How to Become a Private Investigator in Los Angeles?

How to Become a Private Investigator in Los Angeles?
  • What qualifications do you need to be a Private Investigator?
  • How long does it take to become a private investigator?
  • Do you need a license to be a private investigator in California?
  • Can anyone become a PI?

In this blog post, we will try to answer all these questions that we get daily from people who want to start a career as Private Investigators in California.

Los Angeles has been the home of many famous Private Investigator films, including the one and only “Chinatown”. Without a doubt, all of these films, crime books, and television shows have inspired many people to work as Private Investigators in LA. The massive loss of jobs around the country due to the pandemic is another reason why more and more people are interested in becoming Private Investigators.

Chances are, if you are reading this right now, you are interested in becoming one of them.

So, let’s dive in!

Being a Private Investigator in Los Angeles is not quite how Hollywood portrays it. In this article, we will explain who a private investigator is, what does he do exactly, and most importantly, how to become one?

Who is a Private Investigator?

A Private Investigator -or simply a PI– is someone who has studied the field of investigating and is allowed, in most states, to perform investigations on behalf of others for a fee.

A Private Investigators role consists of searching for evidence, interviewing witnesses, verifying information, conducting surveillance, locating missing people, and gathering crucial facts and evidence for court cases or private clients. In a number of case circumstances, such as psychological, legal, and financial matters, a PI is required to locate and examine the evidence. They also verify people’s backgrounds, investigate insurance fraud, and investigate investment groups to protect clients from fraud.

To properly observe and gather information on a suspect, a Private Investigator may need to go undercover. They make use of GPS tracking devices, video cameras, hidden cameras, and other valuable technologies and equipment. They may even have a concealed weapon permit.

Private Investigators must be familiar with various laws that include privacy rules, state and federal laws, and local laws. It is essential to be knowledgeable in these laws when collecting evidence in a case to ensure that all facts and documentation will be legitimate in court and can be used.

How to Become a Private Investigator in California?

Obtaining a California Private Investigator License is how to become a private investigator in California. California is one of the most straightforward states since the whole process is flexible and accessible.

Here are the 5 steps to get hold of your private investigator license in LA:

1.   You  First Have to Qualify: You Must Have the Appropriate Education or Work Experience

The minimum is three years of investigative experience. You must have completed at least 2,000 hours of actual paid work prior to filing an application to qualify for one year of experience. To put it another way, you’ll need at least 6,000 hours of relevant experience.

Moreover, you are given 2,000 hours of experience when you have a law degree or a bachelor’s degree in police science, social justice, criminal law, or the equivalent from an accredited institution. But, you still need those other 4,000 hours or 2 additional years.

There are also a few acceptable investigative work backgrounds that would help qualify someone; like a sworn law enforcement officer, military police, or investigative work under a licensed PI who is a Qualified Manager such Kinsey Investigations. Also working under an attorney as an inside investigator for those same 6,000 hours, or for a repossession firm, an insurance agency as an investigator, or arson investigation unit. Something that would not qualify would or is unacceptable as experience; includes a process server, a public records researcher, or a debt collector.

Finally, remember the applicant must provide details about such experience in the form of documents from his or her employer or from a Qualified Manager of a private investigation firm.  At Kinsey Investigations, we know what is needed and we have a high bar of standards to meet to become a trainee under our investigations firm.

2. You have to be at least 18 years old

This is the clearest step to follow. You must 18 years of ageto obtain a private investigator’s license.

3. You Cannot Have A Criminal Record

This includes any civil convictions of fraud, or deceit. You cannot have any criminal offenses in your background. You must submit to a full government background including a Live Scan.Be careful about the statements you provide in your application because any false information that you knowingly made in the license application will result in its immediate denial and refusal.

