $400, with a surety bond of $10,000.

For Anchorage, investigators need to pay a $100 fee, present a valid business license, and have their application notarized.

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Arizona

Issuing Authority

Private investigators in Arizona are required to be licensed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, or to be a registered investigator working for an entity that holds an Arizona license through a qualifying party. Agency licenses can be checked here.

Basically, what this means is that each agency needs to have someone there in charge of their investigators who holds the agency license, and investigators working at the agency need to be registered under the agency license.

Trustify has a number of agencies, individual investigators, and registered agents in Arizona, but does not function as an agency there.

Personal Character Requirements

In order to be licensed, individual investigators must be at least 18 years old, be a legal resident or US citizen, have no felony convictions, no indictments for felonies, not be a registered sex offender, have no misdemeanor convictions in the past 5 years, or to have been convicted of attempting to act, or acting, as a private investigator without a license in the last 5 years.  

Experience and Education Requirements

According to Arizona state law, the qualifying party that holds the license must “Have had a minimum of 3 years of full-time investigative experience... (consisting of) actual work performed as an investigator for a private concern, for the federal government or for a state, county or municipal government.”

Aside from demonstrating 3 years of full time investigative experience there are no specific education requirements.

Costs and Other Requirements

New agencies must pay $272 for the application plus the fingerprinting fee of the qualifying party. Agents being added to the license must pay an additional $72. If approved, the agency must pay a $400 licensing fee and post a $2,500 surety bond. The fees for renewal are $272 plus $72 for each agent.

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California

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses in California are issued and maintained by the Bureau of Safety and Investigative Services and must meet the legal requirements laid out in the application packet. Licenses can be checked using the bureau’s search tool.

Personal Character Requirements

Private investigators in California undergo a background check before they can be licensed. Licenses can be denied or revoked for:

  • Being convicted of any crime, or failing to disclose any convictions.
  • Acting dishonesty with intent to benefit, or to injure someone.
  • Having done anything that would be grounds for suspension or revocation of the license had they been licensed at the time.
  • Lying on the license application.
  • Having a license which is under suspension.
  • Having a license refused or revoked in the past, or being an owner, partner, corporate officer, managing member, or qualified manager of any business that has.
  • Acting as a private investigator without a license.

Private investigators must also submit fingerprints.

Experience and Education Requirements

The requirements for obtaining a private investigator’s license in California are stringent and extensive. To get a license, a person must have a combination of paid investigative experience and education (4,000 hours in 2 years with a bachelor’s degree in law or police science, or 5,000 hours in  2.5 years with an Associate's degree in criminal justice, law, or police science), or extensive paid investigative experience (6,000 hours in 3 years).

Applicants need to have documentation for this experience, and to pass a written examination.

Private investigators who don’t have the 3 years of experience required can substitute education so long as it is substantiated, for example with college transcripts.

Ways to substitute this experience include having a 4 year college degree and 2 years of practical experience, or an associate’s degree and 2 and a half years experience.

Costs and Other Requirements

As of August 2017, the application fee is $175 with additional fees for fingerprinting and weapons permits.

There are also a variety of insurance requirements depending on whether investigators carry firearms, how the agency is structured legally, and how many partners there are. Insurance requirements range from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000.

Finally, investigators must submit their application to the get fingerprinted, and pass the California Private Investigator Examination. There are also separate requirements for weapons permits and concealed carry permits (private investigators cannot carry a weapon without a specific private investigator permit).

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Colorado

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses in Colorado are issued by the Colorado Office of Private Investigator Licensure. Licenses can be checked using the office’s search tool right here.

Personal Character Requirements

To get a private investigator license in Colorado, investigators must be at least 21 years of age, be lawfully present in the USA, and submit and pay for a national fingerprint and background check.  

Experience and Education Requirements

Investigators must take and pass a jurisprudence exam to demonstrate experience and knowledge of the rules and regulations governing their profession.

Investigators must also have a minimum of 4,000 hours in investigative experience (or equivalent education) with a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.

Costs and Other Requirements

As of August 2017, The license fee is $330 for new licenses and $63 for renewal. Each investigator must also post a surety bond of $10,000.

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Connecticut

Issuing Authority

Effective July 1, 2016, private investigator licenses are issued by the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit of the Connecticut State Police under the authority of the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection. License holders can employ investigators, but those investigators must also be registered immediately with the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit.

Personal Character Requirements

Private investigators must be at least 25 years old, legally allowed to work in the US, and of good moral character. No investigator can be licensed if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in the last 7 years, convicted of any offense of “moral turpitude”, or discharged from the military in circumstances that demonstrate questionable moral character.  Investigators also need to provide a copy of their driving record and credit report for scrutiny.

Finally, applicants are subject to an interview and background check as part of the application process.

Experience and Education Requirements

Investigators are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma, as well as 5 years of investigative experience, or 10 years of experience as a police officer.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a initial fee of $1,450 for a 2 year license, and a renewal fee of $625. Investigators must also have $300,000 worth of general liability insurance and post a $10,000 bond with the state.

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Delaware

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses in Delaware are issued by the State Police Licensing Section. Private investigators are required to keep their license on them while working.

