To become a licensed private detective in New Jersey, you must complete a number of steps:
There are more than 2,000 licensed private detectives and private security agencies in the State of New Jersey, according to New Jersey’s Private Detective Unit.
The New Jersey State Police, Private Detective Unit, is responsible for the administration and enforcement of all laws relating to private detectives and private detective agencies in the State of New Jersey, which stems from the Private Detective Act of 1939. This Act includes all cities and municipalities in New Jersey, from Newark and Edison to Paterson, Jersey City, and Elizabeth.
Step 1. Meet Minimum Requirements in New Jersey
Similar to other licensed professions in the State of New Jersey, private investigators must meet these minimum requirements to be eligible for licensure:
- A resident of the United States
- At least 25 years old
Step 2. Complete New Jersey Education and Experience Requirements
To become a licensed private investigator in New Jersey, you must show proof of at least 5 years of experience as an investigator or police officer with a local or state police department or with an investigative agency for a county, city, state or federal organization.
Although there are no educational requirements for private investigators in New Jersey, many individuals pursuing this career path choose to first complete a degree program in criminal justice or a related field as to obtain a comprehensive understanding of and appreciation for the criminal justice system. Further, a degree from an accredited college or university often facilitates the process of obtaining the necessary experience required for licensure as a private investigator in New Jersey.
Step 3. Obtain a Complete Set of Fingerprints in New Jersey
You must submit to electronic fingerprinting to become a private detective in New Jersey.
Before you can obtain your fingerprints, you must contact the New Jersey State Police, Private Detective Unit at 609-633-9835 to request a temporary agent license number, which will be entered into block #7 of your Universal Form:
- Universal Form for Owner/Operators
- Universal Form for Private Detective Agency Employees
You must visit one of the MorphoTrak sites (a list of sites is available on their website: www.bioapplicant.com) to obtain your fingerprints. This service costs $67.50.
Step 4. Apply for a New Jersey License as a Private Investigator
Upon meeting the minimum education and experience requirements, you must apply for a private investigator license in New Jersey by completing the Application for Private Detective License and choosing the license for which you are applying:
- Individual License
- Corporate License
- Corporate License Officer (does not need to meet the experience requirements)
- LLC License
- LLC License Member (does not need to meet the experience requirements)
- Partnership License
You must also include the following documents with your completed application:
- An application fee of $250 (firm, association or corporation is $300), made payable to the State of New Jersey
- A passport-sized photograph
- At least 5 references from reputable citizens over the age of 21 who can attest to your competency to serve as a licensed private investigator
- A notarized and signed Authorization for Release of Information form (included with the application)
- A Detective Agency License Surety Bond form
- Individual surety bond must be at least $3,000
- Firm, association or corporation surety bond must be at least $5,000
Mail the completed application and related documents to:
New Jersey State Police
Private Detective Unit
P.O. Box 7068
West Trenton, NJ 08628
Step 5. Pursue Work in New Jersey
Private investigators in New Jersey often seek membership in professional associations, such as the New Jersey Licensed Private Investigators Association. Members of the NJLPIA can network with other licensed private investigators in the state, participate in training events and conferences, and stay current on legislation that affects the private investigation profession.
Professional certification in this field is also common through such associations as:
- ASIS International: Professional Certified Investigator certification
- National Association of Legal Investigators: Certified Legal Investigator certification
Step 6. Maintain your New Jersey License
Private investigator licenses must be renewed every 2 years. They must be renewed by completing and notarizing the Renewal Application for New Jersey Private Detective License, submitting a recent passport-sized photograph, and paying the $200 individual license (or $250 for all other types of licenses) renewal fee.
If you are renewing a corporate or LLC license, you must include a copy of your last annual report or provide a Corporate Resolution that lists the current officers.
You must also include your current surety bond and submit to fingerprinting services again through MorphoTrak.
Private Investigator Salary Information for New Jersey
Two hundred and ninety private investigators worked in New Jersey in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). New openings are expected as current PIs retire, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development is projecting a growth rate of 8.6% in the ten year period leading up to 2020.
The 2012 annual median wage of private investigators in New Jersey was $54,370 based on information from the BLS. Experienced PIs made substantially more. The average wage for those in the top tenth percentile was $90,980.
The BLS also provides the 2012 salaries of private investigators in a number of cities in New Jersey. The median wage is listed below, followed by the average salaries of the top earners:
Private investigators in New Jersey are regulated as private detectives, and a license from the New Jersey State Police is required to operate in the state. An applicant to be a private detective or private investigator must be at least 25 years old and have five years of experience as an investigator or police officer. Liability insurance in the form of a $3000 surety bond is also required.
There are a number of career options for private investigators in New Jersey. Potential employers include:
- State and local government
- Police departments
- Retail establishments
- Insurance companies
- High tech companies
- Credit intermediation companies
Some of the most lucrative employers for private investigators include high tech companies such as aerotech firms and companies that make medical devices.
A detailed breakdown of salary information by city is available from the BLS for private investigators who worked in New Jersey in 2012. It is presented in the table below.
Private Investigator Salaries in New Jersey