How To Be a Private Investigator In California

Are you interested in becoming a private investigator in California? This exciting and challenging career path requires a unique set of skills and qualifications. In this article, we will explore the steps you need to know about how to become a private investigator in California and the requirements you must meet to obtain a license.

What is a Private Investigator?

A private investigator, also known as a private detective, is a professional who is hired to conduct investigations on behalf of individuals, businesses, or organizations. They gather information, conduct surveillance, and analyze data to uncover facts and solve cases.

Private investigators may work on a variety of cases, including missing persons, fraud, infidelity, and background checks. They may also work with attorneys, insurance companies, and law enforcement agencies to gather evidence for legal cases.

Successful Private Investigator Skills and Qualifications

How to Be a Private Investigator in California

To be a successful private investigator, you must possess a unique set of skills and qualifications. These include:

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Ability to think critically and solve problems
  • Knowledge of laws and regulations related to investigations
  • Proficiency in technology and surveillance techniques
  • Physical and mental stamina
  • Discretion and confidentiality
  • Strong ethical standards

Steps to Becoming a Private Investigator in California

Step 1: Meet the Basic Requirements

To become a private investigator, you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Be a United States citizen or legal resident
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Have no misdemeanor convictions related to dishonesty or moral turpitude

Step 2: Complete a Training Program

California does not have specific education or training requirements for private investigators. However, completing a training program can give you a competitive edge and help you develop the necessary skills and knowledge for the job.

There are several training programs available in California, including online courses and in-person classes. These programs cover topics such as surveillance techniques, legal and ethical considerations, and investigative methods.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Most states, including California, require private investigators to have a certain amount of experience before obtaining a license. In California, you must have at least 6,000 hours of experience working for a licensed private investigator or law enforcement agency.

You can gain this experience by working as an apprentice or intern for a licensed private investigator. This will give you hands-on experience and allow you to learn from an experienced professional.

Step 4: Obtain a License

A brown man with a large bald head and thick salt and pepper beard pouts wryly as he rests his camera against his car roof. Red and amber lights blur into the background.
Bond Investigations President and CEO Dorian Bond

To work as a private investigator in California, you must obtain a license from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). To apply for a license, you must:

  • Complete a BSIS-approved training program or have equivalent experience
  • Pass a written examination
  • Submit a completed application and required fees
  • Pass a criminal background check

Once you have met all the requirements, you will receive your license and can begin working as a private investigator.

Maintaining Your License

To maintain your private investigator license in California, you must renew it every two years. To renew your license, you must complete 14 hours of continuing education courses, including at least two hours of ethics training.

You must also submit a renewal application and pay the required fees. Failure to renew your license on time may result in a late fee or suspension of your license.

Unlicensed Private Investigators in California

It is illegal to work as a investigator in California without a license. Unlicensed private investigators may face criminal charges and fines. Additionally, any evidence they gather may not be admissible in court.

If you are considering hiring a private investigator, make sure they are licensed by the BSIS. You can verify a license by searching the BSIS website or by contacting the bureau directly.

Private Investigator Associations in California

Cali Logo

Joining a professional association can provide you with valuable resources and networking opportunities. In California, there are several associations for private investigators, including:

  • California Association of Licensed Investigators (CALI)
  • Professional Investigators of California (PICA)
  • California Association of Licensed Security Agencies, Guards, and Associates (CALSAGA)

These associations offer training, conferences, and other resources to help private investigators stay up-to-date on industry trends and best practices.

Private Investigator Salaries in California

The average salary for a private investigator in California is $60,000 per year. However, salaries can vary depending on experience, location, and type of work. Private investigators in the Bay Area of California may earn higher salaries due to the higher cost of living in that region.


Becoming a private investigator in California requires dedication, hard work, and a commitment to ethical standards. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can obtain a license and begin a rewarding career in this exciting field. Remember to always stay up-to-date on industry trends and regulations to ensure your success as a private investigator in California.

If you’re interested in becoming a private investigator in California with Bond Investigations.  Visit our careers page and fill out an application.

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