Personal Character Requirements

To be approved, applicants must be at least 21 years of age, have no drug convictions or felony convictions, and have no convictions of moral turpitude or that are relevant to the private investigator profession.

Applicants also have to submit fingerprints, personal details, and their Social Security number for an in-depth background check.

Experience and Education Requirements

Private investigators licensed to carry weapons are required to do two training shoots a year - with a score of at least 80% -  to keep their license.. Other than this, there are no education or experience requirements.

Costs and Other Requirements

There is an $85 application fee for private investigators to get a license in Delaware.

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Florida

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses in Florida are issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Licensing Division and are valid for 3 years. You can check licenses here. Florida also has reciprocity agreements with California, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Personal Character Requirements

Licensed investigators in Florida must be over 18 years old, a US citizen or legal resident, and have no disqualifying criminal history, no history of mental illness, illegal drug use, or alcoholism.

Investigators are subject to a background check and fingerprinting to make sure they meet these requirements

Experience and Education Requirements

Potential investigators must also have 2 years of experience as an investigator. Alternatively, applicants can attend an accredited school for a minimum of 40 hours or apply for a private investigator intern license first to get the necessary experience.

Investigators also have to pass an examination to get their license.

Costs and Other Requirements

There is a $100 examination fee, along with a total application fee of $172, which includes fingerprinting and a background check.

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Georgia

Issuing Authority

Licenses are issued to private investigation agencies and employees by the Georgia Secretary of State. Licenses in Georgia can be checked here. Extra permits are required for investigators that want to carry firearms.

Personal Character Requirements

Licensed investigators in Georgia must be at least 18 years of age, of good moral character, a US citizen or otherwise entitled to live and work in the USA, having no convictions for felonies, crimes involving weapons, crimes of moral turpitude, or having committed any acts of fraud or dishonesty.

Background checks and fingerprinting is done to make sure applicants meet these requirements.

Experience and Education Requirements

Getting a private investigator’s license in Georgia requires two years investigative experience, sponsorship by an existing company, or a 4 year degree in a related field.

General educational requirements for working as a private investigator in Georgia include a basic training course that must be completed within 6 months of being hired, an optional Firearm Training Curriculum if the investigator carries a firearm, and an exam. Investigators must also undergo 16 hours of continuing education a year to retain their license.

Costs and Other Requirements

There is a total licensing fee of $400 for private investigator agencies in Georgia, with additional fees of $40 for unarmed employees and $75 for armed employees. Agencies also need to post a $25,000 surety bond, and get $1,000,000 worth of liability insurance.

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Hawaii

Issuing Authority

Investigators in Hawaii are licensed by the Professional and Vocational Licensing Division and each license is valid for 2 years. Private investigator licenses for Hawaii can be checked using the division’s search tool. Private investigators also need to have a business license.

Personal Character Requirements

To satisfy the Personal Character Requirements, investigators must be over 18 years old, have no physiological or psychiatric disorders that would negatively and directly  affect their abilities to conduct their work, have no convictions for crimes that would indicate unsuitable character to act as a private investigator, and to have a history of being truthful and fair in their personal and financial affairs.

Investigators also undergo fingerprinting and a background check to make sure they meet these requirements.

Experience and Education Requirements

To satisfy the education component, investigators must either sign with an existing agency, or have worked for at least 4 years as a police officer, government employed investigator, legal investigator for an attorney, or under supervision of a licensed private investigator.

To satisfy educational requirements, investigators must have completed high school and must pass an exam covering the relevant state laws

Costs and Other Requirements

Investigators have to post a bond with the state, pay $64 for their background check, and a $50 application fee.

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Idaho

Idaho does not require a specific license for private investigators. However, private investigators still should meet basic skill and experience requirements in order to be considered reliable.

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Indiana

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses in the state of Indiana are issued by the Private Investigator and Security Guard Licensing Board and are valid for 4 years. Licenses can be checked using Indiana’s professional licenses database here.

Personal Character Requirements

To get a license in Indiana, private investigators must be at least 21 years of age. They must also have no convictions for felonies or crimes that are relevant to their duties as a private investigator. They must also not be on probation or parole.

To get a license, applicants must submit full criminal background checks for each city, county, and state of residence in the past 7 years. They must also obtain a fingerprint based background check from the Indiana State Police.

Experience and Education Requirements

Private investigators must have 4,000 hours (2 years) of professional investigative experience verified by their employer(s). Experience can be obtained by working in law enforcement or an an investigator for a government agency, or by working for a licensed investigator.

If an investigator does not have 2 years or more of experience, they can substitute a 4 year degree in criminal justice (or equivalent).

Costs and Other Requirements

Private investigators must pay a fee of $300 to obtain a license. They also must prove that they have limited liability insurance of $100,000.

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Iowa

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses in the state of Iowa are issued by the Iowa Department of Public Safety and are valid for 2 years. The Department of Public Safety is also responsible for issuing suspensions, bans, and other penalties for investigators. Licenses can be checked by emailing piinfo@dps.state.ia.us.

