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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Tennessee

These are the steps that you need to follow if you want to become a private investigator in Tennessee:

Meet the Requirements to Obtain a License in Tennessee
Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in Tennessee
Submit your Tennessee Application
Take the Tennessee Examination
Start Work as a Private Investigator in Tennessee

Private investigators in Tennessee are licensed by the Department of Commerce and Insurance (TCDI).  It has a special commission for investigations:  the Private Investigation and Polygraph Commission.  They define a private investigator as a person who accepts employment or engages in the business to furnish or obtain information having to do with one or more of the following:

  • Wrongs or crimes threatened or done against the U.S. or any state or territory
  • The activity, acts, affiliations, associations, business, conduct, credibility, efficiency, habits, honesty, identity, knowledge, loyalty, occupation, reputations, transactions, trustworthiness, or whereabouts of any person
  • The disposition, location, or recovery of stolen or lost property
  • The responsibility or cause of accidents, damages, fires, injuries, or losses to people or property
  • The securing of evidence to used before any official body



Step 1.  Meet the Requirements to Obtain a License in Tennessee

You must meet a number of requirements to be able to apply for a license to be a private investigator in Tennessee.  They include the following:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Not have been declared incompetent by reason of mental disease or defect (unless you have subsequently been declared competent)
  • License your own company or be affiliated with a licensed PI company in the state
  • Be of good moral character
  • Not suffer from narcotics addiction or dependence or habitual drunkenness
  • Not have practiced deceit, fraud, or misrepresentation



Step 2.  Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in Tennessee

To be a top-notch investigator requires superb analytical skills.  Obtaining formal education in criminal justice is one way to hone these abilities.  You can obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from schools that are found in a number of cities in the state, including Chattanooga, Clarksville, Memphis, Murfreesboro, and Nashville.  In addition, you can also obtain a criminal justice degree from one of the online schools that offer such options.

Although the state of Tennessee does not specify any particular degree to become a licensed PI, you would benefit from obtaining training in this field.  This will help you be a desirable candidate and is particularly important, since it is common for new PIs to obtain their license as an employee of an agency.

Penn Foster Career School's Online Private Investigator Training Program

Learn how to perform background investigations, operate surveillance equipment, and many other PI secrets through Penn Foster Career School's nationally accredited online Private Investigator training program. In less than three months, you can take the first step towards a career investigating missing persons cases, outing insurance fraudsters, handling cases related to marriage infidelity, and much more.

Request information to learn how Penn Foster Career School's distance learning program can quickly and conveniently help you begin your path towards a career in private investigation.



Step 3.  Submit Your Tennessee Application

Once you are satisfied with your skill level, you need to submit your application to the state of Tennessee.  You will need to provide the following items:

  • Application
  • Fees:
    • Application:  $150
    • Fingerprint processing:  $60
    • License:  $100
  • Fingerprint cards (3 sets) or a photocopy of your electronic submission receipt
  • Photographs (2 color passport style)
  • Letter of endorsement/affiliation from a Private Investigation Company
  • Information on criminal arrests, charges, and convictions

You can also apply as an Apprentice.  You will need to have a written notice from the owner or qualifying agent of a licensed company that he or she intends to sponsor you.  This period is limited to six months, and you can only apply once.



Step 4.  Take the Tennessee Examination

After you have submitted your application, you will have to take the state’s examination.  This two hour exam has 50 questions that are drawn from the following:

  • Tennessee Private Investigator Laws & Rules online (60%)
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating (40%)

You will need to study ahead of time, since you are not allowed to bring any study materials into the exam.

As of April 2013, this exam is temporarily unavailable while the Commission is working to get a new proctor to conduct them.



Step 5.  Start Work as a Private Investigator in Tennessee

Once you have passed the exam, the Commission will contact you about your license and the license fee.  Processing time averages three to four months.  You can start work after you have been contacted and granted your license.  It is good for two years.

When you go to renew your license, you will need to have completed twelve hours of continuing education.  You should check with the Commission to see what is acceptable for this training.

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