Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Washington, DC

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, in May 2012 private detectives in the District of Columbia averaged a mean salary of $49,500 per year.

Learn how to become a private detective in Washington, DC by following these steps:

Meet Requirements in Washington, DC
Satisfy Washington, DC Educational Preferences and Training Requirements
Submit Washington, DC Licensing Applications and Supporting Documents
Now that you’re a Private Detective in Washington, DC

Under the Municipal Regulations of the District of Columbia, a license is needed in order to work as a private investigator or, as called in the regulations, a “private detective.” Licensed private detectives Washington, DC are permitted by law to discover, detect and/or reveal crime or criminals; secure information for evidence related to criminals and/or crime; and determine the whereabouts, identity, actions or character of any thing or person.



Step 1. Meet Preliminary Requirements for Licensure as a Private Detective in Washington, DC

Prior to applying to become a private detective in the District of Columbia, you must meet some preliminary requirements.  These are listed under Chapter 17-20 of the District of Columbia Municipal code, and include:

  • Attaining the age of 18 or older
  • Residing in the District of Columbia
  • Pass an FBI criminal background check and criminal history review
  • Have the financial ability to file and keep in force a license bond of at least $5000
  • Have no felony convictions on your record
  • Have a firm offer of employment from a licensed private detective agency in the District of Columbia

Having a private detective license in the District of Columbia does not give you the authority to carry a concealed weapon. For firearms registration, you must apply separately and meet separate requirements.



Step 2. Satisfy Educational Preferences and Training Requirements for Licensed Private Detectives in Washington, DC

The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, which is the agency responsible for licensure and regulation of private detectives in the district, does not require private detective applicants to have education or experience beyond that of a high school diploma or GED.

However, possession of a college diploma, certificate or degree in one of the following fields can often be of great help to applicants for private detective licenses in the District of Columbia:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Business Administration in Legal Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Homeland Security Technology

If you wish to carry a concealed weapon as a licensed private detective in the District of Columbia, no permit is required. However, all firearms must be registered with the Metropolitan Police Department. This involves taking an online Firearms Safety Training Course, which covers these topics:

  • Safe transport of firearms
  • Safe firearm storage
  • Firearm cleaning and maintenance
  • Safety checks
  • Restricting access to firearms
  • Cardinal rules of firearm safety
  • Revolvers and semi-automatic pistols



Step 3. Submit Washington, DC Licensing Application(s) and Supporting Documentation to the Metropolitan Police Department

Once you have met the qualifications, you are ready to apply for licensure as a private detective in the District of Columbia.  Firearms registration may be accomplished after training is complete as well.

Private Detective License

Call the Security Officers Management Branch of the Metropolitan Police Department at (202) 671-0500 to obtain an application form and other necessary forms to apply for private detective licensure in the District of Columbia. They will ask you to obtain a completed application that you will get from your employer, signed by the employer or another authorized company representative stating that you are employed/have an employment offer with them. You must bring this completed application and your driver’s license or other picture identification card with you to the Security Officers Management Branch (SOMB) for initial screening. They are located at 2000 14th Street, NW, 3rd Floor. Other items that you must bring with you include:

  • Notarized affidavit form (will be issued to you by SOMB) that lists your past employment, residences and arrest history
  • Copies of the final court disposition for any charges on your arrest record
  • License fee of $206 payable via cashier’s check, certified check or money order to the D.C. treasurer
  • Two recent color photos, passport-sized
  • Copy of your birth certificate from the Vital Statistics Office of your birth state
  • Copies of any documents indicating name changes (such as marriage certificates, divorce decrees and adoption papers)
  • Copy of your separation from the military, if applicable

Once you are at the SOMB, they will schedule your fingerprinting for the Metropolitan Police Department and FBI criminal background checks that will be performed. The background check will take up to two weeks to complete. If you pass, you will be issued a license and identification card as a Private Detective in the District of Columbia.

Firearms Registration

Although you need no permit to carry a concealed weapon as a licensed private detective in the District of Columbia, you must register all firearms you possess. This process is as follows:

  • Complete the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) Application for Firearms Registration Certificate (form PD-219).
  • Once the form is completed, bring it to the Firearms Registration Section of the MPD at 300 Indiana Avenue, NW, 2nd Floor, along with:
    • The unloaded firearm, if you already own it (if you are buying the firearm, you will not have it yet, as the D.C. dealer is not authorized to sell it to you until you complete the registration process)
    • Proof of D.C. residency
    • Proof that you have completed the training requirement, such as:
      • Certificate of completion for the online Firearms Safety Training Course
      • Certificate showing you received firearms training in the military
      • A firearms license from another state that requires firearms training
      • Other evidence that you have completed a firearms training or safety course
  • You will be asked to certify, with your signature, that you are not legally blind
  • You must then pass, with at least a 70 percent correct score, a multiple-choice exam based on the firearms laws and regulations of the District of Columbia. You will be allowed to refer to a study guide on the laws and regulations during the test.
  • Pay the appropriate fees of $48 (includes fingerprinting/FBI background check fee of $35 and application fee of $13) via cash or money order payable to the DC Treasurer.
  • Be fingerprinted for a background check

When your firearms registration is approved in one to five business days, you will be notified by phone. You can request to have your firearms registration certificate mailed to you or pick it up at the FRS office.



Step 4. Now that You’re a Licensed Private Detective in Washington, DC

Congratulations! You are now a licensed private detective in the District of Columbia! Your license is valid for one year, beginning on November 1 of the year it is issued, and continuing until October 31 of the following year.

You will receive renewal information by mail from the SOMB at least one month before your license is set to expire. The renewal fee is $206.



Private Investigator Salary Information for The District of Columbia

The District of Columbia is an excellent place to become a private investigator.  As of 2012, Washington, D.C. had the highest level of employment of private investigators in the country.  Over 1,000 PIs were employed in this city in 2012.  Their annual median salary was $58,500 with those in the top income bracket earning an average of $86,800.

D.C.’s Department of Employment Services included private investigators in its list of top 40 fastest growing occupations with growth over one hundred jobs in the period from 2001 to 2012.  They had a projected job growth rate for private investigators of 3.74%.  Projections for the period from 2008 to 2018 predict an increase of 535 jobs, giving a growth rate of 2.67%.

Washington D.C. requires private investigators in the district to be licensed by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.  Applicants must be a resident of D.C. and will have to provide their fingerprints to undergo a background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  They must not have any felony convictions on their record and will have to obtain insurance coverage in the form of a surety bond.

PIs who wish to be armed in DC must meet the stringent requirements of the district’s police department.  There are also specific regulations on the types of firearms that individuals can possess in DC.  For instance, magazines that hold over ten rounds of ammunition are prohibited.  Firearms must be unloaded when they are being transported in a vehicle.

Private investigators perform a myriad of functions.  Some specialize in surveillance—investigating individuals on workman’s compensation to make sure they are injured or investigating cases of potential infidelity by spouses.  Others work closely with defense attorneys to help them analyze their cases.  Investigating potential investors to ensure that they are reliable is another area of specialty for PIs.

2012 salary data on the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area and its metropolitan division is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Levels of employment, annual, and hourly wages are shown in the table below.

Private Investigator Salaries in Washington, DC

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

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