Personal Character Requirements

To get a license in Iowa, private investigators must be at least 18 years of age. They must also have no convictions for aggravated felonies, be of good moral character, have never been judged guilty of a crime of moral turpitude, or have a history of carrying illegal drugs or illegally carrying dangerous weapons. Finally, they cannot have any history of being addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Experience and Education Requirements

There are no experience requirements for private investigators in Iowa. The only education requirement for private investigators in Iowa is that they do 12 hours worth of continuing education every year.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay $100 for a 2 year license, $10 for an ID card, and $30 for a fingerprint background check. There is also a $5,000 bond, or a $10,000 bond for investigators who want to work in multiple businesses (like as a bail enforcer and as private security).

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Kansas

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses in the state of Kansas are issued and regulated by the Office of the Attorney General and are valid for 2 years. Licenses can be checked on the private investigator directory provided on the Office of the Attorney General’s website. Licenses are also valid and issued for employees of the license holder.

Personal Character Requirements

Licensing in Kansas requires that the private investigator applying is a U.S citizen and is at least 21 years old, has no felony convictions, has no misdemeanor convictions from the last ten years, has no history of substance abuse/addiction, and is of good moral character. The Office of the Attorney General also requires that five personal references from U.S citizens who have known the the applicant for at least five years are submitted.

Part of the application process also includes a written and oral examination, which cannot be taken more than three times, and a fingerprint background check.

Experience and Education Requirements

To become a licensed investigator in Kansas, you must have graduated from high school or have obtained a GED equivalent. License holders must also undergo a minimum of 8 hours of continuing education every 2 years to renew their license.

There are no experience requirements for private investigators in Kansas.

Costs and Other Requirements

Obtaining a license in Kansas requires a $250 application (that includes a 2 year initial license and the cost of the $15 application packet). Licenses must be renewed every two years, and have a $175 renewal fee.

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Kentucky

Issuing Authority

The Kentucky Board of Licensure for Private Investigators is responsible for the licensing and regulation of private investigators in the state, and issues 2 year licenses for private investigators. Licenses can be verified through the directory provided on the Board’s website.

Personal Character Requirements

To get a license in Kentucky, private investigators must be a U.S citizen and be at least 21 years old. They must also be of good moral character, have never been judged guilty of a crime of moral turpitude in the last five years, have not been dishonorably discharged if a veteran, have had ten years pass if any felony convictions, cannot have been enrolled in a substance abuse program in the last three years, and may not have habitual use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Experience and  Education Requirements

The state of Kentucky requires that private investigators have a high school diploma or GED. There is a also a exam that applicants must pass.

There are no experience requirements to obtain a license in Kentucky.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $100 application fee, a $300 license fee, a $20 licensing request fee, and $34.75 for a fingerprint background check.

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Louisiana

Issuing Authority

The Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners is responsible for licensing and regulating private investigators in the state. Licenses are valid for one year at a time can be verified through the search index on the Board’s website.  

Personal Character Requirements

To get a license in Louisiana, private investigators must be a U.S citizen or legally authorized to work and be at least 18 years old. They must also never have been convicted of a felony or crime of moral turpitude and may not have habitual use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Experience and Education Requirements

The state of Louisiana requires that applicants enroll in a 40-hour basic training course and take an exam prior to receiving a license.  As of January 1st 2017, investigators have to take an exam each time they renew their license.

There are no experience requirements to obtain a license in Louisiana.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $50 application fee, a $38 background check fee, a $50 exam fee, and a $100 initial license fee. Renewals are $100.

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Maine

Issuing Authority

The Special Investigations Unit of the Maine State Police is responsible for issuing private investigator licenses, and offer a list of licensed private investigators on their website. Each license is valid for an initial term of 2 years and unless revoked, is valid for 4 years after the first renewal.

Personal Character Requirements

To get a license in Maine, private investigators must be a U.S citizen or resident alien and be at least 21 years old. They must be of good moral character, with less than 3 convictions of civil, Class D, or Class E crimes, must not have any abuse incidents, and may not have dishonorable discharge if a veteran.

Experience and Education Requirements

Applicants need at least three years working full time as a federal investigative agent/detective or at least three years working as a law enforcement officer. Applicants can substitute this for six years of experience with a combination of two years of work in a non-clerical profession related to criminal justice or law, and either an associate degree or 60 credits from an accredited institution in criminal justice, law, security management, or another related field.   

The state of Maine also requires that applicants are high school graduates. The applicant has to have completed 60 credits in college in private investigation or a related field, or have earned a certificate of study in private investigation. The state also requires that applicants have completed 1200 hours in an investigative assistant sponsorship program. There is also a written exam as a part of the application process.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $50 application fee, a $21 background check fee, and a $450 license issuance fee.

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Maryland

Issuing Authority

The Licensing Division of the Maryland State Police is responsible for the licensing and regulation of private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified by the list provided on the website.

Personal Character Requirements

To get a license in Maryland, applicants must be at least 25 years old. They must also pass a background check done by the FBI, be employed or have an employment offer from a licensed detective agency, and be of good moral character and reputation.

