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How to Become a Private Investigator in Washington

Private investigators in Washington engage in a diverse array of tasks requiring various levels of expertise. From assisting individuals and businesses to aiding attorneys, their roles encompass researching personal, financial, and legal matters. Conducting background checks, locating missing persons, performing surveillance, and interviewing individuals are just a few examples of the activities undertaken by private investigators.

License Requirements

Minimum Requirements

  • Age: Unarmed private investigators must be at least 18 years old, while armed private investigators must be at least 21 years old.
  • Provisional Requirements: Applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal residents. To become a PI, they must have an employment offer from a licensed PI agency or be currently employed by one.
  • Criminal Background Check: Washington mandates a fingerprint-based criminal background check. Applicants must disclose any criminal convictions on their license application.
  • Military Discharge: Military discharge does not impact eligibility unless it was due to a criminal offense, which must be disclosed.
  • Financial History: Financial history matters only for those applying for a business license to operate a PI agency.
  • Mental Health Evaluation: While not mandatory for licensure, a mental health evaluation may be required if deemed necessary.
  • Insurance Needed: PI agencies must have minimum bodily injury and property damage liability insurance or a surety bond.
  • Automatic Disqualifications: Certain criminal convictions may disqualify applicants from obtaining a license.

Education and Experience

  • Degree: No degree is required for PI licensure.
  • Experience: PI agency license applicants must demonstrate three years of relevant experience, while individual license applicants need only complete the required training course and examination.
  • Written Exams: A test assessing understanding of covered topics is administered at the end of the training course.
  • Training Courses: Before applying for licensure, completion of a four-hour training course is necessary, covering topics such as federal and state laws, legal procedures and definitions, and court systems.

Forms and Fees

  • Application Fee: $200
  • Armed Endorsement Fee: Additional $100 for those wishing to carry a firearm.
  • Registration: Washington private investigators must obtain a license through the state’s Department of Licensing.

Salary Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private investigators in Washington make an average of $57,300 per year. PI’s in the northeastern part of the state are on the higher end of the pay scale, making $102,850 per year. Those in the southwestern part of the state are on the lower end at $42,330 per year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Is a degree required to become a private investigator in Washington?
A: No, a degree is not required for licensure in Washington.

Q: What is the application process for a PI license?
A: Applicants must meet the minimum requirements, complete the necessary training course, pass the written exam, undergo a criminal background check, and submit the required forms and fees to the Department of Licensing.

Q: Can I operate independently as a licensed PI in Washington?
A: No, licensed PIs must either work for a licensed agency or operate their own licensed agency.

Q: Are there any automatic disqualifications for obtaining a PI license in Washington?
A: Yes, certain criminal convictions may disqualify applicants from obtaining a license.

Q: What is the renewal process for a PI license in Washington?
A: PI licenses expire after one year and can be renewed up to 120 days prior to expiration by submitting the renewal form and fee to the Department of Licensing.

By adhering to the outlined requirements and completing the necessary steps, aspiring private investigators in Washington can embark on a fulfilling and rewarding career path.

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