How to Become a PI

How to Become a PI

Thank you for your interest in the Private Investigation industry. I have to admit, this is an exciting career. Throughout the years, I have traveled and worked in such places as Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa and other exciting places. I have been fortunate in this industry to be chosen the #1 PI in the United States and One of the Top 25 PI’s of the Century. I have been featured on most of the major talk shows including Montel, the Maury Povich Show, Dateline and the Sally Show.

REQUIREMENTS TO BECOME A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR

All but 3 States have licensing boards that license PIs. The requirements vary, but most require 3-5 years’ experience to be the owner or manager of an agency. Once this requirement is met (along with no criminal history, age, etc.) you generally have to take a test given by the licensing board.

If you do not have the experience to own or manage an agency, you will have to work for someone until you gain the experience. Many PIs hire people without prior experience and train them. This usually means being in the right place at the right time when someone is hiring. You may have to donate some of your time to work for a PI free of charge on a part-time basis to prove your worth to a PI.

You need to meet PIs so that you can find a job. I would suggest attending many of the State sponsored training seminars given by such organizations as the Texas Assoc. of Licensed Investigations (TALI), the National Association of Investigative Specialists (NAIS) and similar organizations.

There are various schools that you can attend to learn more about being a PI. However, attending these schools are no guarantee that you will get hired as a PI. One such school is the PI Institute of Education (210) 342-0509.

If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.

Kelly Riddle


Twenty two states require an exam before issuing an agency license:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Oregon
  • Virginia
  • Oklahoma
  • California
  • Iowa

  • Minnesota
  • Tennessee
  • New York
  • Wisconsin
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Nevada
  • Texas

  • N. Dakota
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Vermont
  • Ohio
  • WA (3 years’ experience OR exam)

Fourteen states require P.I. employees to be licensed under the agency license:

  • Delaware
  • Louisiana
  • Tennessee
  • Washington D.C
  • Maine

  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Kansas

  • New Hampshire
  • W. Virginia
  • Washington
  • Nebraska
  • (employer must keep fingerprints)

Nineteen states do not require any exam for the agency license:

  • Arizona
  • Maryland
  • N. Carolina
  • Colorado
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania

  • Connecticut
  • Michigan
  • Rhode Island
  • Delaware
  • Nebraska
  • S. Carolina

  • Washington D.C.
  • New Hampshire
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • New Jersey
  • WA (not required if you have 3 years’ experience)

Eleven states do not have a PI employee license requirement:

  • California
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Washington D.C.

  • Indiana
  • Florida
  • Michigan
  • Hawaii

  • Oregon
  • Nebraska
  • Pennsylvania

Six states require continuing education:

Iowa – 6 hours a year
Louisiana – 8 hours a year
Oklahoma – 8 hours a year
Tennessee- 6 hours a year
Texas- 24 hours every two years
Virginia- 8 hours a year

Four states require a course for licensing:

Oklahoma – 40 hour course for both agency owners and PI employees
Louisiana – 40 hour course
Virginia – 62 hour course required and taught by Department of Criminal Justice Services
Washington – Requires 4 hour training course by a state certified trainer

32 States require experience (varying from 2 to 5 years) in order to obtain an Agency license.

Eleven states do not require experience in order to obtain an agency license:

  • Washington D.C.
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Tennessee
  • Louisiana
  • Washington – exam or 3 years’ experience
  • Montana
  • Wisconsin
  • Washington State
    (can take the exam in lieu of)