How to Become a Private Investigator in Delaware through Training and Certification

A private investigator holding a camera, watching a couple walk down a path holding hands

A lot of PIs come into the profession after a military or law enforcement career, getting into the field with all the skills and experience of their previous life in uniform to back them up, along with a drive to become their own boss. Delaware’s PIs are rehabbing the image of the outlaw PI and bringing their own brand of integrity and honesty to the profession, one case at a time.

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Meet General Delaware Licensure Criteria
Satisfy Training and Experience Requirements in Delaware
Submit Delaware Application(s) and Documentation
Now that you’re a Licensed Private Investigator in Delaware

In March 2020, the work of Delaware private investigator Terence Jones led to all charges being dropped against an unarmed teen who was shot by a Wilmington police officer during an arrest in 2019. After examining surveillance footage, Jones was able to locate evidence that contradicted the state’s findings that the shooting was justified, eventually leading to the teen’s release.

Today, their unique blend of tenacity and grit has put Delaware’s PIs on a speed dial with everyone from law enforcement agencies to corporations to insurers and private citizens.

Whether you choose to take all professional opportunities that come your way or specialize your career in performing background checks for local law enforcement agencies, investigating a case of infidelity and catching the cheating spouses red-hand, or uncovering cases of workers’ compensation fraud, consider pursuing a career in private investigations in Delaware and you can bet it’ll be a lot more than just a job because these are eyes that never sleep!

All private investigators in Delaware must be licensed through the Delaware State Police Professional Licensing section. Before you can be licensed to conduct investigations here you’ll need to get hired by a licensed PI agency. If you want to go on to operate an independent PI agency of your own, you’ll also need to meet specific experience requirements.



Step 1. Meet General Criteria for Licensure as a Private Investigator in Delaware

Consult this checklist to make sure you meet the general criteria for licensing and other legal regulations before you proceed to know about how to become a private investigator in Delaware:

  • You are at least 21 years old
  • You have a firm offer of employment or have been hired by a licensed private investigative agency
  • You have never been convicted of a felony
  • You have never been convicted of a misdemeanor that involved drug offenses, moral turpitude, or theft
  • You have not had Assault III convictions in the past three years
  • If you plan to carry a firearm in your work as a private investigator, you complete the necessary training through an approved firearms instructor and apply for a firearms permit



Step 2. Satisfy Training and Experiential Qualifications for Licensed Private Investigators in Delaware


No formal training or education is required for those seeking licensure as a private investigator in Delaware, except for those seeking a firearms permit. This requires completion of a 40-hour Firearms Qualification course by a Delaware State Police-approved instructor. A list of such instructors may be found here. Re-qualification of at least three shots per year, with 90 days between each shoot, is required annually to keep firearms qualification in Delaware.

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Education in criminal justice or a related field can be very helpful to those seeking private investigator licensure in Delaware. To increase your chances of success on the job, it is recommended that you pursue a certificate, diploma, or degree such as one of the following:

  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Human Services/Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Business Administration in Legal Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice


While there is no experience required to become a licensed private investigator in Delaware, you must be hired by or have a firm offer of employment from a licensed Delaware private investigative agency. If you plan to become licensed to open a private investigative agency in Delaware, you must have five years of investigative experience, five years of police officer experience, or have graduated from a certified law enforcement academy.



Step 3. Submit Licensing Application(s) and Supporting Documentation to the Delaware State Police

When you are ready to apply for private investigator licensure in Delaware, you might also want to apply for your firearms permit and, if you are opening your own agency, private investigative agency licensure. This section will give you the basics for all applications.

Private Investigator Licensure

  1. Complete the Private Investigative and Private Security Employee application. Make sure to check the appropriate boxes for New Application and Private Investigator at the top of the form.
  2. Pay the $69 processing fee in cash or by credit card (in person only) or via certified check, company check, or money order payable to the State of Delaware. (Upon licensing and receiving your identification card, an additional fee of $20 will be due).
  3. Go to one of the following locations to submit your application and have your fingerprints and photographs taken:
    • SBI/Professional Licensing, Blue Hen Corporate Center, Dover (walk in-basis from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday)
    • SBI/Professional Licensing, Delaware State Police Troop 2, Route 40, Newark, DE (by appointment only – call (302) 739-2528 to schedule)


  4. You will be informed if additional documentation is required. If so, it must be submitted within 30 days of submitting your application, or the application will be void.
  5. When your ID card is ready, the SBI will call you to pick it up at one of the above locations, at which time you must submit a $20 fee.

Firearms Permit

If you are also applying for a firearms permit, check the appropriate box on the Private Investigative Employee Application above. You must also submit a copy of the certificate of completion of the 40-hour firearms course you completed.  If additional documentation is requested, the SBI will notify you.