Experience and Education Requirements

Applicants need 5 years of investigative experience to get a license in Maryland. Failing that, they need to have:

  • 5 years of experience in a police force and to have passed an approved police officer training course
  • 3 years experience as an investigator with a police force
  • 3 years investigative experience with any state or municipal government organization and to have completed a police officer training course
  • 5 years experience as an investigator with a fire department or any other government organization and to have completed a police officer training course.

The state of Maryland does not have any education requirements to obtain an investigator license.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $200 registration fee for individuals and a $37.25 background check fee. There are additional fees for handgun permits etc.

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Massachusetts

Issuing Authority

The Massachusetts State Police is responsible for issuing licenses to private investigators in the state, and each license is valid for 1 year. Licenses can be checked on the directory provided on the State Police’s website.

Personal Character Requirements

To get a license in Massachusetts, private investigators must include three certifications of good moral character from three reputable citizens in the application, as well as go through a background check. They can also not have ever been convicted of a felony, and no violations of Section 99 or Section 99A of Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Experience and Education Requirements

Massachusetts requires that an applicant must have either three years of investigative service experience, or ten years of experience as a policeman with a rank higher than patrolman.    

There are no education requirements to obtain a license in Massachusetts.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $550 application fee. There is also a $5,000 bond for investigators who want to work in multiple businesses.

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Michigan

Issuing Authority

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is responsible for issuing licenses to private investigators in the state. Licenses are valid for 3 years and can be verified through the directory provided on the website.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Michigan requires that applicants are at least 25 years old and a U.S. citizen. In addition, they cannot have any felony convictions, and no misdemeanor convictions regarding substance abuse, dishonesty/fraud, selling of evidence or protected information, assault, and no more than two alcohol-related offenses. They also cannot have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

Experience and Education Requirements

Michigan requires that all applicants have at least three years of full-time experience doing investigative work or service. If an applicant does not meet the experience requirements, they are still eligible if they meet the education requirements.

 All applicants are required to have a high school degree or its equivalent. If they do not meet the experience requirements, then the law requires applicants to have a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree from an accredited institution in police administration, criminal justice, law, or other related fields.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $750 licensing fee and post a $10,000 bond with the state.

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Minnesota

Issuing Authority

Private investigator licenses are issued by The State of Minnesota Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services. Licenses can be verified through the directory posted on the Board’s website.  

Character and Experience Requirements

The state of Minnesota requires that applicants are at least 18 years old, have never been convicted of a felony, and are of good character. The application also requires 5 references from non-family members who have known the applicant for at least five years.

Minnesota requires that applicants must be able to document at least 6,000 hours as an investigator with either a licensed agency, a U.S government investigative service, or a city police department.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay $25 for an application packet and a $1,000 licensing fee. Applicants must also be able to pay a $10,000 surety bond at the time of application and show Proof of Financial Responsibility. Applicants must also submit a recent photograph and a set of fingerprints, which can be obtained for a fee.

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Mississippi

Mississippi does not require a specific license for private investigators. However, private investigators still should meet basic skill and experience requirements in order to be considered reliable.

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Missouri

Issuing Authority

The Missouri Board of Private Investigator and Private Fire Investigator Examiners is responsible for issuing licenses in the state, and provides a search index to verify licensed investigators in the state. Licenses are valid for 2 years.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Missouri requires that applicants are a citizen of the United States, and to submit to a background check.  

Grounds for refusal or revocation of a license include pleading guilty to or being convicted of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, having been denied a license before in Missouri or another state, having trafficked or been dependent on any illegal substance,  or lying on their application, or ever having acted as a private investigator without a license.

Experience and Education Requirements

There is no experience or education criteria to obtain a license in Missouri.

There are no formal education requirements to obtain a license in Missouri, but there is a written exam as a part of the application process.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $500 application fee, and submit two passport style photos along with their fingerprints. Applicants also need to show $250,000 in liability insurance.

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Montana

Issuing Authority

The Montana Board of Private Security is responsible for issuing licenses to private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified through the search index provided on the Board’s website.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Montana requires that applicants are a citizen or permanent resident of the United States and at least 21 years old. They may not have been convicted of a felony or of a crime of moral turpitude, cannot have a history of substance abuse, or have been dishonorably discharged from the military. The application also requires 3 letters of reference from people who are not related to the applicant.

To make sure applicants meet these requirements, they undergo fingerprinting and a background check.

Experience and Education Requirements

Applicants are required to have at least 3 years of experience doing investigative work. Applicants are also allowed to have a combination of experience, education, and training, but education and training cannot comprise of more than half the requirement.

Montana requires that all private investigators have a high school degree or equivalent to be eligible for a license. The application also includes an exam in which a passing grade (70%) is required.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $250 application fee along with a $20 exam fee, and an additional $50 armed endorsement fee if they wish to carry a weapon. Investigators are also required to get $500,000 of liability insurance, with additional insurance if they are carrying a firearm.

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Nebraska

Issuing Authority

The Licensing Division of Nebraska’s Secretary of State is responsible for issuing private investigator licenses, and provide a list of all licensed investigators in the state.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Nebraska requires that applicants are at least 21 years old, have never been convicted of a sex offense, a misdemeanor or felony crime of moral turpitude, and cannot have engaged in debt collection or have been employed by a debt collector.

