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.


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
  • L ouisiana
  • 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)

Private Investigators – read PI Magazine, the trade publication for PI’s, private detectives, police detectives, SIU Investigators and anyone interested in learning how to become a PI.

List of State Private Investigator Associations

Following is a list of professional associations related to various aspects of the private investigation industry. Private investigators may join these associations to access professional training and education, access helpful resources, and network with other professionals.


Alabama Private Investigators Association (APIA) – The APIA is dedicated to bringing one voice to all investigators in the State of Alabama and common standards and training. The APIA’s website has information on members, the association’s by-laws, committees, meetings, and contact information.


Alaska Investigators Association – When we last checked, the Alaska Association’s website was unavailable.


Arizona Association of Licensed Private Investigators (AALPI) – The AALPI association website provides membership information, links to investigative information, conferences, and recent news.


Arkansas Association of Professional Private Investigators (AAPPI)

Private Investigator’s Association of Arkansas (PIAA)


California Association of Licensed Investigators (CALI) – CALI is the largest private investigator association in the world. Join and utilize their broad membership base to network and learn from others.

Certified Investigative Professionals (CIPI) – CIPI is a membership organization consisting of investigative professionals and affiliates whose mission is to promote a standard of excellence among investigative professionals, enhance public confidence in the profession, and represent the industry in business, education, and political forums.

California Associate Photocopiers and Process Servers (CCAPPS)

California Association of Polygraph Examiners

Colorado Society of Private Investigators – This association was formed by prominent Denver private eyes to elevate the private investigation profession. Visit the website for membership, association bylaws, meetings, schedules, private eye resources, and more.

Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado (PPIAC) – The PPIAC is dedicated to developing and maintaining professionalism. The private detective association provides training opportunities and resources statewide. The PPIAC also serves as a voice for PIs in the state legislature.


The Connecticut Association Of Licensed Private Investigators – A respected organization consisting of licensed investigative professionals whose mission is to assure that members of the profession provide the highest quality of service to individual, corporate, and government clients.


Delaware Association of Detective Agencies (DADA) – Contact for more information.


Florida Association of Licensed Investigators (FALI) – The FALI is Florida’s largest private investigation association. The FALI website provides up-to-date information and news on the investigation industry and extensive resources for existing and aspiring private eyes.

Florida Association of Private Investigators (FAPI) – FAPI is a professional organization created to provide a voice for licensed private investigators and related professionals within the State of Florida and throughout the United States. FAPI offers its members extensive networking opportunities with other professionals nationwide and a place to share referrals, questions, sources of information, and more.


Georgia Association of Professional Private Investigators – An association created to help educate members, enforce the P.I. code of ethics, and establish trust among members and other investigative agencies in Georgia and the United States of America. GAPPI also educates members regarding legislative issues that directly affect the investigative industry.


Private Investigators Association of Idaho (PIAI) – The PIAI is a professional organization created to provide a voice for private detectives and related professionals within the State of Idaho. They offer members extensive professional networking opportunities with other experienced detectives nationwide and a place to share referrals, questions, sources of information, and more.


Associated Detectives & Security Agencies of Illinois (ADSAI) – The ADSAI, formerly known as ADI, is a state-chartered, not-for-profit organization organized for the betterment of the Detective and Security Professions.


Indiana Association of Professional Investigators (IAPI) – A professional organization of detectives.


Iowa Association of Private Investigators (IAPI) – Members have access to multiple sources of professional benefits, including continuing education and training, publications, legislative monitoring, and networking among members. The public can use the IAPI website to locate an Iowa investigator and to learn about the profession.


Kansas Association of Private Investigators (KAPI) – The KAPI is a non-profit corporation formed to establish and perpetuate high ethical and professional standards and excellence of professional service in the private investigative industry in accordance with the association’s Code of Ethics.

Kansas Association of Licensed Investigators (KALI) – The KALI is a comprehensive organization serving the citizens and other organizations for all their investigative needs.


Kentucky Professional Investigators Association (KPIA) – Kentucky’s officially recognized organization of professionals. The KPIA provides a variety of helpful resources for existing and aspiring private eyes.


Louisiana Private Investigators Association – The LPIA promotes and maintains the highest ethical practices in the profession. The LPIA website provides general information, member benefits, history, events, and links of interest.


Maine Licensed Private Investigators Association (MLPIA) – The MLPIA is Maine’s premiere society, representing licensed, bonded, ethical professionals throughout Maine and New England. The MLPIA actively promotes ethical, professional conduct and business operation for the profession in the press, legislature, and among peers in Maine and New England.


Professional Investigators Alliance of Maryland (PIAM) – PIAM was formed to advance the profession of certified investigators. In addition, they are focused on representing the profession before the legislature, working to eliminate unreliable, incompetent, and unlicensed individuals in the profession. Also, they work to promote and maintain the highest ethical standards, offering resources for continuing education.


