Becoming a Licensed Private Investigator in California - How to Become a Private Investigator - A woman wearing sunglasses smiles at the camera

Every private detective in Los Angeles remembers the process they had to go through to become a licensed California private investigator. Including at least three years of investigative work experience, passing the state’s private investigator exam, and involving several other requirements, the path to becoming a licensed private investigator in California is actually one of the most straightforward and flexible in the nation. For some L.A. private investigators, their road began with earning a law degree or a bachelors in police science or similar. For others, investigative work for the military or a police department helped them find their calling. For every licensed detective who works for a California private investigations firm, passing the state exam and following the steps of the P.I. license application rounded out the process before they could obtain their license and be listed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. You can find Kinsey Investigations listing with them here. If you want to know more about what it takes to become a licensed Los Angeles private investigator, keep reading

Who Can Apply to be a Los Angeles Private Investigator?

The day-to-day work of California private investigators is not always so glamorous as what’s shown in the movies or on TV. Nevertheless, working as a private detective in Los Angeles and the surrounding area certainly has its rewards. As any of Kinsey Investigationsfemale private detectives will tell you, there are days filled with lots of action as well as those that are mostly desk work, research, or hours of waiting and watching with very little actually happening. And of course, the mood in the office and the emotions from various cases range from the highest highs to the lowest lows, sometimes within the same day. For those who have the right head and heart for the work, however, there’s no better job on earth!

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a private investigator in California, the good news is the process here is one of the most straightforward and flexible of any state. Ask five Los Angeles private detectives how they came to this profession, and you’ll probably get five different answers. While prior law enforcement and even military experience can prove useful, some Los Angeles area P.I.s enter the business after years of working directly under another private detective or gain relevant experience as paralegals or in other positions at law firms.

Before You Begin:
As we already mentioned, a P.I.’s work is not always glamorous, exciting, or even fun. A cool head and good problem-solving skills will take you a long way, but patience, perseverance and attention to detail are just as important. Know, too, that no one with a criminal record will be allowed to apply for a P.I. license in California. This includes any civil convictions for dishonesty or fraud and criminal offenses of any kind. It should go without saying that attempting to omit or cover up any such history when applying for a P.I. license would be an act of futility.

Requirements to Become a Licensed California Private Investigator

Before applying for a license to be a private investigator, applicants 18 years and older must accumulate adequate work experience as described below and take the state exam. At least three years of investigative work experience, also quantified as 6,000 hours, are required. Some examples include working on investigations for an attorney, the military, or a police department. The same kind of work for a licensed private detective agency also qualifies. Applicants with a law degree or a bachelors in police science, social justice or an equivalent degree from an accredited institution may be able to count it for 2,000 of the 6,000-hour requirement. Either way, once an applicant has acquired the requisite hours of experience, they must take and pass the California Private Investigator Exam.

After passing the exam, applicants must complete and pay all necessary fees for the formal P.I. license application. A criminal background check and finger-printing are conducted as part of this process. Once your application is submitted and accepted, your listing will appear on California’s Bureau of Security and Investigative services website. License renewals are every seven years, and as long as your license is current, your listing will remain posted and searchable for prospective clients and anyone else to refer to. And, more importantly, you’ll be ready to begin your career as a licensed California private investigator!