A career in private investigations doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for the opportunity to be your own boss and use your hard-won investigative chops to make a living. But it’s also a job that comes with a strong sense of purpose, particularly when doing work like tracking down evidence powerful enough to overturn a conviction, leading to the vindication and exoneration of a person wrongfully accused.
|Choose your Employment Route and Become Licensed or Registered in Georgia|
|Meet the Basic Minimum Requirements in Georgia|
|Meet Georgia Education Qualifications|
|Obtain Basic Training|
|Application for Employment in Georgia|
|Working in Georgia|
Take Ron Grosse, for example. He’s a staff investigator with the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP), an independent nonprofit that seeks to prevent and reverse wrongful convictions in the state. Grosse works alongside staff and pro bono lawyers to review and evaluate innocence claims. Some of his responsibilities include locating and interviewing witnesses, identifying and collecting new evidence, and assisting in case strategy. GIP has enjoyed an excellent track record of success, which includes the exoneration of eight men who were wrongfully imprisoned.
Like many other Georgia PIs, Grosse had a career with the federal government—the FBI and the U.S. Army—before becoming a private investigator. Private investigations is a popular line of work among former soldiers, police officers, COs, and court officers. But it’s also pretty common to find PIs with former lives in private security, or even the work-a-day world.
According to the Georgia Department of Labor, there were 1,120 PIs licensed and actively working cases throughout the state in 2019. The Department of Labor expects to see about 120 new license holders joining their ranks every year based on projected demand. With that kind of demand, it’s a safe bet that competition won’t be too stiff when it comes time to get your PI career off the ground.
The Georgia Board of Private Detectives and Security Agencies regulates the practices of private investigations here. PIs in Georgia don’t need a license, but you will need to secure a license if you want to start your own PI agency.
Step 1. Choosing your Route of Employment
There are two ways of working as a private investigator in Georgia: working for yourself or working for someone else. Working for yourself is more complicated and requires a license and years of previous experience either in law enforcement or private investigations, or a university degree, plus bigger financial burdens including:
- $25,000 bond
- $1 million liability insurance policy
- Net worth of $50,000 or more
It is easier to start off in the private investigations field by registering to work under an already established company. To do this you simply need to meet the minimum requirements and your employer will register you with the Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies.
Step 2. Meeting the Basic Requirements
All private detectives working in Georgia need to be registered as an employee of a private detective business, be it as a sole proprietor, as the manager of your own company, or with another agency. It is therefore your employer (or yourself if you are the owner of the business) who registers you with the Secretary of State’s Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies.
In order to become registered you will need to meet some basic private investigator minimum requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have integrity and a good moral character
- Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident entitled to work in the U.S.
- No convictions for felonies, crimes involving weapons, or crimes of moral turpitude; however considerations will be made on a case-by-case basis
- Have not committed any acts of fraud or dishonesty
Step 3. Education Qualifications
Private Investigator School Requirements in Georgia
If you are applying for a license for your own private investigations business you will need to meet some additional requirements that can be fulfilled by having a four-year degree in Criminal Justice or a related field.
The following certificate and degree programs are available across Georgia both online and at campus-based schools:
- Law Enforcement
- Criminal Justice
Establishing a Foundation for the Future
Even if you are just starting out as a private investigator registered with another company you will have more options and a better foundation when coming from a well-developed educational background. Demonstrating that you have acquired key skills in the field can also help your employment prospects, not to mention future career advancements into areas such as law enforcement.
Step 4. Basic Training
To work as a private detective in Georgia you will need to complete a basic training course. You have the option of completing this within six months of being hired, and the course must be from a state-approved provider and include:
- 70 hours of classroom instruction including:
- Industry history
- Criminal law
- Search and seizure
- Crime scene investigation
- Witness and suspect interviewing
If you choose to carry a firearm you will additionally have to take the Firearm Training Curriculum for Handguns course. You should also make sure you are familiar with the state laws and statutes regarding private investigator individuals and companies.
Step 5. Application for Employment
You will need to submit the following to your employing private detective agency so they can complete your registration form and you can begin working:
- Fingerprints and consent for a background investigation. These are administered through Cogent Services GAPS and when completing your online application for $52.75 you will need the following:
- ORI number: GA920240Z
- Verification code: 920240Z
- Proof of your private detective certification classes, if completed (must be completed within 90 days of hire)
- Any weapons permits and certifications
Your hiring detective company must also pay a $45 registration fee, and an extra $25 fee if you are being registered as an armed detective.
Step 6. Working in Georgia
Private investigators need to complete 16 hours of continuing education through an approved agency each year. The agency with which you are registered can assist you with this and you can also consult with professional associations.
Joining a professional organization such as the Georgia Association of Professional Private Investigators (GAPPI) or the Investigative and Security Professional Association of Georgia (ISPAG) is a good way to find support and advice from colleagues, expand your networking opportunities, and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in your field. Professional organizations can also offer you tips on the process of how to become a private detective in Georgia.
Private Investigator Salary Information for Georgia*
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average, annual salary for private investigators in Georgia was $49,610 as of May 2019. Once you’ve built a nice client list and earned a few years of experience, you can expect to earn near the top 10% in this field, where the average income is around $78,550.
Employees of detective agencies (referred to as agents) do not need to be licensed in Georgia. Company owners, on the other hand, are required to obtain a license from the Georgia Board of Private Detectives and Security Agencies. To qualify for a private detective company license, you’ll need at least one of the following: at least two years of experience as an agent with a licensed PI agency; at least two years of experience in law enforcement; or a four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field.
Private Investigator Salaries in Atlanta and Augusta
Private investigators in the Atlanta metro area earn more than their colleagues in Augusta at all levels, which isn’t surprising given the city’s status as the state’s economic center.
The following BLS stats reveal the median-top 10% salary range for PIs working in Georgia’s major metro areas:
- Atlanta: $53,230-$84,610 (approximately 610 licensed PIs)
- Augusta: $45,780-$63,640 (approximately 110 licensed PIs)
*Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which private investigators work. BLS salary data represents state and MSA (metropolitan statistical area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
2019 job growth projections from the Georgia Department of Labor are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections Central. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and employment data accessed May 2020.