Investigators are subject to a background check by the Nebraska State Patrol to ensure they meet these requirements.

Experience and Education Requirements

Nebraska requires at least 3,000 hours of investigative experience to be eligible for a license. If applicants have an associate’s degree in criminal justice (or a related field), they need 2,500 hours of experience, and if they have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice (or a related field), they need 2,000 hours of experience.

There are no formal education requirements, but the state does require that all applicants take an exam and score at least 80%. If applicants do not have 3,000 hours of investigative experience, they are still eligible if they have a mix of education and experience. If an applicant has an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field, they are required to have 2,500 hours of experience, and if they have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field, they are required to have 2,00 hours.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $50 license fee along with a $38 background check fee. Investigators also have to post a $10,000 bond with the state.

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Nevada

Issuing Authority

The Nevada Private Investigators Licensing Board is responsible for regulating and licensing all private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified through the search index on the Board’s website.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Nevada requires that applicants are U.S citizens or are allowed to work in the country, be at least 21 years old, have no felony convictions or convictions of moral turpitude, and have to pass a background check.

Experience and Education Requirements

Nevada requires that all applicants have at least 5 years of investigative experience, equal to 10,000 hours. Applicants are still eligible if they have a combination of education and experience. If they have an associate’s degree in political science or criminal justice, that is accepted as 1,333 hours. If they have a bachelor’s degree in political science or criminal justice, that is accepted as 3,000 hours.

There are no formal education requirements, but the state does require that all applicants take an exam and score at least 75%. If applicants do not have 10,000 hours of investigative experience, they are still eligible if they have a mix of education and experience. If they have an associate’s degree in political science or criminal justice, that is accepted as 1,333 hours. If they have a bachelor’s degree in political science or criminal justice, that is accepted as 3,000 hours.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $20 application processing fee, a $100 exam fee, and a $750 background investigation deposit, with $250 for every additional category of license being requested. Applicants must also submit three sets of fingerprints - two for Nevada with a processing fee of $37.50 and one for California with a processing fee of $32 (only for California if applicant has visited or lived in the state). Applicants must also submit a passport style photograph, a copy of a birth certificate, passport, or naturalization papers, three years tax returns, and three references from previous employers or clients. If applicable, a child support information form and proof of education are also required.

Investigators are also required to deposit $750 with the board for their license, and have at least $200,000 worth of liability insurance.

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New Hampshire

Issuing Authority

The New Hampshire Department of Safety Division of State Police is responsible for licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses are valid for 2 years.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of New Hampshire requires that applicants are at least 18 years old and are U.S. residents. Applicants may not have been convicted of a felony, domestic abuse, or violence, and may not have any misdemeanor convictions regarding theft, honesty, fraud, or relation to controlled substances.

Experience and Education Requirements

New Hampshire requires that applicants have at least four years of experience as one of the following: a full-time law enforcement officer, a director of security or senior officer of a company or licensed security service, a full-time adjuster, risk manager, or claims investigator for an insurance carrier or adjusting company, a firefighter, or as an employee doing investigative work under a licensed investigator or agency. Applicants are also allowed to combine education and experience. If they have an associate or bachelor’s degree, or have certification from the American Society for Industrial Security, they are only required to have two years of investigative experience.

Applicants who do not have a full four years of experience doing some type of investigative work are allowed to combine education and experience.  If they have an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from an accredited university, or have certification from the American Society for Industrial Security, they are only required to have 2 years of investigative experience.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $150 application fee, a $25 criminal record check fee, a $10 background check fee, and if an applicant of armed status, a $26.50 fingerprinting fee. Investigators must also post a $50,000 bond with the state

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New Jersey

Issuing Authority

Private investigators are licensed and regulated by The New Jersey State Police Private Detective Unit. Licenses can be verified by e-mailing pdu@gw.njsp.org.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of New Jersey requires that applicants are U.S. citizens, are at least 25 years old, and are of good character, competency, and integrity. Investigators cannot have been convicted of any high misdemeanors, or of violating New Jersey’s wiretapping laws. Any history of fraud or misrepresentation is also grounds for refusing a license.

Applicants must also undergo and pass a background check, submit a set of fingerprints, submit a passport style photograph and five references from reputable citizens over the age of 21.

Experience and Education Requirements

New Jersey requires that applicants have at least 5 years of experience with a police department or investigative agency, or have at least 5 years of documented investigative work.

There are no education requirements to obtain a private investigator license in New Jersey.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $250 license fee.

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New Mexico

Issuing Authority

Private investigators in New Mexico are licensed and regulated by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. Licenses can be verified through the search index on their website and are valid for 1 year.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of New Mexico requires that applicants are at least 21 years old and are U.S. citizens. They cannot have ever been convicted of a felony, or of a crime involving violence, and have to pass a background investigation.

Experience and Education Requirements

New Mexico requires that applicants have at least 6,000 hours of investigative work in the last 5 years.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, as well as pass an exam issued by the Department.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $400 application fee and a $44 fingerprinting fee. Applicants must also be able to secure a surety bond of at least $10,000.

