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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Colorado

In Colorado, private investigator (PI) licensing falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) Office of Private Investigator Licensure. In addition to issuing licenses, the Office of Private Investigator Licensure also investigates consumer complaints and enforces regulations with fines for misconduct.

In 1877 Colorado became the first state in the nation to institute licensing requirements for private investigators. However, that requirement was declared unconstitutional 100 years later in 1977 because there was no adequate legal definition for “private investigators” at that time. The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado worked hard to reinstate licensing and, under their sponsorship, the Colorado legislature passed the Private Investigator Voluntary Licensure Act of 2011.

Effective June 1, 2015, Colorado went on to implement a law making licensing mandatory for anybody working as a private investigator in the state.

If you’re ready to start your career as a PI, you’ll need to follow these steps to become licensed through the Colorado Office of Private Investigator Licensure:

Gain the Necessary Education and Experience
Pass the Colorado Jurisprudence Exam and Apply for a PI License
Begin Working as a Private Investigator in Colorado
Keep your PI License Current


Step 1. Gain the Necessary Education and Experience

Anyone hoping to pursue a career in private investigations would be smart to earn a degree in a field like criminal justice for a better understanding of the investigative process in the context of US law.

Colorado licenses private investigators at two successive levels, each of which has different requirements:

Level 1 Private Investigator License:

  • At least 21 years old
  • US citizen or legal resident of the US
  • Pass the Colorado Jurisprudence Exam to demonstrate knowledge of ethical conduct and rules/regulations concerning the practice of private investigations

Level 2 Private Investigator License:

  • Satisfy all of the above mentioned requirements for Level 1 Private Investigator licensing
  • Have a minimum of 4,000 hours of investigative work experience as a PI or with a local, state or federal law enforcement agency
  • The director of the Colorado Office of Private Investigator Licensure may also stipulate some college education as stated in Colorado Revised Statute 12-58.5-106

Many of those interested in becoming private investigators are former police detectives and military police officers who easily meet the experience requirement.

In addition to the experience/education prerequisites described above, all license applicants (both Level 1 and Level 2) must submit to fingerprinting for the purpose of a Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and FBI background check and submit a $330 application fee.

Instructions on fingerprinting for the purpose of a background check can be found here. CBI will submit the findings of your background check directly to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Office of Private Investigator Licensure.



Step 2. Pass the Colorado Jurisprudence Exam and Apply for a PI License

As a Level 1 or Level 2 private investigator license applicant, you are required to take and pass the Colorado Private Investigator Jurisprudence Examination online.

Exam preparation materials and instructions for taking the exam are available here.

Applicants that do not pass the exam on their first attempt must wait five (5) days before taking it again.

Upon passing the exam, applicants will be issued a Passing Results Report, which must be signed and submitted along with the online license application.

All applicants must apply for licensure using the Online Licensing Portal.

As part of the licensing process, all applicants must either currently hold or agree to post a surety bond of at least $10,000.

The affidavit of surety bond for private investigator licensure can be found here.

When submitting an online application, PI licensure applicants must also include:

  • Passing Results Report for the Jurisprudence Exam
  • Surety affidavit
  • $330 license application fee



Step 3. Begin Working as a Private Investigator in Colorado

A licensed PI can go to work for an established firm or go into business alone. Persons who decide to go into business for themselves need to choose a name for their business, develop an appealing website and think about ways to market their business to a target audience. Many new PIs find it works better to specialize in a certain type of service, such as skip tracing, public records searches, accident reconstructions or insurance investigations.

Legal investigations and computer forensics are two high-demand specialties. Legal investigators assist attorneys in preparing cases for litigation by seeking out facts, such as who bears the responsibility in a personal injury case. Some education in law is a definite plus when specializing in legal investigations. Computer forensics specialists find legal evidence in computers and digital storage media. Computer forensics evidence is being  used more and more frequently in both criminal and civil court cases.

Private Investigator Salaries in Colorado

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 salary report, the average annual salary for private detectives in the state of Colorado was $48,500. The average salary for that year is shown here for key metro areas in Colorado:

  • Fort Collins:  $34,620
  • Colorado Springs:  $48,080
  • Denver:  $66,610

Private investigators that establish independent PI firms have the potential to earn much more than this.

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Step 4. Keep your PI License Current

In Colorado, private investigator licenses must be renewed on May 31st of each year. If a license is issued within 120 days of the upcoming renewal date (May 31st), the licensee will not be required to be renewed untill May 31st the following year.

Online license renewal forms can be found here.

Private Investigator Professional Organizations in Colorado

The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado (PPIAC) has regular meetings and an annual conference. It offers an excellent opportunity for networking with other investigators, keeping up with what is new in the field, and continuing to learn via workshops and seminars.

The Colorado Society of Private Investigators is a Denver-based organization dedicated to ethics, education and professional standards in the profession. Their regular meetings in Denver usually feature an educational speaker. Information is available at 303-296-2200.



Private Investigator Salary Information for Colorado

According to 2012 salary date from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 320 private investigators in Colorado averaged $48,500 a year with top earners in the 90th percentile making $89,130 annually. 

The average wages of private investigators in selected Colorado cities is listed below, followed by the average salary of those in the top ten percent as of 2012:

Colorado City
Average Annual Salary
Colorado Springs
Fort Collins

The average salary for Denver’s private investigators is the eighth highest of any average metropolitan salary for PIs in the county.

A license is not required to work as a private investigator in Colorado, but these professionals can volunteer to be licensed.  Having this license adds additional credibility to a PI in Colorado.

Licenses can be obtained from the Division of Professions and Occupations of the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies.  A fingerprint background check is required to obtain such a license.

Once private investigators have been licensed and started working, they have a variety of potential clients.  Some PIs work for insurance companies determining whether people getting workman’s compensation are truly injured.  Others work with defense attorneys to gather as much information about the client and the case as they can.

Many PIs work for individuals.  In some cases, they determine whether or not potential investors are trustworthy, while in others they may ascertain the fidelity of spouses or loved ones.

Although Colorado does not have any educational requirements to become a PI, obtaining a degree such as one in criminal justice can help strengthen the analytical and critical thinking skills of potential PIs.

Detailed information about the employment levels and hourly and annual wages of private investigators in different Colorado cities is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This information is provided below.

Private Investigator Salaries in Colorado

Area name
Annual mean wage
Colorado Springs CO
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield CO
Fort Collins-Loveland CO
Estimate not released

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