4. You must pass the California Private Investigator License Exam

You cannot qualify for this exam until you can prove 3 full years of experience. After you have obtained your full 3 years of experience or 6,000 hours working in the field, you have to pass a Private Investigator’s exam in the state of California. This exam covers civil and criminal liability, laws and regulations, undercover investigations, terminology, evidence handling, and surveillance as well as things you may or may not do as a security guard or private protection officer. All of this is necessary to pass if you want to be a Private Investigator. Additionally, a bona fide Qualified Manager of a private investigation firm must sign off on your billable hours as anvalid employee of the firm with proof of those 6000 hours of paid wages.

If you’re just getting started, you can work under a Qualified Manager to gain experience before deciding whether to become a PI and gain experience or gain that experience to start your own investigation firm.

5. You have to obtain a California Private Investigator License

You cannot even apply to become a Private Investigator unless you have met and fulfilled the criteria of steps 1-4

In addition to that, for a background/criminal check, you must apply your fingerprints to the California Department of Justice and the FBI via Live Scan. Again, you cannot do any of this until you have the proper training.

There are application fees additional fees to pay like the state licensing fee, the California DOJ fingerprinting fee, the FBI fingerprinting fee, and the examination fee.

Follow these 5 steps and finishthe appropriate parts of the final application package and apply to the state after fulfilling and proving your qualifications. 

  • Bureau of Security and Investigative Services
  • PO Box 989002
  • West Sacramento, CA 95798-9002.

Now you know how to become a private investigator in California in no time at all.

How Much Do Private Investigators Earn?

California’s average Private Investigator salary is $68,570. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is the highest in all the states of the US. And in Los Angeles, PI’s earn between $79,640 and $122,410. The highest-priced private investigator work includes capital punishment defense and hazardous materials investigations.

It’s not easy to get your first big check at first, particularly if you have little experience. A trainee in an investigation department, on the other hand, could be paid marginally above minimum wage. Despite the low start, they can learn enough in a short period of time to significantly increase their value.

Private Investigators are expected to be paid between $25,000 and $150,000 a year by a professional firm with a large list of clients.

We know of many Private Investigators and employ a great deal of work to our colleagues that need help with services from us or need work and we employ them as well. Just because you qualify and become a PI does not necessarily mean you will have the clients to help you earn a decent living.

Find out more about how much does a PI charge in Los Angeles

How to Become a Great Private Investigator?

If becoming a private investigator is not enough, what about becoming a great one?

At Kinsey Investigations, we know the competition is already harsh in Los Angeles. That is why we share our expertise with our trainees and make sure they have a couple of competitive advantages. Here is a list of a few tips to put you on the right track of becoming a great LA Private Investigator:

  • Knowing more than one specific area of expertise in the field
  • Staying relevant to the latest technologies by keeping and maintaining skills
  • Knowing what and how to use the equipment needed
  • Having the correct personality and knowledge needed as well as common sense
  • Knowing your boundaries of what is legal to do and what is questionable
  • Knowing when someone should turn to an attorney vs. a private investigator
  • Actually doing the work and getting the results

The Future of Private Investigators

The private investigation industry, like almost everything else, will change and will grow. Many of the Internet investigative operations that have invaded the field in the last five years will be curtailed by new legislation and private investigation will once again become a physical operation. It will continue to be competitive and challenging for those in the industry, but it will provide a good living for those who are willing to work hard and be fair and rational in their interactions with one another.

Being a private investigator is unlike every other profession. It necessitates excellent communication, reasoning, interpersonal skills, as well as knowledge of applicable laws and a variety of different skill sets.

Furthermore, becoming a Private Investigator in Los Angeles is not an easy mission. Even if you learned the necessary steps after reading this post, you still have a lot of information and experience to acquire. It may seem intimidating at first, and it may even demotivate you. That’s why having someone more experienced than you pass their knowledge to you is preferable.

If you have further questions, you can call us. Today, you might be our student. Tomorrow, you could be planning to start your own Private Investigator in Los Angeles. Kinsey Investigations Inc. has helped dozens of PIs start their careers.

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