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Does a California Private Investigator Need to Be Licensed?

Private detective investigating secret case.

Contrary to popular misconception, not just anyone can hang a sign on their door and call themselves a private detective. In the State of California, there are strict requirements for becoming a private investigator (PI), including years of education and experience before even applying for the proper license. Read on to learn about the licensing requirements for private investigators in California, and if you are in need of private investigative services, call the seasoned and qualified intelligence-gathering team at Millennium Intelligence Agency (MIA).

California PIs Must be Licensed

In California, private investigators must obtain the appropriate state license prior to commencing their practice. Without a license, a budding PI can work under another, licensed PI to gain experience before applying for their own license, but they cannot set up their own shop and conduct investigations on their own. PIs are licensed through the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, a wing of the Department of Consumer Affairs. Obtaining a PI license allows a PI to set up shop individually or manage a PI firm.

License Requirements for PIs in California

To become a licensed private investigator in California, an applicant must satisfy a number of specific requirements. The minimum requirements to apply for a California PI license are as follows:

  • The applicant must be at least 18 years old
  • The applicant must pass a criminal background check and submit to fingerprinting
  • The applicant must carry appropriate insurance if they also carry a firearm

Additionally, a private investigator must satisfy certain educational and experience requirements to qualify for a license. These requirements include:

  • Education: The applicant must complete a law degree, a four-year police science or law degree, or an associate’s degree in criminal justice or criminal law, in addition to the experience requirement.
  • Experience: If the applicant does not have the requisite degree, they must complete at least three years of professional investigative work (including 6,000 hours of paid investigative work). If the applicant has an associate’s degree, they’ll need at least 2.5 years of experience, and if they have a four-year degree, they’ll need two years of experience.
  • Examination: California has a written PI examination administered by a professional examination company called Psychological Services Industries.

A PI who wishes to carry a firearm must satisfy additional requirements and carry additional liability insurance. Qualifying investigative work includes being a sworn law enforcement officer, a military police officer, or performing investigative work under a licensed PI, attorney, insurance agency, repossession firm, or arson investigation unit. Other work, such as being a debt collector or process server, does not qualify.
If you are performing due diligence in advance of a settlement, gathering evidence for a pending litigation, working to establish a financial profile, or trying to locate a missing party, Millennium Intelligence Agency is ready to offer you vital support. Call our qualified, comprehensive legal investigative team today at 213-986-9888 for experienced and thorough intelligence-gathering services.

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