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.