This post covers everything you need to know about how to become a Private Investigator in California.
The private investigation industry is a fascinating and rewarding field that offers a wide range of opportunities for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in this area.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics California is the first State with the highest employment level of Private Investigators and $65,160 as an Annual mean wage.
As a private investigator, you will have the opportunity to work on a variety of cases, from tracking down missing persons to conducting background checks and surveillance.
In this guide, I will take you through the steps of becoming a private investigator in California, from the education and training requirements to the licensing process and beyond.
Whether you’re just starting out or looking to make a career change, this guide will provide you with the information you need to succeed as a private investigator in California.
So, let’s dive in!
Read also: Private Investigator and Detective: Who Does What and How?
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How to Become a Private Investigator in California
Becoming a private investigator in California requires a combination of education, experience, and licensure.
To start, you should consider obtaining a degree in criminal justice or a related field and completing a private investigator training program.
Next, you must pass a background check and pass a written exam to obtain a private investigator license from the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
Building experience through internships or entry-level positions and obtaining additional certifications can also be beneficial in the field.
Once licensed, you can start your own private investigation business or seek employment opportunities with established firms.
Here is how you can sail through the process
Meet education and training requirements
Becoming a private investigator in California requires a specific set of education and training requirements.
While there is no specific degree required to become a private investigator, a background in criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field can be beneficial.
Many private investigators have a degree in criminal justice, sociology, psychology, or a related field, but it is not mandatory.
In addition to education, experience is also required to become a private investigator in California.
If you do not possess a degree, you will need to have at least three years of professional investigative experience.
If you hold an associate’s degree, you will need to have at least 2.5 years of professional investigative experience.
If you hold a four-year degree, you will need to have at least 2 years of professional investigative experience.
Generally, the experience of becoming a Private Investigator in California can be gained through working in a variety of roles, including as a police officer, detective, Military police of the Armed Forces of the USA, Insurance adjuster, etc.
In addition to professional investigative experience, you can also earn experience points through education.
California recognizes that education in certain fields can provide valuable knowledge and skills that are applicable to the field of private investigation.
If you hold a law degree or bachelor’s degree in police science, criminal justice, criminal law, or the equivalent thereof from an accredited college, then you are granted 2,000 hours of experience.
This means that the educational experience you gained through your degree can be used towards meeting the experience requirement for becoming a private investigator in California.
Similarly, if you hold an associate degree in police science, criminal justice, criminal law, or the equivalent thereof from an accredited college, then you are granted 1,000 hours of experience.
This means that the educational experience you gained through your associate degree can be used towards meeting the experience requirement for becoming a private investigator in California.
It’s important to keep in mind that while these educational experience points can be used towards meeting the experience requirement, they do not replace the need for professional investigative experience.
These educational experience points are simply an additional way to help you meet the experience requirement.
REMEMBER to be valid, the experience must be certified by your employer and have been received while you were employed as a sworn law enforcement officer, military police officer, insurance adjuster, employee of a licensed PI or licensed repossessor, arson investigator for a public fire suppression agency, or an investigator for the public defender’s office. (source)
To become a private investigator you will also require to complete a certain amount of training and pass an examination before you can be licensed by the state.
This training can be completed through a variety of programs, including those offered by private investigation schools, community colleges, and online programs.
These training programs cover a wide range of topics, including investigation techniques, surveillance, evidence collection, and laws and regulations related to the private investigation industry.
A certificate in private investigations can help to fulfill some of the training requirements.
The licensing process is an important step in becoming a private investigator in California.
According to the Private investigator Act, no person shall engage in the business of a Private Investigator in California without obtaining the proper license.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) is responsible for issuing and regulating private investigator licenses in the state.
In order to become licensed, you must meet the following requirements as provided by ARTICLE 3 of the Private Investigator Act
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Undergo a criminal history background check through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Have at least three years (2,000 hours each year, totaling 6,000 hours) of compensated experience in investigative work;
have a law degree or completed a four-year course in police science plus two years (4,000 hours) of experience;
have an associate degree in police science, criminal law, or justice and 2 ½ years (5,000 hours) of experience.
- Pass a two-hour multiple-choice examination covering laws and regulations, terminology, civil and criminal liability, evidence handling, undercover investigations, and surveillance.
Upon notification that you have passed the examination, you must submit a licensing fee to the BSIS in order to complete the licensing process.
The mailing address to submit the fee is:
Bureau of Security and Investigative Services
P.O. Box 989002
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9002
Useful link: Licencing Fee structure
NB: fees are changing, make sure you visit a BSIS website for up-to-date rates.
How to apply for a Private investigator license in Calfornia
You can duly apply for a Private investigator license in California either online (recommended) or by mail by submitting your application forms, Two recent passport-quality photographs, and the application fee.
Apply online at https://www.breeze.ca.gov or By mail: submit all required documents and payment to:
Bureau of Security and Investigative Services
P.O. Box 989002
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9002
Useful links: Private Investigator application packet
The Private investigator Act set a condition for Private Investigators that are 1) not organized as an LLC and 2) carry a firearm and 3) provide armed bodyguard services incidental to an investigation to carry a commercial general liability policy of insurance issued by an insurance company authorized to transact business in California that provides minimum limits of insurance of one million dollars ($1,000,000) for any one loss or occurrence due to bodily injury, including death, or property damage, or both.
While Private Investigators organized as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) must maintain a policy or policies of insurance against liability claims for acts, errors, or omissions arising out of the private investigator services it provides.
For an LLC with five or fewer managing members, the aggregate liability limit shall not be less than one million dollars ($1,000,000).
For an LLC with more than five managing members, an additional one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) of insurance must be obtained for each person named as a managing member not to exceed five million dollars ($5,000,000) in any one designated period.
Building Your Skills and Experience
Building your skills and experience is an essential part of becoming a successful private investigator in California.
The private investigation industry is a diverse field that offers a wide range of opportunities for individuals with different interests and skill sets.
To build your skills and experience as a private investigator, I recommended you start by gaining experience in a relevant field.
This will help you to develop expertise in a particular area and make you more attractive to potential clients
After becoming a licensed Private investigator I recommend that join professional organizations such as the California Association of Licensed Investigators (CALI) or The National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI) and attend their conferences, seminars, and training programs to stay updated with the latest trends and techniques in the industry.
Also networking with other private investigators and building relationships with other professionals in the field is also a valuable way to gain experience and build your skills.
Becoming a private investigator in California is a challenging but rewarding career path that offers a wide range of opportunities for those interested in this field.
By understanding the education and training requirements, navigating the licensing process, and building your skills and experience, you can successfully pursue a career as a private investigator in California.
Remember to take advantage of professional organizations, networking opportunities, and additional resources to further your knowledge and advancement in the field.
I hope this guide has been helpful in providing you with the information you need to get started on your journey to becoming a private investigator in California.