Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Iowa

Under the Department of Public Safety, the Private Investigator Licensing Services Bureau headquartered in Des Moines is the agency responsible for issuing private investigator licenses in the state. If you are interested in the profession and can tolerate working under pressure, then review the following guide that explains how to become a private detective in Iowa:

Meet the Basic Requirements in Iowa
Iowa Training and Education Requirements
Applying for Licensure in Iowa with the Private Investigator Licensing Services Bureau
Maintaining your License in Iowa

There is no typical day in the life of a private investigator. You may find yourself conducting an undercover op in Cedar Rapids one week, investigating a suspected case of fraud in Sioux City the next week, and locating a missing person in Davenport the week after. Not as glamorous as Hollywood makes them out to be, private detective jobs in Iowa often involve long hours of research and investigation before cases are resolved.



Step 1. Meet Basic Requirements in Iowa

To become a licensed private investigator in Iowa you will need to meet the following basic requirements:

  • Not currently be a peace officer: sheriff’s deputy, police officer, etc
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have no aggravated misdemeanor or felony convictions
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have never been judged guilty of a crime involving moral turpitude or fraud
  • No history of violence or illegally carrying dangerous weapons
  • Not currently be addicted to alcohol or drugs



Step 2. Private Investigator Training and School Requirements in Iowa

Although there are no official private investigator school and training requirements in Iowa, there are several reasons why you should consider pursuing training, certification classes or a degree in relevant fields.

A formal education provides the following benefits:

  • Education credentials will demonstrate you are serious about your job
  • Show you are qualified with the right know-how to get the job done well
  • Open up future career advancement prospects
  • Increase your competitiveness for clients among other PIs in the Hawkeye State

The following programs are available as certificate classes and degrees at locations throughout the state as well as online:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Law
  • Business
  • Law Enforcement
  • Psychology
  • Forensics



Step 3. Applying with the Private Investigator Licensing Services Bureau in Iowa

When completing a license for private investigator jobs in Iowa, make sure to include the following along with your complete application:

  • Two fingerprint cards
  • $140 total fee for fingerprinting, licensing, and ID card
  • Proof of a surety bond of at least $5,000
  • Proof of liability insurance covering accidents, wrongdoings, and subsequent consequences



Step 4. Maintaining Your Iowa Private Detective License

Your PI license will expire every two years. To renew this you will need to maintain compliance with the minimum qualifications from the first step and submit the following to the Bureau at least 30 days before your license expires:

  • Two completed FBI fingerprint cards
  • Renewal form
  • Proof of 12 hours of continuing education
  • Proof of continued insurance coverage and a maintained surety bond

You may determine which continuing education courses are right for you on the condition that these are formal programs of learning that contribute directly to your professional competence.

If you choose to carry a firearm you must follow the appropriate state laws.

Monitoring the State Legislature is a good way to stay informed about the current laws and statutes regulating the private detective profession in the Iowa. If you are interested in additional private detective training opportunities you may consider joining a professional organization such as the Iowa Association of Private Investigators (IAPI). The IAPI can provide you with legal information, training resources, networking opportunities as well as additional tips on how to become a private investigator in Iowa.



Private Investigator Salary Information for Iowa

Estimates from the State’s Workforce Development indicated that 70 such investigators worked in Iowa during that year. 

The average salary for private investigators is listed based on the different sources, followed by the average salary of experienced professionals who were among the top earners:

Federal or State Estimate
Average Annual Salary
State Estimate
Federal Estimate

The future of the private investigation field is promising.  Nationally, the ranks of private investigators are estimated to grow by 21% from 2010 to 2012.  This increase is projected to be faster than average compared to other types of jobs.

A license from the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Administrative Services is required to become a private investigator in the state.  Applicants must submit two sets of fingerprints for a background check.  Those applying as individuals must provide proof of insurance in the form of a $5,000 surety bond.

Private investigators can hold a variety of types of jobs.  The industries with the highest levels of employment of private investigators include:

  • Investigation and security firms
  • Local governmental agencies
  • Legal services
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • State governmental agencies
  • Office administrative services
  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing

There are a number of specialties for private investigators.  Some specialize in fraud such as tracking malfeasance committed over computers.  Others are skilled at physical surveillance:  ensuring that worker’s compensation claims are legitimate or tracking spouses suspected of having illegitimate affairs.  Another type of work for PIs is assisting defense attorneys by thoroughly investigating the circumstances of their case to try and clear the defendant of charges.

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of employment levels, hourly, and annual wages for a region that is shared with Iowa.  This data is listed in the table below.

Private Investigator Salaries in Iowa

Area name
Annual mean wage
Omaha-Council Bluffs NE-IA

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