Licensed Private Detectives Association of Massachusetts (LPDAM) – Provides the state’s information, resources, and networking opportunities.


Michigan Council of Professional Investigators (MCPI)


Minnesota Association of Private Investigators and Protective Agents (MAPI) – The MAPI is a non-profit corporation initially organized and founded to build career awareness through shared resources and educational opportunities.


Mississippi Professional Investigators Association (MPIA) – The MPIA comprises professional private investigators in Mississippi and is a not-for-profit professional organization. The association aims to advance the investigation and security profession through education and legislation.


Missouri State Investigators Associations (MSIA) – The MSIA helps promote the exchange of information to carry out the work of association members effectively, provide continuing education opportunities for members engaged in investigative work, and; enhance the status of criminal, civil, and regulatory, investigative work as a profession.


Montana Associations of Private Investigators and Security Officers (MAPISO) – The MAPISO is an organization of professional Private Investigators and Security Operators who are properly insured and have passed the stringent licensing requirements established by the State of Montana Department of Labor.


Nebraska Association of Licensed Private Investigators (NALPI) – The NALPI is an association comprised of a diverse group of professionals from across the entire state of Nebraska. NALPI promotes and maintains the highest educational standards and ethical practices in investigation and related practices.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire League of Investigators – The League is the only Association in New Hampshire for the profession. The League provides training, networking, and representation before the Legislature and on the Governor’s Advisory Board on Private Investigation and Security Services.

New Jersey

New Jersey Licensed Private Investigators Association – Leverage the state’s professional organization to network with other agencies, refer businesses, generate new ideas, and connect with specialists.

New Jersey Special Investigators Association (NJSIA) – A non-profit organization for insurance fraud investigators.

New York

Associated Licensed Detectives of New York State (ALDONYS) – ALDONYS is the largest New York State organization solely representing the interests of licensed private individuals and watch, guard, and patrol agencies.

North Dakota

When we prepared this page, we found no information about private detective associations in North Dakota.


Ohio Association of Security & Investigative Services (OASIS) – The Ohio Association of Private Detective Agencies, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation that serves Private Security and Investigation Professionals with news, information, and members contact information.

Ohio Investigators Association (OIA) – The OIA is a professional organization of state detectives, compliance, and law enforcement personnel dedicated to encouraging professionalism and cooperation between members and their agencies.


Oklahoma State Private Investigator Association (OPIA) – O.P.I.A., was formed to help increase public and industry awareness, promote the interests and raise the professional standards of the Private Investigation Profession in Oklahoma.


Oregon State Private Investigator Association (OALI) – OALI is the state of Oregon’s oldest and largest association with paid membership. The OALI membership consists of investigative professionals and associates whose mission is to promote excellence among individuals, enhance public confidence in the profession, provide training, and represent the industry in public and political forums.

Rhode Island

Licensed Private Detectives Association of Rhode Island (LPDARI) – a group of professional investigators formed LPDARI to provide networking and education opportunities for private detectives.

South Carolina

South Carolina Association of Legal Investigators (SCALI) – SCALI is a non-profit professional association for licensed private detectives employed by law firms and public defenders. Also, students and individuals who study or work within the criminal justice system may join the association as associate members.


Tennessee Professional Investigators Associations (TPIA) – TPIA was created to represent the interests of private eyes in the state legislature and provides training and education resources for its members.

Tennessee Association of Licensed Private Investigators (TALPI) – TALPI is a group of independent professionals who work to increase awareness and educate the public about investigative services in Tennessee. TALPI offers information about groundbreaking methods and technology through continuing education courses and monthly meetings.


North Texas Private Investigators Association – Licensed private investigators in all specialties across Texas.

Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI) – An organization that promotes and encourages professionalism among licensed private investigators through information, education, training, legislative action, membership support, and networking. TALI provides helpful information on private eye training and continuing education, meeting and networking opportunities, and information resources for its members.


Private Investigators Association of Utah (PIAU) – The PIAU provides helpful information for existing and aspiring private detectives. Visit the website to get the latest information and news about what is happening in the private detective industry in the state of Utah.


I couldn’t find any information on Vermont associations at this time.


Private Investigators Association of Virginia (PIAVA) – PIAVA is a professional association of detectives registered with the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) in Virginia. Membership in the Association is also available to Private eyes licensed in states other than Virginia and to individuals who work in areas related to the private security industry. Visit the PIAVA website.

Other Industry Associations

American Polygraph Association – Established in 1966, the American Polygraph Association (APA) consists of over 2500 members dedicated to providing a valid and reliable means to verify the truth and establish the highest moral, ethical, and professional standards of conduct in the polygraph field.

American Society for Industrial Security, ASIS – ASIS International is the preeminent organization for security professionals. Founded in 1955, ASIS is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and productivity of security professionals by developing educational programs and materials that address broad security interests, such as the ASIS Annual Seminar and Exhibits, as well as specific security topics.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners – The ACFE is the world’s largest anti-fraud organization and premier anti-fraud training and education provider.

