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How to Become a Private Investigator

March 18, 2020

I took a course in private investigation at Penn Foster.com. I also have read some books on private investigation and am currently reading The Everything Private Investigation Book. This book has offered much guidance, but so does the website cited below, since private investigators need 6,000 hours of paid work experience over a three year period, or 5,000 hours paid work with two-and-half years of a Bachelor’s degree in law, criminal justice or police science. Then you need 4,000 hours of paid investigative work lasting two years with a Bachelor’s degree in law or police science. Some applicants may want a firearm permit, having needed to pass an 8-hour “Power to Arrest” course, with a 14-hour course on how to carry and use firearms.

Investigative work can be done under a licensed PI, an attorney, a repossession firm, an insurance agency, or an arson investigation unit. Work that does not fall under these criteria includes process server, public records researcher or debt collection. In California there is the added option of pursuing baton training in addition to firearm training. You get fingerprinted in California, as the second step in becoming a private investigator with a license, while an application form is Step 3, also containing a Personal Identification Form, Certificate in Support of Experience, Authorization of Business Name, Two Passport type photos, a firearms qualification, and permit if that applies to your situation, a live scan receipt, and then check or money order for $50 if you are getting a firearms permit.

Step 4 involves passing a California Private Investigator Examination, as you get a packet from Psychological Services Industries, with a candidate handbook, and a number to call to schedule the examination, as tests are given out Monday through Saturday at 10 California locations. The test is two-hours, covering multiple-choice questions, such as PI terms, laws, civil/criminal liability, evidence handling, and surveillance. Step 5 is to actually start working at investigating crimes, people, causes of accidents, fires, injuries or losses, finding lost or stolen property, and securing evidence for use in court, as those who have firearms have to have $1 million in liability insurance. In San Jose, being a PI can earn me $80,870 – $108,010. In California, the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS), gives licenses to private investigators, as part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. My plan is still to get a law degree that will substitute one year of experience.

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