How to Become a Private Detective in Arizona Through Training and Certification

Gavel with Arizona state flag in the backgroundGetting the right training to become a PI is more important in Arizona than in a lot of other states. That’s because the state’s licensing process is pretty stringent and just a tad bit complicated..

In Arizona, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) regulates the licensing of private investigators (PI) and private detective firms. All PIs in the state have to have a Private Investigator Employee registration, and that registration has to be sponsored by a licensed private investigation agency. Do you moonlight for more than one agency? You’re gonna need two registrations.

That means PI agencies in the state are pretty picky about who they hire. Getting an education in the business improves your chances considerably.

If all that sounds like a lot of hassle and you’d prefer to strike out on your own, well, it only gets more complicated. Every agency has to be licensed too, and it can only do that through what is called a Qualifying Partner. QPs not only need the right training but a minimum of three years of qualifying experience before they can open an agency. That requirement can be met with work for a private investigation firm or a federal, state, or local government, or law enforcement agency. And you’ll need retirement papers, performance evaluations, or a letter from your old boss saying it’s legit… so better not burn any bridges on your way out the door.

You may also need to invest in a pair of cowboy boots.

Meet Arizona Application Requirements
Meet Arizona Education and Training Prerequisites
Obtain Experience and Apprenticeships in Arizona
Submit Application and get Fingerprinting in Arizona
Now that You’re a Private Investigator in Arizona

Because of the stringent requirements, many retired police detectives become licensed private investigators in Arizona. But if you plan to work your way up to qualify on your own, a college degree and some training may be your best way! Let’s find out more about how to become a private investigator in Arizona.



Step 1. Meet Application Requirements in Arizona

Applicants for a private investigator license in Arizona must meet these basic requirements, failing to meet these requirements, you will be disqualified.

  • At least 21 years old for an agency license
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • No felony convictions
  • Not under indictment for a felony
  • No registered sex offenders
  • Not on parole or probation
  • No misdemeanor convictions in the last five years for violent acts, fraud, theft, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, or narcotics violations. This holds true even if the conviction was set aside.
  • Never convicted of attempting to act as a PI without a license



Step 2. Education and Training for a Career as an Arizona Private Investigator

It is recommended that individuals interested in a private investigator license in Arizona acquire an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related subject. Many top private detective agencies prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree or even a law degree. There are more than 35 schools in Arizona, as well as numerous online schools, that have criminal justice programs. There are also colleges and private institutions that offer certificates in private investigation.

Sponsored Content

The Arizona Association of Licensed Private Investigators (AALPI) is dedicated to bringing professionalism to the investigative industry. They provide an opportunity for networking and present educational programs on topics such as utilizing the latest computer technologies. In addition, the AALPI lobbies against laws that attempt to limit access to public records or impose regulations detrimental to investigative work.



Step 3. Experience and Apprenticeships in Arizona

Step 3. Experience and Apprenticeships in Arizona

Obtain documentation of at least three years of full-time investigative work experience from a former employer.

Persons without this experience must first get a job as an apprentice with a licensed private investigation agency and then apply for a Private Investigator Employee Registration Certificate under the sponsorship of that agency.

Applicants must be 21 years old, citizens or legal residents of the U.S., and have no criminal record.

Applications must be accompanied with documentation of employment and $73 ($50 application fee plus $22 for the required fingerprinting). The DPS does a criminal background check before issuing the employee certificate. It is illegal to work for a PI agency without this certificate.



Step 4. Submit Application and get Fingerprinting in Arizona

A license application form can be downloaded at the Department of Public Safety website; Adobe Acrobat Reader software is needed. Or request an application form from the DPS, 2102 W. Encanto Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85009-2347; telephone: 602-223-2361. 

The mailing address is Arizona Department of Public Safety, Licensing Unit, P.O. Box 6328, MD 3140, Phoenix, AZ 85005

If the applicant’s fingerprints are not already on file, he/she must be fingerprinted. The standard fee is $22.

The application form, employer documentation, and required fees can be mailed to the above address or hand-carried to the Phoenix DPS office at 2102 Encanto Blvd. The licensing window is in Suite 130. Application packages, including fees, should be placed in the brown envelopes provided at the window.

The following fees need to be included in the application package:

  • One-time Application fee $250
  • License fee $400 (renewal $250) 



Step 5. Now that You’re a Private Investigator in Arizona

Computer proficiency is a must for the job which also entails interviewing, conducting surveillances, and writing detailed reports. The work done by a PI is extremely varied and can include such things as celebrity protection, background checks, and cases involving computer crime, harassment, child custody, insurance fraud, missing persons, or copyright infringement.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for private detectives is better than average, especially for computer forensics investigation specialists. Now that you know about how to become a private investigator, let’s take a closer look into the salary prospects:

The annual mean wage for PIs in Arizona is $52,360 – slightly higher in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.


Private Investigator Salary Information for Arizona*

The state Workforce Department projected employment in this field to increase around 2.4% in the two-year period from 2019 to 2021. An average of 40 openings annually is predicted to open up, a combination of new job creation and turnover in existing ranks.

Maybe because of the stringent licensing requirements, the annual median wage for 2020 came in at $40,456, or $19.45 per hour. At the top of the profession, the ranks of qualifying partners and other highly experienced, highly-trained investigators make closer to six figures, however, with a median annual wage of  $75,300, or $36.30 per hour.

Private investigators in Arizona are represented by the Arizona Association of Licensed Private Investigators (AALPI). This organization helps to ensure that only properly licensed PIs are working in Arizona and keeps professional and ethical standards high, justifying the hefty case fees and salaries PIs are able to charge here. It also helps to fight burdensome legislation that could be damaging to the profession… and your pocketbook.

Private Investigator Salaries in Phoenix and Tucson 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes 2020 information on salaries for private investigators for selected cities in most states. In Arizona, the major metro areas around Phoenix and Tucson are represented. Phoenix is the hands-down winner in overall employment, but Tucson, surprisingly, offers a higher median salary.

Sponsored Content

The following BLS stats 2020 reveal the median salary range for PIs working in Arizona’s major metro area of Phoenix:

  • Phoenix: $40,289


*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.

Back to Top