How to Get a Private Investigation License

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How to Get a Private Investigation License. Each U.S. state has differing private investigation licensing requirements. Some states don't require a specialized license at all, simply requiring private investigators to have a valid business license. Other states administrate private investigation licenses through government agencies, police departments or professional boards, so you'll need to know what protocol your state has in place.

Figure out what licensing requirements your state has in place. Check the resources and links at to see whether or not your state requires you to get a license and, if so, what governing body issues them.

Get in touch with the administrative bureau that oversees licensing of private investigators in your state to learn about the particular requirements. You can follow the link to the administrative body's website directly from, or you can contact the regulatory board directly by calling or emailing them. Contact information will be listed on the board's official website.

Expect that you will need to pass a board-issued examination in states that require private investigators to get an official license. You can prepare for this examination on your own or by taking an accredited course in private investigator training. Though the formal training requirement varies from state to state (some licensing boards require formal training while others may not), it's always a good idea to go to school rather than try to prepare for the exam on your own.

Get a business license. Some 25 percent of private investigators operate their own private practices, rather than opting for employment by a security firm or investigation agency. Self-employed investigators residing in states that don't require specialized professional licenses are generally required to obtain a business license.

Enroll in and complete an accredited, reputable program in private investigator training, either online or in a classroom setting. These courses teach you what you need to know to pass state examinations, and may even lead directly to state licensing. The site also has useful links to information on educational programs in your area.


Even if your particular state doesn't require you to have a license, you should still obtain a diploma or degree in private investigation. Formal training is crucial to your long-term career success.


If your state requires that you have a license and you practice private investigation without one, you may be subject to fines and/or criminal prosecution. You may also be disqualified from ever attaining a license with your state's board as an added punitive measure.