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New York

Issuing Authority

Private investigators in New York are licensed and regulated by The New York State Division of Licensing Services. Licenses can be verified by the search index provided on their website and are valid for 2 years.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of New York requires that applicants are at least 25 years old, are U.S. citizens, and pass the background check.

To be approved, applicants must not have been convicted of a felony, or of illegally carrying a weapon, making or using burglar’s implements, receiving stolen property, illegally entering a building, aiding escape from prison, or for possessing, selling, or using narcotics. Applicants also have to be of good moral character.

Experience and Education Requirements

New York requires that applicants have at least 3 years of experience doing investigative work, or three years of an experience equivalent where the applicant was conducting or supervising investigative work. Applicants are also eligible if they have served at least 20 years as a New York police officer or fire marshal.  

Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, as well as pass a written exam with a score of 70% or higher.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $400 application fee, a $87 fingerprinting fee, and a $15 exam fee.

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North Carolina

Issuing Authority

Private investigators in North Carolina are licensed by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Private Protective Services Board. Licenses can be verified on the list provided on their website.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of North Carolina requires that applicants are at least 18 years old, are U.S. citizens or resident aliens, and are of good moral character with no criminal background.

Experience and Education requirements

North Carolina requires at least 3 years of experience in private investigative work, or 3 years in an investigative capacity as a member of a law enforcement agency or other governmental agency.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Applicants with degrees from an accredited institution are eligible for experience credit. An associate’s degree counts for 400 hours of experience, a bachelor’s degree counts for 800 hours of experience, and a graduate’s degree counts as 1200 hours of experience.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $150 application fee and a $38 fingerprint check fee.

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North Dakota

Issuing Authority

The State of North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board is responsible for regulating and licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified by searching the list provided on the website and are valid for 1 year.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of North Dakota requires that applicants are at least 18 years old, have never been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or theft, are free of mental defects, and have not committed an act of bad moral character.

Experience and Education Requirements

North Dakota requires that all applicants have at least 2,000 hours of investigative experience as a registered employee of a licensed investigative agency.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and must pass a written exam to be eligible for a license.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $100 application fee that covers processing and testing fees. There is also a $40 background check fee and a $130 license fee that gives applicants a valid license for one year. Applicants also need to send in 2 passport style photos.  

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Ohio

Issuing Authority

The Private Investigator Security Guard Services of the Ohio Department of Public Safety is responsible for regulating and licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified on the search index provided on the website and are valid for 1 year.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Ohio requires that applicants have a good reputation for integrity, have not been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, have not been convicted of a felony in the last 3 years, and cannot have been found incompetent. Applicants must also submit a passport style photo, a set of fingerprints, and five references from non relatives who have known them for at least 5 years.  

Experience and Education Requirements

Ohio requires that all applicants have at least 2 years of experience doing full time investigative work. If an applicant has law enforcement or military experience, or a relevant college degree, this may also count towards experience.

Applicants must take a written examination. Applicants who have a relevant college degree can use it to count towards the experience requirement.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $375 license fee and a $25 exam fee. Investigators also need to have general liability insurance for up to $300,000.

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Oklahoma

Issuing Authority

The Private Security Division of the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training is responsible for regulating and licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses are valid for 3 years.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Oklahoma requires that applicants are at least 18 years old and are U.S. citizens or legal aliens. Applicants must be of good moral character and may not have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or a felony. Applicants must also send in a set of fingerprints, 2 passport style photos, and a record request from the applicant’s local police department and sheriff department.

Experience and Education Requirements

Oklahoma requires that applicants go through a training program that totals 55 hours. This requirement can be waived if applicants have equivalent experience with proof of employment.

Applicants must take a written examination and have a continuing education requirement of 16 hours.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $91 application fee and a $25 exam fee.

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Oregon

Issuing Authority

The state of Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is responsible for regulating and licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified through the list provided on their website.  

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Oregon requires that applicants are U.S citizens and at least 18 years old. Applicants must also submit two passport style photos, a fingerprint card, a resume, and three professional letters of reference.

Experience and Education Requirements

Oregon requires that applicants have at least 1500 hours of investigative work experience. Applicants can also use education to fulfill some of the experience requirement for up to 500 hours - three hours in class is equivalent to one hour of experience. Applicants also need to provide 3 professional references.

Applicants must take a written examination. Education can also be used to fulfill up to ⅓ of the experience requirement - 3 hours in class is equivalent to 1 hour of experience.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $69 application fee and a $550 licensing fee. Applicants must also be able to secure a surety bond of at least $5,000.


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Pennsylvania

Issuing Authority

In Pennsylvania, applicants need to contact their Clerks of Court office to obtain and submit the application before being officially issued a license from the District Attorney.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Pennsylvania requires that applicants are U.S citizens, are at least 25 years old, and have never been convicted of a felony.  

Experience and Education Requirements

Applicants are required to have at least 3 years of experience as a detective agency employee or as a law enforcement agent.

There are no education requirements in the state of Pennsylvania.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $200 license fee and secure a surety bond for $10,000. Applicants must also submit two passport style photographs, a set of fingerprints, and five character references from people who have known the applicant for at least 5five years.

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Rhode Island

Issuing Authority

In Rhode Island, licenses are issued by the applicant’s local county.

