According to a March 2020 article by Law.com, private investigators in Florida are the trustworthy and reliable pros on speed dial with lawyers trying cases related to personal injury, workers’ compensation, breach of contract, fraud, and more. Lawyers rely on the tried-and-true investigative work PIs do to gather the kind of bulletproof evidence it takes to build a case. Performing video surveillance, gathering witness statements, and scouring social media posts for clues—it’s all in a day’s work for seasoned PIs who know where to look, and exactly what to look for.
|Meet Basic Qualifications in Florida|
|Complete Training and Experience Requirements in Florida|
|Pass the Florida Exam|
|Apply for Licensure in Florida|
|Now that you’re a Licensed Private Investigator in Florida|
Florida PIs with the right combination of character and credentials aren’t just the secret weapon for attorneys looking for the silver bullet in a tricky case. Their expertise is valued by corporations that call on them to uncover the truth in suspected cases of embezzlement, insurance fraud, and proprietary theft…business owners that rely on them to vet potential investors and business partners…and local employers that frequently use their talents to perform background checks on job candidates.
According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, despite a total of 3,040 PIs working throughout the state in 2019, this market is far from saturated. In fact, numbers are projected to swell to 3,160 by 2021.
What’s more telling, however, is that during this time, there will be about 330 annual openings for PIs, which means there’ll be plenty of room to bring your own patented blend of qualifications and savvy to the field. Now that you realize how fetching the job role is, let’s find out more about how to become a private investigator in Florida.
To work as a private investigator in Florida, you’ll need a license through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Licensing. The Department also issues licenses to PI interns and PI agency managers and requires a separate firearms license for armed PIs.
Step 1. Meet Basic Qualifications for Licensure as a Private Investigator in Florida
In order to obtain a Class C Private Investigator license in Florida, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident
- Have no disqualifying criminal history
- Be of good moral character
- Have no history of mental illness
- Have no history of use of illegal drugs
- Have no history of alcoholism
- Have two years of experience (which can be gained through first obtaining a Class CC Private Investigator Intern License in Step 2 below)
Step 2. Complete Training and Experience Required of Private Investigators in Florida
Training – Because applicants for a Class C Private Investigator’s License in Florida must have two years of experience, most applicants opt to apply for licensure as a Class CC Private Investigator Intern first. Prior to applying for the intern license, you must complete at least 40 hours of professional private investigator training and Chapter 493 of the Florida Statutes, offered by an accredited school. A list of currently approved schools is here.
The training programs offered by these schools result in a diploma and fulfill Florida’s requirements. However, some applicants choose to go on for college degrees in these related fields, to boost their career chances further:
- Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice/Homeland Security
- Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Legal Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
Additionally, one year of college coursework in law enforcement, criminology, or criminal justice (or a related field) may be used to substitute for one of the two-year experience requirements for a Class C Private Investigator license in Florida.
Firearms Training – If your job as a private investigator or private investigator intern will require you to carry concealed firearms, you must complete 28 hours of range and classroom training given by a Florida Class K licensed firearms instructor. Acceptable forms of training are listed here.
Experience – Once you have applied for the Class CC Private Investigator Intern License and have completed the training and received a license, you may begin working under the sponsorship of a Florida-licensed private investigator. As the experience requirements for a Class C Private Investigator license include two years of full-time private investigative experience, this is a great way to work towards becoming a full-fledged private investigator.
Step 3. Pass the Florida Private Investigator Licensing Examination
The next step on your path to Florida licensure as a private investigator is to pass a state examination. Your knowledge of Florida Statutes Sections 493.6100 through 493.6203 and Section 493.6301(5) dealing with business practices of the industry of private investigation and legal responsibilities of being a private investigator will be tested on this exam. To schedule an appointment to take this examination, call one of the eight statewide Licensing Division Regional Offices:
- Fort Walton Beach (850) 833-9146
- Punta Gorda (941) 575-5770
- Jacksonville (904) 828-3100
- Tallahassee (850) 245-5498
- Doral (305) 639-3500
- Tampa (813) 272-2552
- Orlando (407) 245-0883
- West Palm Beach (561) 681-2530
You must pay $100 to take the exam, which lasts about two hours. Your results will be mailed to you two to four weeks after taking the exam.
