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

Washington Monument on the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.The District may only be a little over 68 square miles, but there are more private investigators licensed here and actively working cases than almost anywhere else in the country. That’s got a lot to do with the fact that investigations work here isn’t limited to checking up on cheating spouses or looking into questionable insurance claims.

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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

The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, part of the DoD, contracts investigators to perform thorough background investigations before giving any level of security clearance to government personnel and contractors. (Currently, security clearances are the responsibility of the Office of Personnel Management, but the DoD will assume this responsibility by October 2020). Nearly 60% of all security clearance investigations here are performed by contractors.

This kind of steady, government work by itself has created a strong market for PIs in Washington looking to make a good living from behind the keyboard, but if you’re coming into the profession to strap your boots on for late-night stakeouts and good old fashioned surveillance, just like any major metro in the country, you’ll have no shortage of cases here in Washington – from suspicious spouses looking for evidence that their partner is up to no good on those extended business trips to companies watching for ex-employees breaking non-compete agreements.

Branch out into the greater D.C. metro area and you’ll be among the 1,280 PIs working in our nation’s capital and into Arlington and Alexandria, according to 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stats. Even for a teaming metro area jam-packed with government, industry, and business, these numbers are impressive.

To work as a PI in Washington D.C, you’ll need a license through the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s Security Officers Management Branch.

Licensed private detectives in 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 person.


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

Before 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.

However, in 2021, a new Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) was effective on the 4th of January 2021, offering handgun transfer services to the public. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will no longer be providing these handgun transfer services to the public, instead, all of the new FFL businesses will go through private FFL dealers. 



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.

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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. There is a list of certified firearms instructors along with their contact details on the website. 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, residence, and arrest history
  • Copies of the final court disposition for any charges on your arrest record
  • A 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 $400 that is payable to the DC Treasurer.


Private Investigator Salary Information for The District of Columbia*

According to May 2020 BLS stats, the average median salary for private investigators in Washington D.C. was $63,170 – a good $10,000 more than the national median. PIs who’ve managed to build an impressive resume of success stories in the profession often have more cases coming their way than they can handle, and earn even more. The best PIs in the District, the ones earning in the top 10% here, make an average of about $99,380.

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D.C. topped the list as the highest paying metro in the country.

To qualify for PI licensure in Washington, you’ll need to be a resident of D.C., and pass an FBI background check. PIs here can carry a firearm, provided they meet the additional requirements of the Metropolitan Police Department.

*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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