Nebraska got some attention in recent years for all the wrong reasons. PIs will do just about anything to stay out of the media spotlight – it’s not good for business, after all, if everyone knows who are. But when high-profile criminal cases get cracked wide open with the help of private investigators, it makes the news.
In 2019-2020, a private investigator was hired by the Diocese of Lincoln to investigate allegations of abuse by a deceased priest. Through more than 35 in-person interviews and an exhaustive review of personnel files, the PI confirmed the validity of the accusations against the vile priest beyond any reasonable doubt, bringing some sense of closure for victims and their families.
The best PIs in the business get scouted by governmental agencies, private corporations, and insurance companies demanding the best of the best. And with a steady supply of cases to investigate, there’s plenty of work to go around. And with the Nebraska Office of Labor Market Information expecting the number of licensed PIs in the state to remain steady in the years ahead, there’s room for you to edge your way into the business without bumping too many shoulders. In a state where there’s plenty of demand for investigative services without a lot of competition, not only are there not a lot of toes to step on as you get your business up and running, you’ll be able to make some real money from the outset.
Step 1. Meet Minimum Requirements for Licensure in Nebraska
Before you can engage in any private detective business in Nebraska, you must ensure you meet minimum requirements for licensure, which include being at least 21 years old.
You may not apply for a private investigator license in the State of Nebraska if you engage in debt collection or are employed by a debt collector or have been convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude.
Step 2. Meet Nebraska Education and Experience Requirements
To qualify for a private investigator license or private investigator agency license, you must show proof of the completion of one of the following:
- A minimum of 3,000 hours of investigative experience
- A minimum of 2,500 hours of investigative experience AND an associate’s degree in criminal justice (or a closely related field) from an accredited college or university
- A minimum of 2,000 hours of investigative experience AND a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice (or a closely related field) from an accredited college or university
Investigative experience is defined as working in an investigative capacity for a city, county, state or federal law enforcement agency or private investigation company.
Note: Plain-clothes investigators do NOT have to meet education or experience requirements to qualify for licensure.
Step 3. Apply for your Nebraska State License
Once you have ensured you meet the minimum qualification for licensure and can provide documentation of the completion of your experience and education qualifications, you can apply for a license by completing the Application for Plain Clothes or Private Detective License or an Application for Private Detective Agency.
Along with your completed application, you must provide the following documents to the Division of Licensing:
- Licensing Fee
- Private Detective Agency: $100 + $38 (license plus background check)
- Private Detective: $50 + $38
- Plain Clothes Investigator: $25 + $38
- Two fingerprint cards (for a national criminal history record check through the FBI), which can be completed at any local law enforcement office
- A signed and authorized Release of Information form
- Two passport-sized photographs
- Documentation showing proof of experience/education (not required for plain clothes investigators)
- Proof of $10,000 surety bond (not required for plain clothes investigators)
Mail the completed application and related documentation/fee to:
Division of Licensing
P.O. Box 94608
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
Step 4. Take the Nebraska Examination for Private Investigator License
Once the Division of Licensing has reviewed and approved your application (this can take up to 90 days), you will receive notification that you are eligible to take the examination, which includes information related to the Nebraska Private Detective Act.
Testing for all eligible candidates takes place on the third Wednesday of each month at 10:00 AM at the Nebraska State Capitol Building, Room 1305, in Lincoln. You must contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 402-471-2385 to notify them when you will be taking the examination.
You must score at least 80 percent on the examination to pass. If you fail the exam, you must wait at least 21 days to retake it.
Step 5. Getting to Work and Keeping your Nebraska License Current
Upon passing the examination for licensure, you will be licensed in the State of Nebraska. Private investigators may find a wealth of information and networking opportunities by seeking membership in a professional association, such as the Nebraska Association of Private Investigators.
The Nebraska Secretary of State also maintains a list of licensed private detectives and private detective agencies in Nebraska.
All licenses (private detective, plain clothes investigator, and private detective agency) must be renewed by June 30th of every even-numbered year, and a Renewal Application for Plain Clothes or Private Detective License or Renewal for Private Detective Agency must be completed. Renewal fees are as follows:
- Private Detective: $50
- Private Detective Agency: $100
- Plain Clothes Investigator: $25
Private Investigator Salary Information for Nebraska*
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private investigators in Nebraska earned a median annual salary of $41,210, as reported in May 2019. But once you’ve managed to build a solid reputation in the industry, your client list will increase along with your salary. In fact, the top earners in the field earned an average of $64,610 during.
A license from the state is required to become a private investigator in Nebraska. The fees are slightly different, depending on whether the application is to be a private detective or a plain-clothes investigator.
Private detectives in Nebraska are licensed to engage in a private detective business (sole proprietor) without the assistance of any employee, while plain-clothes investigators work as employees on behalf of a private detective agency.
Regardless of your license title, you’ll need to undergo a background check by the Nebraska State Patrol and pass a written exam to earn licensure in Nebraska. You’ll also need to provide proof of 3,000 hours of experience, some of which may be substituted for a post-secondary degree.
- No degree: 3000 hours of experience
- Associate’s degree: 2500 hours of experience
- Bachelor’s degree: 2000 hours of experience
Private detectives in Nebraska must carry liability insurance in the form of a $10,000 surety bond.
Private Investigator Salaries in Omaha
Private investigators in Omaha, Nebraska’s largest metro area, earned a median annual salary of $41,110, as of May 2019, which is line with the state average of $41,210. The BLS reports that the highest earners in this metro area (top 10%) earned about $20,000 more, averaging $62,830.
*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 Nebraska Office of Labor Market Information 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.