More often than not, after we successfully help a client, they feel more comfortable to ask us questions about our job as private detectives. We decided to put up this blog post to help answer some questions people may have in advance.

Previous experience

Those who choose to become a private investigator will normally already have some sort of experience in a similar field. Some individuals may have previously worked as a police officer, or in a military branch of some sort. Others may have worked in the surveillance or crime-scene investigation industries. Whilst this all of this experience may be worthwhile, it cannot completely replace education and training.

PI apprenticeships & education

The best way for individual’s to get experience as a private investigator is through an apprenticeship. This apprenticeship is done with an investigator who has plenty of experience up their belt.

An instructor teaches PIs in training at the Atlanta library

Formal instruction is also another way to gain experience in this field. Whether an individual is in a classroom, or on the job, they each learn the following things about private investigation:

  • Evidence handling procedures
  • Investigate and surveillance techniques
  • Questioning witnesses
  • Planning and coordinating investigations
  • Laws and ethics pertaining to investigation practice

Distance-learning programs and DVD’s can also be used for private investigators to assist with their studies.


Education and training are only the beginning of the journey of an individual’s chosen field. This is the case throughout the world. In order to become an investigator, it requires a special license. To obtain it, individuals will need to undergo an application process. However, the process of becoming a private investigator will be different from country to country, and from state to state.

For example, England and Wales do not have any official licensing procedure. However, research in 2005 and 2006 has shown that there may soon have to be an official licensing procedure in place. This was conducted by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) in Great Britain.

Every state in the United States has their own licensing requirements. However, there are some states that do not have a statewide licensing procedure. These states include South Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi, Colorado, Missouri, Alaska, and Idaho. Many of the other states throughout the USA require individuals to have a clean criminal record and undertake some sort of education and training.

In some cases, schools that wish to train PIs will have to meet specified curricula and criteria and have this submitted if they wish to be approved. In states such as these, individuals who have been educated from a school who has been approved and accredited are able to become a private investigator.

To get a license, the length of study and exact steps will be different for each state. In California, for instance, individuals are required to finish a particular educational course. They will then have to pass a written exam.

In Massachusetts, private “investigators” do not need to hold a state license, but, private detectives do need a license. (Don’t even get me started on the whole Detective vs. Investigator part.) In other states, private investigators will have to have a liability insurance. Not only that, in some cases, private investigators are allowed to carry firearms on them. To get this, private investigators will need to apply for and obtain a weapon permit. As you can see, there are so many differences between each state, that it can be impossible to keep track and keep up to date.

Operating from multiple jurisdictions

If a private investigator has a license, they will be allowed to work in one particular state. The type of work they do may require them to cross state borders. There are a few states who have reciprocity agreements with each other. This is a license that gives private investigators permission to work in the other state. Those states who do not have this agreement, can at times apply licensure in other neighboring states. Other states simply get to know the investigators located in other states. This can be done if individuals are working with them as assistants, or as trainees or apprentices as they travel.

Licenses give individual’s permission to claim to be a private investigator. However, they do not have permission to break the law as investigations are taking place. In the next post, we will discuss the legal and ethical issues that surround private investigation.

Phew, that got a bit technical at the end. We hope that this blog post has been helpful in answering some questions. Feel free to leave a comment below to ask us further questions.