Character and Experience Requirements

The state of Rhode Island requires that applicants are U.S citizens, have never been convicted of a felony, not have had any previous PI license revoked or have been denied a license, not have been declared incompetent by reason of mental disease or defect, be of good moral character, and not suffer from narcotics or alcohol addiction (ok if sober and recovery period completed).

Applicants are required to have at least 5 years of experience as a law enforcement investigator or police officer or 5 years as an investigator for a licensed detective. Any type of equivalent experience or training is also accepted. Applicants can be exempt from the experience requirement if they have a criminal justice degree from an accredited educational institution.

There are no education requirements in the state of Pennsylvania. Applicants can be exempt from the experience requirement if they have a criminal justice degree from an accredited educational institution.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $150 license fee and must be able to secure a surety bond for at least $5,000.

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South Carolina

Issuing Authority

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is responsible for issuing licenses. Licenses are valid for 1 year.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of South Carolina requires that applicants are U.S citizens, are at least 18 years old, have never been convicted of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, no pending charges, and no holding of positions that are a conflict of interest.

Experience and Education Requirements

Applicants are required to have at least 3 years of experience as a full time police officer doing investigative work, or as an employee of a licensed investigator. Applicants can also use education or training to meet this requirement. A certificate for study of PI or an associate’s degree is equal to 6 months of experience; a bachelor's degree is equal to 1 year, and a graduate degree is equal to a 1.5 years of experience.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $350 license fee and must be able to secure a surety bond of $10,000. Applicants must also send in a recent photograph, two sets of fingerprints, and a statement from the applicant’s Clerk of Court’s office that there are no outstanding civil judgments.

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South Dakota

South Dakota does not require a specific license for private investigators. However, private investigators still should meet basic skill and experience requirements in order to be considered reliable.

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Tennessee

Issuing Authority

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance is responsible for regulating and licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified on the search index on the website.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Tennessee requires that applicants are U.S citizens or legal aliens, are at least 21 years old, competent, of good moral character, license your own company or be affiliated with a licensed PI company in the state, not have practiced deceit, fraud, or misrepresentation, and do not abuse substances.

Experience and Education Requirements

There are no experience or education requirements to obtain a license in Tennessee. However, all applicants must take a state mandated exam.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $150 application fee, a $60 fingerprint processing fee, and a $100 license fee. Applicants must submit three sets of fingerprints, two passport style photos, a letter of recommendation from a private investigation company, and information on any criminal records or convictions.

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Texas

Issuing Authority

The Texas Department of Public Safety Private Security Bureau regulates and licenses private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified by the search index provided on the website and are valid for 1 year.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Texas requires that applicants are at least 18 years old, have never been convicted of a felony in any jurisdiction, have not been convicted in the past five years of a Class B misdemeanor in any jurisdiction, are not currently charged with or under indictment for a Class A misdemeanor or felony, are not currently charged with a Class B misdemeanor, have never been found incompetent due to mental defect or disease by a court, are not required to register in Texas or any other jurisdiction as a sex offender, and have never been dishonorably discharged from U.S. military service. Applicants are also required to submit a set of fingerprints.

Experience and Education Requirements

Texas requires that applicants are either employed by a firm, or have a job offer from a private investigative agency licensed in Texas.

There are no formal education requirements to obtain a license in Texas. However,  investigators must complete 18 hours of continuing education each year.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $33 application fee and a $25 background check fee.

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Utah

Issuing Authority

The Utah Department of Public Safety is responsible for licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified through the state government’s licensee lookup system. Licenses are valid for 2 years.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Utah requires that applicants are 21 years of age or older,  are a legal resident of the state of Utah, and are of good moral character.

Investigators can be denied a license if they have been convicted of a felony, of carrying an illegal weapon, assaulting someone or threatening to assault them, an act of dishonesty or fraud, an act involving moral turpitude, is on probation or parole, are named in an outstanding arrest warrant, or have been convicted of illegally accessing records.

Experience  and Education Requirements

Utah requires that applicants have a minimum of 2,000 hours of investigative work experience.

There are no formal education requirements to obtain a license in Utah.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $100 license fee and $16.50 background check fee.

Applicants must also be able to secure a surety bond of $10,000.

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Vermont

Issuing Authority

The Vermont Board of Private Investigative and Security Services is responsible for regulating and licensing private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified on the search index provided on the website and are valid for 2 years.

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Vermont requires that applicants are at least 18 years old, are citizens or legal residents of the United States, pass a criminal background check, have a job with a licensed Vermont private investigative agency, and be a Vermont resident in good standing.

Experience and Personal Character Requirements

Vermont requires that applicants have at least two years of experience as a full time employee working under a licensed investigator. There is also a mandatory 40 hour training program. Finally, Vermont requires applicants to take a state-mandated exam.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $150 application fee.

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Virginia

Issuing Authority

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services is responsible for issuing licenses in the state.   

Personal Character Requirements

The state of Virginia requires that applicants are U.S. citizens or legal residents and are at least 18 years old. To get a license, applicants also must have not have been convicted of a felony, assault and battery, a crime of moral turpitude, damage to personal property, sexual assault, or any firearms offenses.

