Private investigators in Alabama have had to get a license since 2014. There was plenty of grumbling about it, but it wasn’t enough to take the wind out of anybody serious about becoming a qualified PI. The state expects to see a nearly 9% bump in demand for private detectives through 2021. That’s going to keep the paper-pushers at the Alabama Private Investigation Board (APIB) working overtime getting those little cards into the mail.
But there are some real upsides to the extra rigamarole. Trained and certified PIs are worth more to clients, and some nice salary bumps have come along with those credentials. Plus, you get to take some of your licks in a classroom instead of on the streets, learning all the same lessons without paying the steep fees that come with a degree from U of Hard Knocks.
In a state that ranks number 8 on the list of most violent states according to AL.com, that’s a pretty big advantage. And that crime rate also means plenty of customers walking in the door for the rest of your career. With the right training, you’ll have the ethical and professional standards to offer them the best service, along with the investigative chops to get the job done. Now that this vocation might as well have piqued your interest, let’s get to know about how to become a private investigator in Alabama.
To become a private investigator in Alabama, you’ll have to fulfill these steps to qualify for licensure through the Alabama Private Investigation Board:
|Meet Minimum Requirements for Licensure|
|Pass the Required Examination|
|Apply for an Alabama Private Investigator License|
|Maintain your Private Investigator License|
Step 1. Meet Minimum Requirements for Licensure
Before you can apply for a private investigator license in Alabama, you must verify you meet the minimum requirements for licensure, which include:
- Must be at least 21 years old
- Must have not been declared incompetent by a court or other competent jurisdiction by reason of mental defect or disease
- Must not have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude
- Must not have been convicted of a felony crime
Although Alabama does not have post-secondary education requirements to practice private investigations, many prospective private investigators choose to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in investigations or a related major as a way to gain a foundation of knowledge in the field of investigations, and to better prepare for success on the license examination.
Continuing professional development hours, which are required to renew your license every two years, can also be satisfied through college courses in criminal justice. See Step 4 for details on professional development requirements for license renewal
To date, there are more than 34 accredited schools in Alabama that offer criminal justice programs, as well as many online institutions.
Step 2. Pass the Required Examination
As an applicant for a private investigator license in Alabama, you’ll be required to complete an examination administered by the Alabama Private Investigation Board.
The exam is designed to measure competence in the field of private investigations.
The Board schedules the exam to take place twice a year through an independent exam service provider.
If you were currently in practice and held an Alabama business license on the date the current rules went into effect (March 7, 2014) you are eligible for licensure without examination. This exemption is referred to as Licensure by Work Experience. You must apply well in advance to be allowed to take advantage of this exemption. See license application instructions in Step 3.
Step 3. Apply for an Alabama Private Investigator License
Upon the successful completion of the required examination, you may apply for an Alabama private investigator license by completing an Application by Credential/Examination. Along with a completed application, you must enclose the following documents:
- Proof of a passing score on a Board-approved examination
- Proof of Citizenship form and attached document (a copy of your Alabama driver’s license, valid U.S. passport, birth certificate, etc.)
- A current photograph (meeting the specification set forth within the application)
- A set of 3 classifiable fingerprint cards and a completed ABI Form 46
- Affidavit of Applicant form
- An application fee of $125 and a license fee of $300, both made payable to the APIB
If we’re providing private investigative services and you held an Alabama business license when the new private investigator rules became effective on March 7, 2014, you qualify for Licensure by work Experience so long as you submit your application by the deadline.
This makes you exempt from exam requirements but will require approval of your application all the same. Along with the Application for License by Work Experience (Business Owner), you must enclose all of the above-named documents along with a copy of your current Alabama-issued private investigator business license.
Private investigators that work as employees or contractors and who qualify under this exemption will submit the Application for License by Work Experience (Employees/Contractors) along with the above-named documents.
All applications must be notarized and sent along with the required fees and related documentation, to:
P.O. Box 241206
Montgomery, AL 36124
Step 4. Maintain your Private Investigator License
The Alabama private investigator license is valid for a period of two years, expiring on April 30 of even-numbered years. To qualify for licensure renewal in Alabama, you must complete a renewal form, pay the renewal fee of $200, and complete at least 16 contact hours (8 in each calendar year), 2 of which must be in ethics.
The units of measure for continuing education contact hours are:
- 1 contact hour = 50 minutes
- .05 contact hour = 25 minutes
- 15 contact hours = 1 academic semester credit hour
- 10 contact hours = 1 academic quarter credit hour
You may complete continuing education contact hours by:
- Taking and passing (with a C or better) a college or university course within a criminal justice education program or any course that enhances your “professional growth and development”
- Membership in professional organizations or participating on boards or committees related to the private investigation (may be counted up to 2 hours per renewal period)
- Completing a self-study course that has been approved by the Alabama Private Investigators Association or the ABIP (may be counted up to 8 hours per renewal period)
- Preparation and presentation of a lecture (may be counted up to 2 contact hours)
- Instruction provided by legitimate private investigator associations, including:
- State and national associations that are properly incorporated and in good standing with the appropriate incorporating body
- Company training
- Institutions that provide training for profit
- Online Internet-based training
- Individuals and firms that provide training for profit
- Continuing education approved by the licensure board or Commission for Private Investigators
Private Investigator Salary Information for Alabama*
If you’re going to make a living as a PI in Alabama, you’ll need to start by getting things straight with the revenue boys. If you’re starting a detective agency, you’ll need to get a business license and contact the state’s Department of Revenue to keep the tax guys happy.
You’ll be pretty happy with the take-home even after giving Uncle Sam his piece of the pie, though. Private investigators in Alabama earned an average annual salary of $66,870 in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That comes out to $32.15 an hour, well worth the time spent sitting in your front seat sipping bad coffee waiting to snap some pics for an insurance fraud investigation.
Some PIs here even earned in the six figures. For instance, those in the 90th percentile of their salary group in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area earned an average of $112,990 a year in 2020.
Private investigators work for a range of clients, from insurance companies to defense attorneys to individuals. Often, they specialize in areas like 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, as well as qualifying them for licensure.
Earning a license also earns you the option of joining the Alabama Private Investigators Association. This group was instrumental in helping pass the law requiring licensure here for PIs and continues to demonstrate strong commitments to ethics and professionalism. Those are pretty important qualities for investigators who expect to keep a strong client base paying top dollar for services.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides information on salaries for private investigators by city. In the case of Alabama, salary data is only available for the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area.
Private Investigator Salaries in Birmingham
In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provided information on salaries for private investigators by city. In the case of Alabama, salary data is only available for the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area (median-top 10% salary range):
- Birmingham: $55,810-$106,690 (approximately 70 licensed PIs)
According to the BLS stats for 2020, PIs in Birmingham-Hoover MSA are earning a median salary of $66,950.
*May 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary and Job Market Figures for Private Detectives and Investigators reflect state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021..