Step 4. Apply for Class C Licensure as a Private Investigator in Florida
After passing the exam, you are ready to apply for Class C licensure as a private investigator in Florida.
- Complete the Application for Class C Private Investigator License.
- Attach a color passport-sized recent photo of yourself.
- Include a completed, signed, and notarized Affidavit of Experience (Form FDACS-16023)
- Include the certificate of completion confirming your passing score on the exam
- Include proof of completion of the training and/or educational requirements, such as a diploma, degree, and/or transcript
- Include a set of fingerprints on the fingerprint card included with the application package or by electronic fingerprint scan. Instructions for this process are provided within the application package.
- Include a check or money order payable to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for $167 (includes $50 application fee, $75 license fee, and $42 fingerprint processing fee)
Mail the above information to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Licensing, P.O. Box 9100, Tallahassee, FL 32315-9100.
If you plan to carry a concealed weapon either as a Private Investigative Intern or Private Investigator and are at least 21 years old, you must file the Class G Statewide Firearms License application. You must include the certificate showing you have completed the mandatory firearms instruction, a health certificate signed by your physician or advanced registered nurse practitioner, a passport-sized photograph, and fingerprint information.
Also, enclose a check or money order payable to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for $154 (license fee of $112 and fingerprint processing fee of $42). Submit all of this to the Division of Licensing address listed above. (If you are submitting the application for Class C or CC licensure at the same time, you only need to submit one set of fingerprints and one fingerprint fee).
If you wish to manage a private investigative agency, you must apply for Class R MA Manager of a Private Investigative Agency licensure. Experience and training requirements for MA managers are the same as for private investigators. You must also pass the same examination as private investigators.
Step 5. Now That You are a Licensed Private Investigator in Florida
Congratulations! You have worked hard, studied hard, and are now a licensed private investigator in Florida! You must renew your Class C license every two years. This may be done and paid for online. You might also want to consider joining professional organizations such as the Florida Association of Licensed Investigators, which provided advocacy and networking for licensed PIs in the state.
A large number of private investigators are employed in Florida. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,160 PIs had jobs in the state in 2012. Salary data for that year indicated that the average annual private investigator salary in Florida was $43,980. Those in the top ten percent of wage earners made $65,550 a year.
Private Investigator Salary Information for Florida*
According to a May 2020 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private investigators earned an average, median salary of $49,340, while those with the most impressive qualifications and proven results land themselves in the top 10%, where the average is around $76,900.
You’ll need a state license (referred to as a Class “C” license) through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to become a private investigator in Florida. If you plan to carry a firearm, you’ll also need to obtain a Class “G” license.
To obtain a Class “C” license, you must show proof of at least two years of verifiable full-time experience working in investigations. But if you’ve earned a degree in criminal justice, law enforcement administration, or criminology or you’ve completed law enforcement training, you’ll only need a year of experience to qualify for licensure.
PI Salaries in Tampa, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fort Myers, and More
While average salaries were consistent with the state averages in the Tampa, Jacksonville, and Panama City metro areas, it was in Port St. Lucie and the Cape Coral-Fort Meyers area where PIs earned the most. In fact, in 2020, PIs in Port St. Lucie earned an average median salary that was nearly $63,000, almost $10,000 more than the overall state median income.
BLS stats reveal of 2019 provide the following median-top 10% range for PIs in the following metro and non-metro areas:
- Jacksonville: $34,070-$64,790 (approximately 40 licensed PIs)
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater: $36,890-$63,810
- Port St. Lucie: $62,630-$82,820
- Panama City: $36,680-$51,300
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers: $47,130-$92,000
*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.