Experience and Education Requirements

Virginia requires that applicants go through a 60 hour training program before they can obtain a license.

Virginia also requires applicants to take a state mandated exam.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants must pay a $150 application fee and get general liability insurance.  

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Washington

Issuing Authority

The Washington State Department of Licensing is responsible for issuing licenses to private investigators in the state. Licenses can be verified on the search index provided on their website and are valid for 1 year.

Personal Character Requirements

Unarmed investigators must be at least 18 years of age while armed investigators must be at least 21 years of age. Applicants cannot have any criminal convictions on their record.

To make sure applicants meet these requirements, they must be fingerprinted and pass a national background check.

Experience and Education Requirements

To be licensed, investigators must have at least 3 years of investigative experience, or have an offer of employment from a licensed private investigator agency. Military experience is acceptable, as is investigative experience with a local, state, or federal agency.

There are no formal education requirements to obtain a license in Washington, but there is a state mandated exam applicants must take and pass.

Costs and Other Requirements

There is a $200 licensing fee and an extra $100 fee if the applicant wishes to carry a firearm. Investigators must also have general liability insurance, or post a $10,000 bond with the state.

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West Virginia

Issuing Authority

Licenses are issued by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. Licenses can be checked using their database search tool here and are valid for 1 year.

Personal Character Requirements

Applicants must provide character references from 5 citizens unrelated to them by blood or marriage who have known them for at least 5 years, as well as be at least 18 years of age, be a US citizen of resident alien, and be of sound moral character. Applicants must also :

  1. Have not had a previous private investigator or security guard license revoked or denied in West Virginia or any other state.  
  2. Have not been declared incompetent by a court because of a mental defect or illness.
  3. Do not suffer from narcotics addiction or dependence or habitual drunkenness.
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony in this state or any other state or territory.
  5. Have not been convicted of any of these crimes:
    • Illegally using, carrying or possessing a pistol or other dangerous weapon;
    • Making or possessing burglar's instruments;
    • Buying or receiving stolen property;
    • Entering a building unlawfully;
    • Aiding an inmate's escape from prison;
    • Possessing or distributing illicit drugs; or
    • Any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or for which dishonesty of character is a necessary element.
  6. Have never:
    • Engaged in the private investigation or security guard business without a license;
    • Transferred my license to an unlicensed person or subcontracted with an unlicensed person or firm to conduct investigations or security guard business;
    • Employed anyone to conduct investigations or security guard business who was in violation of any of the prohibitions or requirements of law;
    • Falsely represented that they or any other person is licensed as an investigator or guard;
    • Made any false report with respect to any matter relating to my employment;
    • Divulged any information obtained from or for a client without express permission;
    • Knowingly accepted employment to obtain information intended for illegal purposes; or
    • Authorized another person to violate the law or rules.

Applicants have their fingerprints taken and undergo a background check to make sure they meet this criteria.

Experience and Education Requirements

Investigators in West Virginia need to have at least 2 years of investigative education or experience, or some combination of experience and education equalling 2 years.

Acceptable education includes a diploma from a 2 or 4 year college or university program in criminal justice, criminal investigation, law enforcement or similar, or at least 60 credits in investigative studies.


Alternatively, investigators can present a sworn statement from an investigative firm demonstrating 2 years of experience, or evidence of 2 years of law enforcement experience.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants are required to post a $2500 security bond, as well as to pay a $250 fee ($550 for non West Virginia residents) to be licensed as a private investigator firm. Individuals can be licensed under a firm’s license for $150 ($550 for non West Virginia residents).

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Wisconsin

Issuing Authority

Licenses are issued by the Department of Safety and Professional Services. Information can be found on their website. Licenses are renewed on even years on the 31st of August and can be checked using Wisconsin’s professional licensing database.

Personal Character Requirements

In order to be a licensed investigator in Wisconsin, applicants must be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma, and be free of any felony convictions (convictions may be pardoned by the governor or reduced to a misdemeanor), are not using drugs in a way that endangers themselves or others, and are mentally sound.

Applicants are fingerprinted and undergo background checks to make sure they meet these requirements.

Experience and Education Requirements  

Wyoming requires all PIs to pass a licensing exam with a minimum score of 84%.

Costs and Other Requirements

Applicants are required to pay a $175 exam fee, a $75 processing fee, and a $34.75 fingerprinting fee. Agencies must have $100,000 in general liability insurance (or post a bond in the same amount), and individual investigators must post a $2,000 bond.

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Wyoming

Issuing Authority

Licenses are not required by the state, however some cities (Cheyenne in particular) require a business license from the city clerk’s office to do investigations within the city.

Personal Character Requirements

In the city of Cheyenne, investigator business license holders must be 18 years old or older, and are subject to a background check and fingerprinting.

Other fees include $20 for fingerprinting and $15 for a background check.

Experience and Education Requirements

There are no education or experience requirements.

Costs and Other Requirements

For detective agencies, there is an annual $140 fee. Agencies also need a minimum of $100,000 in general liability insurance. For each employee there is a fee of $20 that goes to the police department.

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Elliot Rysenbry

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