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Your State-by-State Guide to PI Licensing Exam Requirements and Test Preparation Material

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By now you’re either hardened by years of criminal investigations experience from your time in law enforcement or fresh from a PI training program. Either way, you’re champing at the bit and can’t wait to get out in the field so you can start putting your skills to work for private clients and making a payday for yourself doing what you do best – surveillance and investigations.

The one remaining hurdle is the exam. Twenty-two states require you to pass an exam as a condition of becoming licensed, and three additional states offer the option to take an exam as one possible route to licensure.

State Jurisprudence Exam

The most common type of evaluation is a state jurisprudence exam designed to validate a candidate’s understanding of state laws as they relate to private investigations work. There are several underlying reasons why your state board wants to know that you’re familiar with local laws before handing you a PI license:

  • To ensure you know the applicable laws that relate to your practice
  • To protect the public by ensuring you understand applicable laws
  • To help you understand how to look up laws and statutes that relate to PI work

PI Skills Assessment

Some states also require a PI skills exam designed to evaluate whether or not you have what it takes to do the work competently. Questions you might encounter in a skills exam would cover key topics that include:

  • Proper identification
  • Report writing
  • Courtroom testimony
  • Perjury
  • Manufacturing evidence
  • Transmission tracking
  • Obtaining and researching public information

State licensing exams represent the final test of your legal knowledge and aptitude for PI work. Even gaining a clear understanding of the requirements in your state can present something of a challenge.

Here at PrivateInvestigatorEDU.org we look for opportunities to make things a little easier on the people that have what it takes to make it in this industry. Here you’ll find the basic licensing requirements in your state along with links to the exam proctoring agencies that administer the exams, applications, and exam preparation material.


Alabama

Exam required:

  • One hour time limit
  • 70 percent required to pass
  • 50 questions divided into two categories:
    • 34 practical PI knowledge
    • 16 Alabama laws and rules

This test is administered by PSI Exams. See the candidate information bulletin (CIB) for more information.


Alaska

Currently Alaska has no PI license requirements


Arizona

Arizona does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Arkansas

Arkansas does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process 


California

Exam required:

  • Two-hour time limit
  • 150 questions divided among these categories:
    • Information gathering – 22 percent
    • Planning – 19 percent
    • Reporting – 18 percent
    • Analysis – 15 percent
    • Ethics – 12 percent
    • Trial preparation – 10 percent
    • Surveillance – 4 percent

This test is administered by PSI Exams. See the candidate information bulletin (CIB) for more information. The California Department of Consumer Affairs also offers a PI exam study guide.


Colorado

Jurisprudence exam required:

  • No time limit, however the exam must be completed within 30 days
  • The exam is sponsored by the state and taken via any internet connection
  • Passing score is 75 percent
  • There are a total of 45 questions covering the following topics:
    • Standards of practice – 42 percent
    • General laws, rules, and regulations – 27 percent
    • Disciplinary provisions and procedures – 16 percent
    • Grounds for discipline – 15 percent

This test is administered by ISO-Quality Testing. See the test taker information bulletin for more information.


Connecticut

Connecticut does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Delaware

Delaware does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


District of Columbia – Washington DC

The District of Columbia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Florida

Anyone who performs services as a private investigator must obtain at least a Class C PI license. To be eligible for this you must pass a jurisprudence exam.

The exam is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You apply for this exam by filling out a PI license application.


Georgia

Georgia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Hawaii

Exam required:

  • Exams are held once a month on Oahu
  • The passing score is 75 percent
  • The content of the exam covers two main subjects:
  • Private investigator skills and security investigations
  • Laws, statutes, and rules related to being a PI in Hawaii

Exams are administered by the Hawaii Board of Detectives and Guards. You’ll receive a notice of exam approval once you’ve submitted a complete PI license application. For more information see the private detectives and guards study materials.


Idaho

Currently Idaho has no PI licensing requirements


Illinois

Exam required:

  • The time limit is 90 minutes
  • You must score at least 70 to pass
  • There are a total of 75 questions in total, divided among these topics:
    • Federal and state law – 23 questions
    • Gathering information – 16 questions
    • Licensing and practice requirements – 12 questions
    • Case management – 12 questions
    • Analysis, presentation, and reporting – 12 questions

The exam is administered by Continental Testing Services (CTS) and you can apply with them online. For more information see the private detective licensure examination information.


Indiana

Indiana does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Iowa

Iowa does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Kansas

Exam required:

The exam is included in the state’s PI application for licensure.


Kentucky

Exam required:

  • The exam covers these topics:
    • KRS Chapter 329A – Private Investigations Act
    • The Privacy Act of 1974
    • Freedom of Information Act
    • The Fair Credit Reporting Act
    • Bill of Rights
    • Kentucky Penal Code
    • Private Investigators Board – Code of Ethics
    • KRS Open Records Act
    • Private investigator skills

A scaled score of 260 is considered passing. You can register for this exam with the Kentucky Department of Professional Licensing. To read all the relevant study material for this exam, see the Kentucky PI examination study guide.


Louisiana

Exam required:

  • The exam covers the following subjects:
    • Private investigator business
    • General federal and state constitutional principles
    • Relevant court decisions that could affect PI liability
    • Search and seizure laws
    • Invasion of privacy laws
    • Weapons laws and use, including concealed weapons

The exam is managed and regulated by the Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners. You’ll receive information about registering for the exam once your PI license application is approved.


Maine

You’ll need to pass a written examination that is administered by the chief of the Maine State Police. Once your application for PI licensure has been approved you’ll receive information about how to register for this.

The exam covers subjects that relate to the situations you’ll encounter as a private investigator and applicable laws.


