Home to major metros like Newark and Jersey City, not to mention the millions of other human dramas playing out in the nearby metros of NYC, Pittsburgh and Philly, you better believe New Jersey PIs have as many cases as they can handle.
The New Jersey State Police, Private Detective Unit, responsible for the administration and enforcement of all laws relating to private detectives and PI agencies in the state, regulates more than 2,000 licensed PIs and private security agencies, and the roughly 50,000 employees that work for them.
And still the number of licensed PIs is only expected to grow in the coming years. According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the demand for private investigative work is expected to result in a 12% growth rate during the ten-year period leading up to 2026.
In other words, whether you’ve got your mind set on opening up shop and operating your own PI agency or you plan to bring your patented blend of grit and determination to an established shop, there’s plenty of lucrative opportunities right here in the Garden State.
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*
New Jersey private investigators enjoy some of the highest salaries in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these pros earned an average salary of $62,800, as reported in May 2019, ranking New Jersey among the top-paying states for PIs. Even better, the top pros in the field here earned an average salary of $98,520 during this time.
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. To qualify, you need to 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 $3,000 surety bond is also required.
Private Investigator Salaries in Newark and Jersey City
If you’re looking to lay down professional roots in a state where consistent demand for PIs has resulted in employment rates that top the nation, then look no further than right here in New Jersey.
The BLS reports that employment levels for private investigators in New Jersey are among the highest in the nation, particularly in the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY/NJ/PA metropolitan area, which is ranked second in the nation, behind only the Pittsburgh, PA metro area.
The following BLS stats reveal the median-top 10% salary range for PIs in the Newark-Jersey City MSA:
Newark-Jersey City: $52,350-$84,100 (approximately 1,410 licensed PIs)
*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 New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development 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.