Under the Alabama Private Investigation Regulatory act, which became effective August 1, 2013, the state now requires private investigators to be licensed through the newly established Alabama Private Investigation Board (APIB).
Similar to other licensed professions, the regulations are designed to protect the citizens of Alabama against unauthorized or unqualified private investigators, and to enforce high professional and ethical standards among those that are licensed.
To become a private investigator in Alabama, complete these steps to qualify for licensure through the Alabama Private Investigation Board:
|Meet Minimum Requirements for Licensure|
|Pass the Required Examination|
|Apply for an Alabama Private Investigator License|
|Maintain your Private Investigator License|
Step 1. Meet Minimum Requirements for Licensure
Before you can apply for a private investigator license in Alabama, you must verify you meet the minimum requirements for licensure, which include:
- Must be at least 21 years old
- Must have not been declared incompetent by a court or other competent jurisdiction by reason of mental defect or disease
- Must not have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude
- Must not have been convicted of a felony crime
Although Alabama does not have post-secondary education requirements to practice private investigations, many prospective private investigators choose to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in investigations or a related major as a way to gain a foundation of knowledge in the field of investigations, and to better prepare for success on the license examination.
Continuing professional development hours, which are required to renew your license every two years, can also be satisfied through college courses in criminal justice. See Step 4 for details on professional development requirements for license renewal
To date, there are more than 34 accredited schools in Alabama that offer criminal justice programs, as well as many online institutions.
Step 2. Pass the Required Examination
As an applicant for a private investigator license in Alabama, you’ll be required to complete an examination administered by the Alabama Private Investigation Board.
The exam is designed to measure competence in the field of private investigations.
The Board schedules the exam to take place twice a year through an independent exam service provider.
If you were currently in practice and held an Alabama business license on the date the current rules went into effect (March 7, 2014) you are eligible for licensure without examination. This exemption is referred to as Licensure by Work Experience. You must apply on or before February 28, 2015 to be allowed to take advantage of this exemption. See license application instructions in Step 3.
Step 3. Apply for an Alabama Private Investigator License
Upon the successful completion of the required examination, you may apply for an Alabama private investigator license by completing an Application by Credential/Examination. Along with a completed application, you must enclose the following documents:
- Proof of a passing score on a Board-approved examination
- Proof of Citizenship form and attached document (a copy of your Alabama driver’s license, valid U.S. passport, birth certificate, etc.)
- A current photograph (meeting the specification set forth within the application)
- A set of 3 classifiable fingerprint cards and a completed ABI Form 46
- Affidavit of Applicant form
- An application fee of $125 and a license fee of $300, both made payable to the APIB
If were providing private investigative services and you held an Alabama business license when the new private investigator rules became effective on March 7, 2014, you qualify for Licensure by work Experience so long as you submit your application by February 28 2015. This makes you exempt from exam requirements, but will require approval of your application all the same. Along with the Application for License by Work Experience (Business Owner), you must enclose all of the above named documents along with a copy of your current Alabama-issued private investigator business license. Your initial license will be dated May 1, 2014 and will remain valid until April 30, 2016.
Private investigators that work as employees or contractors and who qualify under this exemption will submit the Application for License by Work Experience (Employees/Contractors) along with the above named documents.
All applications must be notarized and sent along with the required fees and related documentation, to:
P.O. Box 241206
Montgomery, AL 36124
Step 4. Maintain your Private Investigator License
The Alabama private investigator license is valid for a period of two years, expiring on April 30 of even-numbered years. To qualify for licensure renewal in Alabama, you must complete a renewal form, pay the renewal fee of $200, and complete at least 16 contact hours (8 in each calendar year), 2 of which must be in ethics.
The units of measure for continuing education contact hours are:
- 1 contact hour = 50 minutes
- .05 contact hour = 25 minutes
- 15 contact hours = 1 academic semester credit hour
- 10 contact hours = 1 academic quarter credit hour
You may complete continuing education contact hours by:
- Taking and passing (with a C or better) a college or university course within a criminal justice education program or any course that enhances your “professional growth and development”
- Membership in professional organizations or participating on boards or committees related to private investigation (may be counted up to 2 hours per renewal period)
- Completing a self-study course that has been approved by the Alabama Private Investigators Association or the ABIP (may be counted up to 8 hours per renewal period)
- Preparation and presentation of a lecture (may be counted up to 2 contact hours)
- Instruction provided by legitimate private investigator associations, including:
- State and national associations that are properly incorporated and in good standing with the appropriate incorporating body
- Company training
- Institutions that provide training for profit
- Online Internet-based training
- Individuals and firms that provide training for profit
- Continuing education approved by the licensure board or Commission for Private Investigators
Private Investigator Salary Information for Alabama
It is relatively easy to become a private investigator in Alabama, since the state does not require a special license for PIs. Those starting a detective agency do need to get a business license and should contact the state’s Department of Revenue.
Private investigators in Alabama earned an average annual salary of $58,320 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some PIs earned in the six figures. For instance, those in the 90th percentile of their salary group earned an average of $109,350 a year.
The Birmingham-Hoover area is an especially lucrative area for private investigators in Alabama. It had the third highest wages in the country for PIs in a metropolitan area in 2012. The average annual salary in this city was $77,390 with the top earners averaging $131,800 a year.
Although Alabama doesn’t enforce state-wide PI licensing requirements, certain cities, such as Birmingham and Mobile, do enforce municipal licensing standards for anybody involved in private detective work within city limits. Becoming licensed in these cities starts by contacting the local Police Chief to find out exactly what is involved in their independent licensing process.
Applicants in Montgomery should be prepared to undergo state and federal background checks, and to obtain liability insurance in the form of a surety bond. The city of Mobile requires a fingerprint check and a comprehensive general liability insurance policy.
Private investigators work for a range of clients, from insurance companies to defense attorneys to individuals. Often, they specialize in areas such as financial investigations related to fraud. Having an education in criminal justice can help aspiring PIs learn the analytical skills they need to succeed and help them in navigating the legal system.
Although Alabama does not license PIs, many still demonstrate their professionalism by joining the Alabama Private Investigator’s Association. This group of investigative professionals is active throughout the state and has three regional groups. The organization holds it members to a high ethical standard established in a code of professional ethics.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides information on the salaries of private investigators by city. In the case of Alabama, salary data is only available for the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area.
Private Investigator Salaries in AlabamaArea nameEmploymentAnnual mean wageBirmingham-Hoover AL5077390