Between the miles of open desert where people go to disappear, the metros of Albuquerque and Santa Fe where fraud is all too common, and the booming oil fields that bring in thousands of temporary workers from out of state, things aren’t as sleepy here as they first seem. That means opportunities for PIs to set up shop and get down to the business of bringing closure to clients with big questions and a willingness to pay top dollar to get the answers they’re looking for.
According to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, there were 550 PIs working throughout the state in 2016. Even with quite a few PIs currently active in the state, the number of license holders is expected to increase by 7.3% during the ten-year period leading up to 2026. That tells the story of real demand for investigative services here, so you can be sure there’s plenty of room for new blood.
This means that whether you have your sights set on getting your own PI agency off the ground or you want to get scooped up by an established firm, state agency, or insurance company as an on-staff investigator, New Mexico is where you want to be. If you got what it takes for this kind of work, you can expect a fun ride.
The Private Investigations Advisory Board, within the Securities Division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, is responsible for licensing private investigators, private investigator managers, and private investigation companies, regulating the practice under the Private Investigations Act to ensure ethical standards are upheld.
Step 1. Meet Minimum Requirements for a New Mexico Private Investigator License
Before pursuing a license as a private investigator in New Mexico, you must first meet minimum requirements for licensure:
- You must be a citizen of the United States.
- You must have no felony convictions or convictions involving the illegal use or possession of a deadly weapon or violent act.
- You must have a high school diploma.
- You must be at least 21 years old.
- You must be able to successfully pass a jurisprudence examination issued by the department.
- You must be able to secure a surety bond of no less than $10,000.
- If you will provide personal protection or bodyguard services, you must be able to secure general liability insurance of no less than $1 million.
- You must be able to pass a background investigation.
Step 2. Complete Required Experience Hours in New Mexico
Candidates for private investigator licensure in New Mexico must show proof of the completion of at least 6,000 hours of investigative work in the last 5 years. Acceptable investigative work may include:
- Investigation for the purpose of obtaining information regarding crimes or threats
- The investigation of persons
- Investigation for the purpose of locating or recovering lost or stolen property
- Securing evidence to be used in court, in investigative committees, or for law enforcement officers
Although a college education is not a requirement for licensure as a private investigator in New Mexico, many individuals choose to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a similar program as to achieve a comprehensive framework of knowledge of the criminal justice system and of the many aspects of working within this system.
Step 3. Complete Mandatory Firearms Training in New Mexico
If you plan to carry a weapon as a private investigator in New Mexico, you must complete mandatory firearms training. All licensed private investigators must show proof of being firearm certified by an instructor who is recognized and certified by the New Mexico law enforcement academy or the National Rifle Association Law Enforcement Activities Division.
You must contact the Board at 505-476-4650 to receive information and forms related to firearms certification in New Mexico.
Step 4. Pass New Mexico’s Jurisprudence Examination
Before you apply for a license as a private investigator in New Mexico, you must pass a jurisprudence exam given by the Department. You must contact the Regulation and Licensing Department at 505-476-4500 to schedule a date and time to complete this examination.
Step 5. Apply for a Private Investigator License in New Mexico
Upon ensuring you meet the minimum requirements for licensure, you must complete the appropriate license application (and sign it in front of a notary public):
- Private Investigator License Application
- Private Investigation Company License Application Attachment
- Private Investigations Company License Application
- Private Investigation Manager Application
- Private Investigations Employee Registration Application
You must provide the following documentation with your completed application:
- A non-refundable application fee of $200 (includes $100 license fee and $100 examination fee)
- Proof of experience
- Two passport-sized photographs
- Proof of age (birth certificate, driver’s license or state-issued ID)
- Proof of mandatory firearms training (if applicable)
- A copy of your surety bond of no less than $10,000.
- Proof of an owner or licensed private investigations manager who will certify that they will manage the daily operations of the private investigation company (for private investigations companies)
- If you are the owner or CEO of a private investigation company that provides personal protection or bodyguard services, you must provide proof of an active general liability insurance policy of at least $1 million. (for private investigations companies)
- Proof of employment with a private investigation company for whom you will provide investigation services and the individual who will provide direct supervision to you (for private investigations employees)
Send the completed application and required documentation to:
New Mexico Private Investigations Board
P.O. Box 25101
Santa Fe, NM 87504
Step 6. Submit Fingerprint Cards in New Mexico
All candidates for private investigator licenses must provide 2 full sets of fingerprints to qualify for licensure.
You can obtain blank fingerprint cards by contacting the Regulation and Licensing Department at 505-476-4650. You must have them completed by a New Mexico state police officer, county sheriff or municipal chief of police.
You must submit your completed fingerprint cards to the department, along with a check or money order in the amount of $44 (made payable to NM Department of Public Safety) to cover the FBI and state background investigation. Mail the completed fingerprint cards and fee to:
NM Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 1628
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1628
Step 7. Maintain your New Mexico License
Many private investigators in New Mexico seek professional certification as to achieve professional recognition and to separate themselves from others in the field. You may choose to achieve professional certification as a Professional Certified Investigator through ASIS or a Certified Legal Investigator through the National Association of Legal Investigators.
All private investigator licenses expire biennially on the last day of your birth month, and you must complete your license renewal using the Division’s online license renewal system. License renewal fees are as follows:
- Private investigator: $300
- Private investigations manager: $200
- Private investigations employee: $200
You must also show proof of the completion of at least 4 continuing education hours, and you must send updated fingerprint cards, along with a $44 background fee (made payable to the Department of Public Safety, Fingerprint Section) to:
NM Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 1628
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1628
Private Investigator Salary Information for New Mexico*
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private investigators in New Mexico earned an annual, average salary of $56,900, putting them well ahead of the national average of $50,510. And once you’ve put some serious miles on your car and racked up a few years of experience under that belt of yours, you’ll soon find yourself earning about $79,710, the average salary for the top 10% of PIs here.
The state of New Mexico requires private investigators to hold a license from the New Mexico Private Investigations Board. To qualify for licensure, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old and you’ll have to complete at least 6,000 hours of investigative experience within the past five years, along with mandatory firearms training. Expect to pass a background check and provide proof of having a $10,000 surety bond as insurance.
To keep your license current, you’ll need to complete at least four hours of continuing education during each renewal period.
Private Investigator Salaries in Albuquerque
As of 2019, PIs in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest metro area, earned slightly above the state average of $56,900 for the profession.
The overall salary range (median-top 10%) for PIs in the Albuquerque area at that time was $58,600-$74,710 (approximately 30 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 Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions 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.