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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Washington

A Washington state private investigator license can be obtained by following the steps outlined below:

Meet Washington State Basic Eligibility Requirements
Apply Directly to a Private investigator Firm in Washington
Complete the Washington Licensing Application and Pay the Application Fee
Complete the Washington State Exam

You must have a private investigator license if you work for a PI agency in Washington providing investigatory services, escort or bodyguard services, or if you offer property loss prevention services.

To become licensed as a private investigator in the state of Washington you must meet basic license eligibility requirements, apply directly to the company for which you desire to work, pay the application fee, submit a fingerprint card, complete the state exam if you desire to be a principal in a business of private investigators or a trainer.

Washington State offers four different kinds of private investigator licenses:

  • Private investigator agency
  • Unarmed private investigator
  • Armed private investigator
  • Trainer



Step 1. Meet Washington State Basic Eligibility Requirements

In order to become a private detective in the state of Washington, you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Be a United States citizen or resident alien
  • Have employment with, or an employment offer from, a properly licensed private investigator firm
  • Be free of any criminal convictions that directly relate to the duties you will perform as a private investigator

If you decide you want to have your own private investigator’s agency, there are a number of additional requirements you must complete.



Step 2. Apply directly to a Private investigator Firm in Washington

The state of Washington is different from many states in that it does not require you to obtain a private investigator’s license in order to apply for employment. In fact, to obtain licensure in Washington you must have either already obtained employment, or at least have obtained an offer for employment. This means you do not have to obtain your license in order to begin looking for employment.

You will be required to undergo a minimum of four hours of pre-assignment training as described here. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, law or related fields are very well suited to preparing private investigators for training, examination, and ultimately, the job itself.

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You must decide if you would like to carry a firearm in the line of duty, which will require a Washington state firearms certificate from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. If you decide to apply for a firearm permit, and you are going to work with an agency, you can submit your firearm application through the agency itself.

If you are going to work for yourself, or become an employer, you must submit the application yourself, and pay the fee as shown below.



Step 3. Complete the Washington Licensing Application and Pay the Application Fee

The application for Washington state private investigator licensure can be found here.  The fees can be paid in the form of either a check or money order and are as follows:

  • $600 for an agency application in which the principal will be unarmed
  • $700 for an agency application in which the principal will be armed
  • $200 for unarmed private investigator
  • $300 ($200 + $100) for armed private investigator. This fee represents the unarmed investigator fee of $200 plus an extra $100
  • $25 for the certified trainer exam

It is always best to use a fingerprint card that is produced or endorsed by the state. This will help to avoid any delays in the case the fingerprint card you select is not supported by the state. Also, it is highly recommended that you go to a sheriff’s office, or police office, in order to have your fingerprints professionally recorded.



Step 4. Complete the Washington State Exam

The Washington state private investigators exam is broken down as follows:

  • (45%) How Washington law applies to private investigators – Includes questions on privacy, campaign finance, the Washington criminal code, and more
  • (30%) Federal laws – Includes questions on the Federal Privacy Act, Freedom of Information Act, Federal Wiretapping Act, and more
  • (7.5%) Court systems – Includes questions on the Judiciary itself, as well as Judiciary procedures, and more
  • (10%) Legal procedures and definitions – Includes questions on the Washington State criminal code, civil procedures, evidence, and more
  • (7.5%) Other resources of public information – Includes questions on Code reviser’s office, worldwide locator, computer databases, Federal and state laws which can be found on the internet, and more

Washington has provided the following resources to help you:

The International Association of Security and Investigative Regulators (IASIR) provides information about state and local licensure and requirements

The Council on Licensure, Enforcement, and Regulation (CLEAR) is an international organization of professional and occupational professionals dedicated to helping with issues of licensing and regulation.

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