The Knowledge Nook

What Are The Licensing Requirements for Private Investigators?

Posted by Tami Russell on Sep 5, 2017 2:24:59 PM

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“Do I have to have a license to work as a private investigator?”

It’s a great question, and one we hear often at The Knowledge Nook.  Let’s explore licensing requirements and what it takes to become a professional private investigator.

States Regulate the Licensing Requirements for Prospective PIs

According to the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI), “each state regulates the private investigators and licensing requirements within their particular state.  In Texas, private investigators are regulated by the Texas Department of Public Safety/Private Security Bureau as provided in the Private Security Act.”

According to privateinvestigatoredu.org, “Twenty-two states require you to pass an exam as a condition of becoming licensed, and three additional states offer the option to take an exam as one possible route to licensure.

 “To date, just 5 states do not require private investigators to be licensed at the state level:  Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming.” The site goes on to explain that Wyoming and Alaska DO have licensing requirements at the local level.

Here’s a link to the regulations for U.S. states.  If you are outside the state of Texas, this information may be helpful as you research regional requirements.

Working as a PI versus Owning a Firm

In Texas, and in numerous other states, there are different rules for the individual who wants to manage/own his own firm, and the individual who is planning to work under the guidance of a practicing PI, according to TALI.  If an individual is manager/owner of an agency, “the manager can hire other individuals that can operate as private investigators under their agency after they meet the manager’s requirements.  To be licensed and employed by a licensed company as a private investigator, a person must meet all the requirements set forth in the Texas Occupation Code 1702.113.”

Here’s a look at some of those requirements a manager/owner must consider before hiring someone to work as a PI:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Not have been convicted of a felony level offense
  • Not have been convicted of a Class A or equivalent misdemeanor
  • Not have been convicted, within the past 5 years, of a Class B misdemeanor or equivalent
  • Not currently charged with, or under indictment for, a felony or Class A misdemeanor
  • Not currently charged with a Class B misdemeanor
  • Not have been found incompetent by reason of mental defect or disease
  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed services
  • Not be required to register in any state as a sex offender.

In Texas, a licensee must meet a combination of practical investigative work experience/ educational requirement before becoming a private investigator.  Below are the requirements for Texas, as published by the Department of Public Safety:

  • Three (3) consecutive years of investigation related experience;
  • A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related course of study;
  • A bachelor's degree with twelve (12) months of investigation related experience;
  • An associate degree in criminal justice or related course of study, with twenty-four (24) months of investigation related experience;
  • A specialized course of study directly designed for and related to the private investigation profession, taught and presented through affiliation with a four (4) year college or university accredited and recognized by the State of Texas. This course of study must be endorsed by the four (4) year college or university's department of criminal justice program and include a departmental faculty member(s) on its instructional faculty. This course of study must consist of a minimum of two hundred (200) instructional hours including coverage of ethics, the Act, and this chapter; or
  • Other combinations of education and investigation related experience may be substituted for the above at the discretion of the department or its designated


The work requirement could be experience in law enforcement or some other type of investigative work experience at a law firm, financial institution or other organization where an employee might perform functions that would qualify.

Remember, “it is a violation of the Texas Occupations Code to advertise, solicit business, bid on contracts or perform any investigative services without being property licensed,” according to TALI.  “Violations can result in administrative and civil penalties as well as criminal filings against the violator.”

Fast-track you career in Private Investigations.  Learn more about PDI’s live and on-line program options, beginning soon  Whether you are in Texas or in other states, find out if the work of a private investigator is right for you!

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Topics: private investigations

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