How to Become a Private Investigator in Massachusetts Through Training and Certification

Massachusetts state flag waving on the top sunrise mist fogBoston’s private investigators have a reputation for being determined and thorough, and their qualifications make them extremely valuable to attorneys, police departments, corporations, and private citizens. Licensed by the Massachusetts State Police, PIs here mean business, and their credentials speak to their trustworthiness and dependability.

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Meet General Prerequisites in Massachusetts
Complete Training and Gain Experience in Massachusetts
Submit your Application and Documents in Massachusetts
Now that you’re a Private Detective in Massachusetts

That means whether they’re hunting down a missing loved one for a distraught family, assembling evidence for a case of workers’ compensation fraud for an insurance company, or vetting a potential investor or business partner for a private company, their ability to uncover the facts and find the truth has made them a hot commodity throughout Massachusetts.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, there were 580 private investigators working throughout the commonwealth in 2019. This small-but-elite class of professionals is expected to see about 60 new PIs joining their ranks annually, so there may be no better time to jump into the profession with both feet and begin making a name for yourself.

If you want to become a private investigator in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you’ll need a license through the Department of Public Safety, which is part of the Massachusetts State Police. Before we step into how to become a private investigator in Massachusetts, be prepared to show proof of at least three years of experience and pass a background investigation to qualify.



Step 1. Meet General Prerequisites for Private Detectives in Massachusetts

In order to become a licensed private detective in Massachusetts, you must:

  • Meet experience requirements (see below)
  • Have no felony convictions on record
  • Have no convictions of violations of section 99 (having to do with an interception of wire and oral communications) or 99A (having to do with eavesdropping by use of devices in jury deliberations) of Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws
  • Receive a certification of your good moral character from three reputable citizens
  • Pass a background investigation



Step 2. Complete Training and Experience Required of Private Detectives in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts State Police does not require you to have any formalized education to prepare you for licensure as a private detective. However, a background in criminal justice and/or law can be very beneficial to you as you begin your career as a Massachusetts private investigator.

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Degrees available in Massachusetts’s schools that are the most helpful to private detectives include:

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Diploma in Criminal Justice

Experience is of utmost importance when applying for licensure as a private detective in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts State Police mandate that you possess either of the following:

  • Three years of investigative experience
  • 10 years of experience as a police officer (if you were a patrolman, three of those years must be above the rank of patrolman)

If you do not possess the necessary experience to become licensed as a private investigator in Massachusetts, consider obtaining a Watch Guard Patrol Agency License instead. This type of license does not require any experience. Alternatively, you could hire a Resident Manager to work for your private detective agency, if you plan to open one. A Resident Manager is a person who qualifies for the license and is held responsible to the Department of State Police Certification Unit. This Resident Manager must continue to work for your agency in order for you to remain licensed as a Private Detective in Massachusetts.

If you plan to carry a firearm, you must complete a Firearms Safety Course and receive a Firearms Safety Certificate, conducted by a state-approved instructor. A list of approved basic firearms safety courses is found here.



Step 3. Submit Massachusetts Private Detective Licensure Application and Supporting Documentation

When you are ready to apply for licensure as a private detective in Massachusetts, you must:

  • Submit the completed Application for a License as a Private Detective
  • Submit the Certificate Page, completed by three reputable Massachusetts citizens who either live in your community, live in the community in which you do business, live in the community in which you plan to work, and have been personally acquainted with you for at least three years
  • Submit the completed Investigative Employment Experience form, listing your experience as an investigator for at least the past three years
  • Submit the completed and notarized Authorization for Release of Information form
  • Submit the completed and notarized Bond Form
  • Submit the $5000 Surety Bond (ask your insurance provider to recommend a bonding company if they do not handle surety bond completion)
  • Submit a check or money order for the licensure fee of $550 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Submit a Certificate of Business from the town hall in the town in which you plan to open your detective agency, or Corporate Structure/Articles of Incorporation from the Secretary of State’s Office

Mail the above items to the Department of State Police Certification Unit, 485 Maple St, Danvers, MA 01923. Your application package will be assigned to a State Police investigator, who will conduct a thorough background investigation of the information provided. Once the investigation is complete, the investigator will contact you for a personal interview. The entire licensing process takes from two to six weeks.

If you plan to carry a firearm, you must submit an Application for License to Carry Firearms. Enclose a copy of your Firearms Safety Certificate and the application fee of $100, along with a copy of your driver’s license, a letter requesting a License to Carry Firearms, and two letters of reference. Mail to Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, 200 Arlington St, Suite 2200, Chelsea, MA 02150.



Step 4. Now that You’re a Licensed Private Detective in Massachusetts

Congratulations! You have earned your private detective license in Massachusetts! Make sure to maintain your license properly by renewing each year as directed. You will be sent renewal information from the Massachusetts State Police Certification Unit, including the Private Detective License Renewal Form. You must pay a renewal fee of $150 via check or money order to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Enclose a copy of your original $5000 Surety Bond or continuation certificate, signed and notarized Release of Information, and current Private Detective license.

To renew your firearms license, which also expires annually, you must appear in person before the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services in Chelsea 90 days before the license is set to expire. You will need a renewal fee of $100, the completed renewal application, a copy of your driver’s license, and your current License to Carry Firearms.

Your name will be published on the Certification Unit’s updated List of Licensed Private Detectives in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


Private Investigator Salary Information for Massachusetts*

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual, average salary of private investigators in Massachusetts was $51,060 as of May 2020. The top 10% of professionals—those with the most impressive credentials and success stories—earn $94,224.

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A license from the Department of Public Safety is required to become a private investigator in Massachusetts. To qualify, you’ll need three recommendation letters from reputable residents of the state with no felony convictions. You’ll also need at least three years of experience as a detective, member of a U.S. investigative service, or police officer (higher than patrolman).

Private Investigator Salaries in Boston

According to BLS stats, PIs in Boston earn salaries within the range (median-top 10%) of $44,630-$91,050. As of 2020, PIs were earning around a median wage of $49,420 in Boston.

*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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