The New York State Division of Licensing Services licenses and regulates private investigators.
Before you can begin working as a licensed private investigator in the Empire State, from New York City to Rochester, Yonkers, Syracuse, and beyond, you must complete a specific number of steps:
Step 1. Meet Minimum New York Requirements for Licensure
Candidates who want to become licensed private investigators in New York must meet a number of minimum requirements:
- You must be at least 25 years old.
- You must be a United States citizen.
- You must possess a high school diploma.
Step 2. Meet Education and Experience Requirements in New York
To meet New York’s requirements for licensure, you must possess ONE of the following:
- At least 3 years of full-time investigative experience as an employee or a licensed private investigator or as an investigator for a government investigative agency or police agency
- At least 3 years of full-time equivalent experience where primary duties were to conduct investigations
- At least 3 years of full-time experience supervising the work of at least 3 people who performed investigations
- At least 20 years of service as a police officer
- At least 20 years of full-time service as a Fire Marshall
Although education requirements for licensure as a private investigator in New York are not enforced, many individuals in this line of work nevertheless pursue a degree in criminal justice or a related program as to obtain vital expertise in the field of criminal justice and law enforcement.
Step 3. Take the New York Private Investigator Examination
Before you can apply for a private investigator license in New York, you must take and pass the state examination for private investigators.
You can view the exam schedule for a list of upcoming dates and location and register for the exam at the test center on the day of the exam. Exam schedules are updated in January and July of each year.
You will have 2 ½ hours to complete the examination.
On the day of the exam, you must bring a government-issued photo ID (driver’s license, military ID, passport, state-issued identification and the $15 examination fee (check, money order, MasterCard or Visa acceptable).
Before taking the examination, you will be thumb printed, and all electronic devices, including cell phones, must be turned off during the exam. You must score at least 70 percent on the exam to receive a passing score, and you will be notified, by mail, of your passing or failing score on the exam. If you pass the exam, the Division of Licensing Services will mail you a license application to complete.
Step 4. Complete Fingerprinting Procedures in New York
All candidates for licensure must go through either IdentoGo or MorphoTrust USA to have their electronic fingerprints completed. You must schedule an appointment by calling 1-877-472-6915 (and provide them with the ORI number NY922020Z).
You must complete the NYS Fingerprinting Services Information form and bring it with you to the fingerprinting site and pay the $85.75 fingerprinting fee (payable to MorphoTrust USA).
Step 5. Apply for a New York Private Investigator License
You cannot apply for a license unless you pass the written exam, and you have 2 years from the date you pass the examination to apply for licensure.
You may apply for a private investigator license as an individual, a partnership, or a corporation.
Your application must include the following documents:
- A signed DMV Consent form
- Bond form
- Receipt from electronic fingerprinting by an approved vendor
- Application fee (made payable to the NYS Department of State) of $400 (or $500 for a business or corporate business license and $500 for each branch office)
- Proof of qualifying experience (a sworn statement from each employer)
- Sworn statements from at least 3 people who have direct knowledge of your claimed experience
- Proof of earnings for the last 3 years of full-time experience
Step 6. Get to Work in New York
There are a number of professional associations in New York that provide many benefits to private investigators, such as networking opportunities, events, conferences, and job opportunities:
- New York State Chapter of the Special Investigative Units Inc.
- New York State Police Investigators Association
- Associated Licensed Detectives of New York State
- New York Gang Investigators Association
- NYC Detective Investigators Association
- New York Welfare Fraud Investigators
- New York State Fire Investigators
Step 7. Maintain your New York License
All private investigator licenses in New York are renewed every 2 years. The cost of renewal is $400 ($500 for corporate or business), and you must provide the Division with a Certificate of Bonded Status form when renewing your license. You will receive renewal instructions from the Division within 90 days of the expiration of your license.
Private Investigator Salary Information for New York
New York state is a good place to find work as a private investigator. Not only did it have the greatest number of private investigator jobs in the country in 2012, it also had the third highest concentration of jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There was approximately one PI employed for every 3000 people in the state. This was a total of 3,220 private investigators and detectives.
The New York State Department of Labor projects that the number of private investigator and private detective jobs will increase 21.7% in the period from 2010 to 2020. In addition to the positions created by those leaving the profession, an additional one hundred jobs are expected to become available.
The average private investigator in New York state made $52,430 a year in 2012, according to the BLS. Experienced PIs commanded an average salary of $70,750. The BLS provides salary information for a number of cities in New York state. The average annual salary for 2012 is listed below, followed by the average salary for those in the top 10th percentile of their field.
New York state requires that private investigators obtain a license from the Department of State Division of Licensing Services before they work in the state. Requirements include being at least 25 years old and undergoing a background check. Applicants must have one of the following amount types of experience before they can apply:
- Three years as a law enforcement officer
- Three years working for a licensed private investigator
- Twenty years as a an employee of a police or fire department
It is also necessary to pass a written exam to become a private investigator in New York state.
The BLS provides detailed information on the 2012 salaries of PIs in different parts of the state as shown below.
Private Investigator Salaries in New York