Private Investigative Agency Licensure

Review the Private Investigative and Private Security Agency Licensing Procedures first. Determine which class your agency falls into:

  • Class A- Private Investigative Agency – in-state or out-of-state
  • Class C-Private Investigative & Private Security Agency– in-state or out-of-state


  1. Complete the Private Investigative Agency or Private Investigative and Private Security Agency application, checking the correct boxes (Class A or Class C) at the top.
    • Include the proper licensing fees via company or cashier’s check payable to the Delaware State Police:
          • $230 if you qualify as a Class A in-state or out of state agency and have no employees
          • $345 if you qualify as a Class A in the state or out of state agency and have employees and partners/corporate officers
          • $520 if you qualify as a Class C in the state or out of state agency
  2. Also, complete the License Holder/Delaware Manager application
        • Include the proper licensing fees for this application, via company or cashier’s check payable to the Delaware State Police:
          • $69 if you qualify as a Class A in-state agency
          • $230 plus $69 if you qualify as a Class A out-of-state agency
          • $69 if you qualify as a Class C in-state agency
          • $345 plus $69 if you qualify as a Class C out-of-state agency
  3. Obtain a surety bond from a Delaware-authorized surety company, payable to the State of Delaware. Use the Private Investigative & Private Security Agency Bond Form. Amounts are as follows:
        • Class A in-state: $5000 if no employees or $10,000 if employees, with the bond in the name of the agency
        • Class A out of state: $10,000 in the name of the agency and $5000 in the name of the Delaware manager
        • Class C in the state: $15,000 in the name of the agency
        • Class C out-of-state: $15,000 in the name of the agency and $10,000 in the name of the Delaware manager


  1. Obtain a one million dollars per occurrence liability insurance policy. The agency should use this address for the Certificate Holder: Delaware State Police, Professional Licensing, P.O. Box 430, Dover, DE 19903
  2. The license holder (and Delaware manager, if applicable) must each submit five letters of reference attesting to good character and five letters of investigative experience or law enforcement.
  3. Other owners, corporate officers, or partners must each complete the Owner/Partner/Corporate Officer application
  4. Two sets of fingerprints must be done on the license holder, Delaware manager, and any corporate officers, partners, or officers in person at one of the SBI locations listed above.
  5. When all application materials above have been completed, contact the Licensing Specialist at (302) 672-5304 to make an appointment to submit your application.



Step 4. Now that You’re a Licensed Private Investigator in Delaware

Congratulations! Now that you have discovered how to become a private investigator in Delaware, you now hold a license as well! You will be notified by mail when it is time to renew your license and/or private investigative agency license, on an annual basis. The fees, application forms, instructions for insurance, surety bonds, and fingerprints will all be included in the renewal packet.

No continuing education is required, except if you have a firearms permit. You must re-qualify through at least three shooting years, with 90 days between each shoot to keep your firearms qualification current in Delaware.

Thirty private investigators were employed in Delaware in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their salaries varied widely. The annual median salary in 2012 was $36,530, while those in the highest income bracket averaged $70,420 that year.

A license from the Delaware State Police is required to become a PI in the state, although no specific training is required.  Several types of arrests can disqualify a potential candidate and law enforcement agents are not permitted to become private investigators in Delaware.

Applicants must have been hired by a licensed agency before they can apply for their license. Licensed PIs are only allowed to work for one private detective agency at a time.

The work that private investigators do can vary greatly.  Many specialize in financial matters. This can include investigating potential investors to ensure that they do not have a history of malfeasance or investigating the financial situation of the elderly to make sure that elder abuse is not taking place.

Other private investigators work for insurance companies investigating workers’ claim compensations.  It is quite common for insurance companies to double-check that the people getting this form of insurance are tangibly injured and not committing fraud.

Surveillance on potential cheating spouses is another line of work for private investigators, while many people have a potential mate investigated before they legally commit to a relationship.

Other types of work for PIs include consulting with defense attorneys to find out as much information as they can about the defendant’s case to help prepare the defense.  Some PIs specialize in reviewing crime scene analysis to ensure that any evidence against their client has been processed properly.

Private investigators who have their own detective agency in Delaware may want to join the Delaware Association of Detective Agencies.


Private Investigator Salary Information for Delaware*

According to May 2020 salary reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private investigators in Delaware earned an annual mean income of $68,620 – that’s nearly $15,500 more annually than the national average for the profession. Log in a few years of experience and you could be among the top 10% of earners here, bringing home an average of $96,950 a year.

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You’ll need a license from the Delaware State Police to work as a PI. Unlike other states, you won’t need to have any experience to earn your license here, but that doesn’t mean a post-secondary degree in criminal justice or a related area, and experience working in the field isn’t extremely valuable. Your education and experience can go a long way in positioning you as an expert in the field.

To earn licensure, you must show proof of employment with a licensed PI agency, and you’ll only be allowed to work for one agency at a time, so you can forget about being a free agent and hopping from agency to agency.

*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.

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