The Association of Christian Investigators – (ACI) is designed to provide an environment where individuals can create meaningful and long-term relationships with others who share common interests outside of professional bonds.

Association of Consumer Reporting Agencies – (NCRA) is a national trade organization of consumer reporting agencies and associated professionals that provide products and services to hundreds of thousands of credit grantors, employers, landlords, and general businesses.

Association of Forensic Document Examiners, AFDE – The Association of Forensic Document Examiners [USA] was formed in 1986 as a professional organization for forensic examiners. Our original goals were to provide quality continuing education, promote research within the field, establish a board certification program, and publish a journal devoted exclusively to document examination.

Certified Investigative Professionals – Certified Investigative Professionals Inc.® (CIPI) is a membership organization consisting of investigative professionals and affiliates whose mission is to promote excellence among individual private eyes, enhance public confidence in the profession, and represent the industry in business, education, and political forums.

High Technology Crime Investigation Association – The High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA) is designed to encourage, promote, aid, and affect the voluntary interchange of data, information, experience, ideas, and knowledge about methods, processes, and techniques relating to investigations and security in advanced technologies among its membership.

Intellectual Property Owners Association – Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), established in 1972, is a trade association for patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets owners. IPO is the only association in the U.S. that serves all intellectual property owners in all industries and all fields of technology.

International Anti-counterfeiting Coalition – The world’s largest non-profit organization devoted solely to protecting intellectual property and deterring counterfeiting. Our membership spans automotive, apparel, luxury goods, and pharmaceuticals to food, software, and entertainment. From small privately-owned companies to large multinationals, we share one common goal–to combat counterfeiting and piracy.

The International Association for the Study of Organized Crime – (IASOC) is a professional association of criminologists, researchers, working professionals, teachers, and students. IASOC works to promote greater understanding and research about organized crime in all its manifestations

International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators – The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) advances public safety for educational institutions by providing educational resources, advocacy, and professional development services. IACLEA is the leading voice for the campus public safety community.

International Intellectual Property Association – A private sector coalition, formed in 1984, of trade associations representing U.S. copyright-based industries in bilateral and multilateral efforts to improve international protection and enforcement of copyrighted materials and open up foreign markets closed by piracy and other market access barriers.

National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents (now known as the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents)- This association promotes the principles and policies set forth within the bylaws to upgrade the profession and the professional.

National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts – Supports the users of business and intangible asset valuation services and financial forensic services, including damages determinations of all kinds and fraud detection and prevention, by training and certifying financial professionals in these disciplines. NACVA training includes Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credit and is available to members and non-members.

National Association of Fraud Investigators – Established to improve communications and to expand the networking of those in investigation and related fields, which include but are not limited to Law Enforcement, insurance, security specialists, bond enforcement agents, attorneys, forensic examiners, tracers/locators, credit card, auto theft, international counterparts.

National Association of Legal Investigators – NALI was formed in 1967 for those actively engaged in negligence investigations for the plaintiff and/or criminal defense. These people may be employed by law firms, public defenders, or private investigative agencies. Our primary focus is to educate and advance the art and science of legal investigation and to ensure the highest standard of professional ethics. This common bond establishes mutual trust, goodwill, and friendship among our members.

National Association of Professional Accident Reconstruction Specialists – A non-profit organization whose members have joined together to share the challenge of dealing with the complex problems of accident reconstruction and to upgrade and ultimately professionalize the accident reconstruction field.

National Association of Professional Background Screeners – Founded in 2003 as a non-profit trade association, NAPBS® serves to represent the interest of companies offering tenant, employment, and background screening. NAPBS® offers an opportunity for qualified companies to participate in shaping the body of knowledge and regulations impacting our futures.

National Association of Professional Process Servers – NAPPS – A Worldwide Organization Founded on the Principles of Professionalism and High Ethical Standards. Our database of Process Servers is a collection of the most outstanding individuals in the profession.

National White Collar Crime Center – Provides helpful online training, investigative support, and research to agencies and entities involved in preventing, investigating, and prosecuting economic and high-tech crime. A non-profit membership organization dedicated to supporting Law Enforcement in preventing, investigating, and prosecuting economic and high-tech crime, NW3C has been continuously funded through competitive grants for over three decades. NW3C membership consists of Law Enforcement agencies from all 50 states and four continents.

Pacific Northwest Association of Investigators – A professional organization of licensed investigators incorporated in the State of Washington in December 1947. PNAI was established to encourage and assist members in continuing professional education and establish professional conduct and behavior goals by mandating personal and professional conduct standards.

United States Association of Professional Investigators

United States Process Servers Association – The United States Process Servers Association helps people needing a Process Server find one in any part of the United States.

World Association of Detectives (WAD) – WAD is an international organization and is the longest-running and largest investigation association in the world.

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