• Find A Program

Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts State Police licenses qualified individuals who wish to become private detectives. The right training and experience is vital to becoming an effective, efficient and knowledgeable private investigator in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is why potential private investigators must meet the strict requirements of the Massachusetts State Police.

Becoming a private investigator in Massachusetts involves following this licensure process:

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



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 interception of wire and oral communications) or 99A (having to do with overhearing by use of devices in jury deliberations) of Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws
  • Receive 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.

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

Over five hundred private investigators were employed in Massachusetts in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Their ranks are expected to increase by 30.5% in the period from 2010 to 2020 based on projections from the state’s Labor and Workforce Development Council.

In particular, Framingham and Worcester are good places to find PI jobs in the state.  Both are in the top metropolitan areas in the U.S. with the highest concentration of jobs in this field.  Framingham was second with 110 jobs in 2012, while Worcester was ninth with 100 jobs.

The BLS also provides salary data, and the annual median income of private investigators in Massachusetts was $47,770 in 2012.  Experienced PIs in the top 10th percentile of their salary bracket earned an average of $72,110 a year.  The salaries for the median and top 10th percentile incomes for private investigators in selected cities in Massachusetts are listed below:

Massachusetts City
Average Annual Salary

A license from the Department of Public Safety is required to become a private investigator in Massachusetts.  Applicants must have recommendation letters from three reputable citizens of the state and cannot have been convicted of a felony.  Three years of experience is required in one of the following:

  • Doing investigative work as a detective
  • Having been a member of a U.S. investigative service
  • Having been a police officer (higher than patrolman)

Police officers who have been employed for ten years in good standing can also apply for a private investigator’s license.

A number of different types of employment are available to those with PI licenses in Massachusetts.  According to 2010 employment figures from the state’s Labor and Workforce Development Council, nearly 19% of all private investigators in the state were self-employed.  Sixty-four percent worked in administrative and support services.

Detailed employment and salary data from the BLS is available for a number of cities in Massachusetts.  This is shown in the table below.

Private Investigator Salaries in Massachusetts

Area name
Annual mean wage
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MA-NH
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MA NECTA Division
Estimate not released
Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton MA NECTA Division
Estimate not released
Framingham MA NECTA Division
Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford MA-NH NECTA Division
Estimate not released
Nashua NH-MA NECTA Division
Estimate not released
Providence-Fall River-Warwick RI-MA
Estimate not released
Worcester MA-CT

Back to Top