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Private Investigator Salary Information for California

More than 2,900 private investigators were employed in California in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Their average salary was $58,970, with those in the 90th percentile earning $92,340.

The average salary and the salaries for top earning private investigators in California are shown below:

California City
Average Annual Salary
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco
San Jose

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The Los Angeles area had the third highest level of employment of PIs of any metropolitan area in the country with 800 working as of 2012.  The following cities have the highest paying salaries of any metropolitan area in the country:

  • San Jose – First
  • San Francisco – Second
  • San Diego – Third
  • Oakland – Seventh

According to California’s Employment Development Corporation, the demand for private investigators is projected to increase by 400 positions between 2010 and 2020—a 14.8% increase in the employment level.

The state of California requires that the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) license private investigators. BSIS is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.  The process of obtaining this license includes taking a two-hour exam and undergoing background checks through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the California Department of Justice (DOJ).

Three years of experience working as an investigator is also required for licensure in California.  An associate’s degree in criminal justice, criminal law, or police science will substitute for half a year of the required experience.  A law degree or a bachelor’s degree in police science will substitute for one year of experience.

Information on employment levels and wages in 2012 in various cities in California is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  These statistics are shown below.

Private Investigator Salaries in California

Area name
Annual mean wage
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale CA Metropolitan Division
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward CA Metropolitan Division
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario CA
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville CA
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos CA
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont CA
San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City CA Metropolitan Division
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara CA

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