The Last Frontier is definitely a little like the Wild West for private investigators. The state of Alaska has no licensing or training requirements for the job other than a plain old, standard issue business license, just like they have hanging on the wall of every other small business in the state.
But that doesn’t mean prospective PIs in the northernmost state don’t still need training and professional standards. Being a PI is about people, and people tend to hang around in cities. The two biggest cities here – Anchorage and Fairbanks – both do require special licensing for PI work within city limits. Fairbanks requires a background check and liability insurance in the form of a $10,000 surety bond. While Anchorage doesn’t require the bond, it does require applicants to undergo a background check.
That means the steps you’ll have to follow to become a private investigator who can work anywhere in Alaska are as follows:
Private detectives perform a wide variety of functions, including finding facts, analyzing legal, financial and personal information, tracing missing persons, verifying backgrounds, investigating computer crime and protecting celebrities. Lots of celebrities own property in Alaska. You’d be surprised.
Private investigators in Alaska face unique challenges – not too many other places where you could freeze to death on a stakeout, not to mention the annoying daylight patterns that go between nowhere-to-hide and can’t-see-a-thing for half the year each. And, as the least densely populated place in the country, small towns are far apart and often have poor road access. You need your wits about you and a full slate of skills on tap to survive up here in the PI business.
Step 1. Obtain an Alaska Business License
Anyone can procure a business license for an annual fee of $50.00 ($25.00 for senior citizens). Business names should be selected carefully to avoid time wasted in re-applying because of duplication.
Applicants can file online and print out the license by going to the AK Department of Commerce website and clicking on license applications. Applications also can be mailed, along with the fee, to State of Alaska, Business Licensing Section, P.O. Box 110806, Juneau, AK 99811-0806. The telephone number is 907-465-2550.
Step 2. Meet Requirements for a Private Investigator’s License in Fairbanks
There are very strict requirements for being granted a private investigator’s license in Fairbanks, Alaska’s second largest city. The license requirements are as follows:
- U.S. Citizen
- Good Moral Character
- No Felony Convictions
- Valid Alaska Driver’s License
- Post $10,000 Surety Bond
- Criminal Background Check
There is a $100 non-refundable application fee as well as a $400 license fee (good for two years). Mail application to the City of Fairbanks, City Clerk’s Office, 800 Cushman Street, Fairbanks, AK 99701-4615; telephone: 907-459-6715. It is noted that Fairbanks issued 21 private investigator (PI) licenses in 2011.
Step 3. Meet Anchorage Licensing Requirements
The requirements for procuring a PI license in Anchorage are not as stringent as those for Fairbanks. They include:
- At Least 18 Years Old
- Detailed Work History
- Current Alaska business License
- $100 Fee (two-year license)
- Application Must be Notarized
Notarized application and fee must be mailed or hand delivered to the Department of Public Safety, 5700 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99507. This department will conduct a background check and then FAX the entire package to the city clerk’s office at 622 West 6th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501. The license will be mailed to applicant.
Step 4. Obtain the Education Needed to do the Job in Alaska
Although there are no specific educational requirements for private investigators in Alaska, the job demands knowledge of the criminal justice system, courtroom procedures, relevant laws, etc. Individuals who become PIs after years working as police officers, military police or in similar occupations, already have much of the necessary training. However, newcomers would be wise to earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. There are four schools in Alaska that have criminal justice programs from which approximately 57 students graduate each year.
There also are a number of both on-campus and online schools in the U.S. that offer a Certificate in Private Investigation. Classes are usually taught by experienced, working PIs. Programs vary from 15 to 40 credit hours. Subject matter covered includes:
- Criminal Investigations
- Civil Investigation
- Discovery/Document Review
- Investigative Techniques
- Interview Techniques
- Courtroom Testimony
- Report Writing
- The Business of Investigation
- Internet Research
- Investigative Surveillance
- Ethical Behavior
Step 5. Go to Work for an Agency in Alaska or as an Independent Contractor
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupational outlook for private detectives is good. Jobs in this field are expected to increase 21 percent by 2020. PIs can work for themselves or for an investigative firm. It’s a good idea for new PIs to spend a few years working for an established agency before venturing out on their own. PIs also have the option to specialize in one aspect of the business, such as locating missing persons, doing background checks for businesses or finding evidence for trial attorneys.
Private Investigator Salary Information for Alaska*
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the mean annual salary for PIs in Alaska is $58,820 as of May 2019. That comes out to $27.31 per hour.
It’s a pretty small, elite group, however. Only around 80 people are employed in the industry right now, and those at the top end make $87,850 per year. But the state Department of Labor doesn’t even keep track of projections for the category. Look at it as giving you the freedom to blaze your own path, something the state is famous for.
Becoming a private investigator in Alaska is relatively straightforward, since most locations in the state do not require a special license for the job. Only a business license is required for those working independently, and this is something that’s relatively easy to obtain. The exceptions to the state-wide lack of licensing requirements include Anchorage and Fairbanks, of course, which do require private investigators to be licensed.
Options for PIs in Alaska include working for detective agencies or striking out on your own as an independent PI.
*Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which private investigators work. BLS salary data represents state and MSA (metropolitan statistical area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
2019 job growth projections from the Alaska Department of Labor are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections Central. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and employment data accessed May 2020.