Thanks to famous fictional private investigators like Sherlock Holmes, Phillip Marlowe and Veronica Mars, everyone has likely wondered how to be a private investigator at some point or another. However, whether you’re interested in tracking down a cheating spouse or looking for a new career, working as a private detective is more difficult than it seems in books or on TV. Read on to learn how to be a private investigator in the real world.
Step One: Check Your State’s Licensing Requirements
Private investigation services are overseen by state agencies, which can differ from state to state. As a result, people interested in becoming a private investigator for hire must spend ample time researching their state regulations and licensing requirements, and even city or jurisdictional stipulations in some cases. This is especially true if you are thinking of starting your own private detective firm. Over the course of this process, it is also important to see if your state has a reciprocity agreement, which allows private investigators to conduct investigations in different states without holding a license for that area as long as the process begins in their home state. Currently, California, Florida, North Carolina and a few other areas have reciprocity agreements in place.
Step Two: Meet the Minimum Requirements
These requirements differ from state to state, as mentioned previously. However, private investigators are usually required to be at least 21 years old, be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, possess a high school diploma or GED, have no felony convictions, and no dishonorable discharges from the military. As a result, if you are wondering how to be a private investigator, you may have to spend a significant amount of time getting various aspects of your background in order before you can even begin the licensing process.
Step Three: Meet the Educational or Experiential Requirements
While not every state has specific requirements for education or experience, most private investigators have experience in law enforcement, investigation, or security, or at least an Associate’s degree in criminal justice. Check your state requirements to be sure, but be prepared to take some classes if you want to improve your chances.
Apply for State Licensure and Take Your State Exam
Depending on the state, you may need to take your exam before or after applying for your license. The exam typically covers laws and procedures regulated by the area. Meanwhile, prospective investigators are required to provide their licensing organization with a variety of paperwork, including a notarized application, fingerprints, personal and professional references, and more. Once a person becomes a licensed private investigator, they are also required to renew this license every several years.
Obtain Mandatory Firearms Training
While not every state allows private investigators to carry a firearm or weapon, those that do require candidates to complete mandatory training to become certified. A number of organizations offer programs for this, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Rifle Association, and Smith and Wesson.
For those looking for a position that combines aspects of criminal justice and other fields, becoming a private investigator is a long process that is best considered carefully before it is undertaken. While not for everyone, this path can often lead to a great career for the right candidate. Those simply looking to investigate a problem of their own, however, will likely be better off working with a licensed private detective. Contact an agency in your area today to discuss their services. Links like this.