It seems lately there have been a lot of schools popping up claiming you can be a private investigator after 8 short weeks (or four months or whatever, the educational program lengths vary). This is misleading. In fact, while there are no educational requirements for private investigators in many states, including PA, NJ, DE, MD and WV, there are experience requirements. Specifically, you must have a minimum of 5 years’ experience as an investigator to become a licensed private investigator in these states. Relevant experience can include:
- SIU Insurance Investigator
- Police Officer with a local or state police department in an investigative capacity (a detective, for example)
- With an investigative agency for a county, city, state or federal organization (including military)
- Working 5 years full time a private investigations firm
There are NO exceptions to this requirement. Do not be misled…education alone will not get you licensed as a private investigator in the states mentioned above (the states Harris Investigations holds licenses in, as it were). In New York, it’s 3 years of experience that you’ll need.
Education for Private Investigators
Of course, we’re not discouraging relevant education prior to entering the field of private investigations. It makes sense for many individuals interested in a career as a PI to complete a degree program in criminal justice or a related field. This provides a comprehensive understanding of (and appreciation for) our justice system. A degree (or, in some cases, a certificate) could even facilitate the process of acquiring the necessary experience required for licensure. However, we want to be clear that education alone is simply not enough.
Other Requirements and Observations
There are only seven states that do not require their private investigators to have a license: Alabama, Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota. Some states – including California, Florida and New York – require a specific license to serve papers! Some other states require you to have an actual office location as well.
When in doubt, check the actual rules for this stuff and hire someone that operates on the right side of the law – not on the “gray” or wrong side. Make sure you choose someone who is licensed according to the laws of the state you live in.