Maryland

Maryland does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Massachusetts

Massachusetts does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Michigan

Michigan does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Minnesota

Minnesota does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Mississippi

Currently Mississippi has no PI licensing requirements


Missouri

You must pass an exam to become a private investigator in Missouri unless you can demonstrate two years of relevant work experience.

  • Two-hour time limit
  • Passing score is at least 70 percent
  • 75 questions in total:
    • Rules and regulations pertaining to Missouri PIs – 55 questions
    • PI general practice – 20 questions

The exam is administered by the Missouri Division of Professional Regulation. Once your PI license application is approved the Division will send you an exam study guide and registration form.


Montana

Exam required:

  • 70 percent is the minimum passing score
  • The exam evaluates your understanding of:

Once your PI license application is approved the Montana Board of Private Security will provide you with examination details. The exam is coordinated board.


Nebraska

Exam required:

  • 45-minute time limit
  • 40 questions total
  • Must score at least 80 percent to pass

To register for this test you must first request a PI license application from the Nebraska Secretary of State. Once your PI license application is approved you’ll receive information on taking the exam, which is held the third Wednesday of each month at the State Capitol building in Lincoln.


Nevada

Exam required:

  • Exams are offered quarterly, four times per year
  • 100 questions total
  • Two-hour time limit
  • A passing score is at least 75 percent
  • Test questions are on Nevada PI laws, legal procedures, and PI skills

Once your PI license application is approved Nevada’s Private Investigators’ Licensing Board will send you information about taking the exam.


New Hampshire

New Hampshire does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


New Jersey

New Jersey does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process

New Mexico

Jurisprudence exam required:

  • No time limit; print the test and take it at home
  • 23 questions total
  • Exam topics cover:
    • PI laws and regulations
    • PI licensing
    • PI procedures

You can print off the jurisprudence exam and include it with your application for PI licensure with the New Mexico Private Investigations Advisory Board.


New York

Exam required:

  • 150-minute time limit
  • A passing score is at least 70 percent
  • Test questions cover these topics:
    • PI license law
    • Report writing
    • Criminal and penal procedure law
    • Investigative techniques
    • Supervision and restrictions
    • Interpreting written material

You register for this exam on a walk-in basis at any testing center throughout the state.


North Carolina

North Carolina does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


North Dakota

Exam required:

  • 150 questions total
  • The exam covers:
    • PI skills and procedures
    • North Dakota statutes regarding PIs
    • North Dakota rules regarding PIs

Exams are arranged on an individual basis and taken in Bismarck. Contact the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board to schedule an exam. The board will send you an exam study guide if you send it a fee of $40.


Ohio

Exam required:

  • 55 questions in total
  • 80 percent is the minimum passing score
  • The exam covers rules and laws that pertain to private investigators

Once the company you’re going to work for has filed an employee registration application with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the department will schedule you for an exam. All exams take place in Columbus.


Oklahoma

If you do not have relevant private investigator experience or training you must pass an exam to become a licensed PI in Oklahoma.

  • Exam is computer-based
  • Available at 44 testing locations throughout Oklahoma
  • Exam covers applicable laws and regulations that relate to being a PI in Oklahoma

You can schedule your exam at any participating career tech center throughout the state. You’ll receive information about registering for the exam and training once you complete an application for PI licensure.


Oregon

PI Proficiency Exam required:

  • 50 questions total
  • Passing score is at least 43 correct answers
  • Exam is offered several times per year at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem
  • Exam content covers PI licensing laws and legal procedures

Once your PI license application is approved you’ll be registered for the exam and receive information from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST).


Pennsylvania

No exam required at the state level in Pennsylvania; exam may be required at the county level


Rhode Island

No exam required at the state level in Rhode Island; exam may be required at the county level


South Carolina

South Carolina does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


South Dakota

Currently South Dakota has no PI licensing requirements


Tennessee

Exam required:

  • 120-minute time limit
  • 70 percent is the minimum passing score
  • 100 test questions
    • Tennessee rules and laws – 60 questions
    • Practical knowledge – 40 questions

The exam is managed by the testing company PSI Exams. Once you’re ready you can sign up with PSI online. You do not need prior approval by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. For more information see the PI exam candidate information book (CIB).


Texas

Texas does not require an exam as part of the PI registration process


Utah

Utah does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Vermont

Exam required:

  • Comprise of multiple choice questions
  • Topics covered are sourced from:

Once you have submitted a complete PI license application through Vermont’s online portal, the Office of Professional Regulation will provide you with instructions on taking the exam at the Vermont Board of Private Investigative and Security Services’ office in Montpelier. You must take this within 60 days of submitting your application for licensure.


Virginia

Virginia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Washington

You must complete pre-assignment training from an approved provider before you can apply for your PI license. State law stipulates you must pass an exam provided by your trainer related to the topics you have been trained in.

  • The exam must be at least 30 multiple choice questions
  • You must score 100 percent on the exam
  • If you answer any questions wrong you must go back and review the question, then answer correctly
  • The exam must cover all topics of training, including:
    • Probable cause and evidence
    • Legal powers and limitations
    • Powers of arrest
    • Expert witnesses
    • Video and photography


West Virginia

West Virginia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process


Wisconsin

Exam required:

  • The purpose of the exam is to familiarize you with locating state laws and regulations
  • The minimum passing score is 84 percent
  • You can retake the exam as much as you want, however there is a fee each time
  • The content of the exam is based on:

Once your application for a PI license is approved the Department of Safety and Professional Services will clear you to test and provide you with exam access instructions. You can take the exam from any computer with an internet connection. Your exam results are valid for a year.


Wyoming

Currently Wyoming has no PI licensing requirements