How to Become a Licensed Private Investigator in North Carolina

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Private investigators are trained to find people or uncover information that untrained citizens cannot do themselves. It takes hundreds of hours of work to acquire this training. The North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings set the administrative code that governs training and licensing of private investigators. Becoming a private investigator (PI) in North Carolina requires certain steps.

Obtain a degree in criminology, forensics or a similar criminal justice field. For most private investigating jobs in North Carolina and many other states, at least an associate's degree is recommended. It is possible to become a PI without such a degree, but the training will take much longer.

Apply for a training permit, which allows a trainee to begin work as a private investigator associate before becoming a licensed investigator. Your permit application will ask about criminal history, education and work history. Permits can be applied for directly with private investigation firms.

Find a sponsor to become a private investigator associate. In North Carolina, individuals with approved permits must first be sponsored by an already-licensed PI. There are three levels of training that vary according to a person's experience. Level One (for those with less than 1,000 hours of experience, an associates degree or no degree) requires 160 hours of one-on-one, on-the-job training. Level Two (for those with 1,000 to less than 2,000 hours or a bachelor's degree) requires 80 hours. Level Three (for 2,000 or more hours or a graduate degree) requires 40 hours.

Submit to regular weekly evaluations. You must have contact with your sponsor at least four times a month for evaluations as you are working. The sponsor will evaluate and critique your work and offer suggestions for improvement.

Take the private investigator licensing exam. This official exam is the culmination of the training you will have received and demonstrates your knowledge of the job skills.

Apply for the license to become a private investigator. Upon passing the exam and any background check, you can receive your license.


The hours of experience required to start training can be obtaining by earning a degree, apprentice work under a PI, internships or work experience in some other related field, such as law enforcement.

During the Level One training, you cannot contract work outside of the supervision and approval of the sponsor.