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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in North Carolina

There are a number of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to be eligible for private investigator jobs in North Carolina. Follow the steps in this guide to learn how to become a private investigator in North Carolina:

Meet North Carolina Requirements to Obtain a License
Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in North Carolina
Submit your North Carolina Application
Start Work as a Private Investigator in North Carolina

The legal definition of a private investigator in North Carolina is found in state code Chapter 74C.  Article 1.  It defines a person as being a private investigator when he or she contracts to engage in the profession or accepts employment to do any of the following:

  • Investigate crimes or wrongs against the U.S. or its states or territories
  • Determine the details of any person’s business or personal dealings and character
  • Identify the location, recovery, or disposition of stolen or lost property
  • Determine responsibility or cause of events such as fires, libels, accidents, injuries, damages, etc.
  • Secure evidence that will be used before a court, officer, board, or investigative committee
  • Protect individuals from death or serious bodily harm



Step 1.  Meet North Carolina Requirements to Obtain a License

To become a private investigator in North Carolina, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
    • 21 years old to be an armed PI
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have U.S. citizenship or be a resident alien
  • Be of good moral character



Step 2.  Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in North Carolina

Before you can apply for a license to be a private investigator in North Carolina, you need to have three years of experience conducting investigations with one of the following:

  • A private person, association, firm, or corporation or a contract security company
  • Any U.S. Armed Forces, federal, county, state, municipal law enforcement agency or an other governmental agency

This is the equivalent of 3,000 hours of training.  One way in which to gain some of this experience is to obtain a criminal justice degree.  This will help you learn how to become an effective and lawful private investigator and give you the analytical training to help experienced investigators pursue their cases.  You can get this type of training from schools located within North Carolina or from online schools that offer degrees in criminal justice.

You will get the following credits towards your experience requirement to become a private investigator in North Carolina for these degrees:

  • Associate’s:  400 hours
  • Bachelor’s:  800 hours
  • Graduate:  1200 hours

If you are applying to carry a firearm as you work, you will need to complete the training required for armed security guards in 12 NCAC 07D .0807.  You will only have to complete the first four types of classroom instruction for unarmed security guards:

  • The Security Officer in North Carolina
  • Legal Issues for Security Officers
  • Emergency Response
  • Communications

If you do not have the required training to become licensed as a PI in the state, you can apply to be an Associate and work under the supervision of a fully licensed PI in North Carolina.



Step 3.  Submit Your North Carolina Application

Once you have obtained the required training, you need to submit your application to the North Carolina Department of Justice.  You will need to provide a number of different pieces of information when you apply for your license.  The application and other required forms are available from the departmental website.  You will need to submit your:

  • Application (for armed or unarmed registration)
  • Fingerprint authorization card
  • Photograph of head and shoulders taken within the past six months
    • Email to PPSASP-Photos@ncdog.gov
    • Named like Doe.Jane.Sarah.1234.Licensee.jpg
        • Full name with your last name first
        • First four digits of your social security number
        • Type of license
    • Credit check from Equifax run within the past 30 days
    • Checks or money orders made out to the Private Protective Services Board
      • $150 non-refundable application fee
      • $38 for your fingerprint check
    • Proof of education (high school or college diploma or GED)
    • DD214 if a veteran or discharged
    • Release of record form that has been signed and notarized
    • Signed information form for the SBI Release of Records
    • Personal reference questionnaire filled out by each of your references

For registration as an armed private investigator, you will also have to submit the following:

  • Financial liability insurance certificate
  • Certificate of completion of unarmed training and firearms training

You will also need to have a criminal record check for each county that you have lived in for the past sixty months.  They must be from the Clerk of Court or else from approved on-line vendors listed at the website of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

If you have any questions, you can contact the North Carolina Private Protective Services Board Licensing Unit at 919-788-5320.



Step 4.  Now that You are a Private Investigator in North Carolina

Once you your application has been accepted and you have been granted a license to work as a private investigator in North Carolina for two years, you will be given a pocket identification card.  You must have this card on you at all times when you are working as a PI.

If you choose to carry a firearm as you work, you are subject to additional requirements from the state.  You will have been issued a firearm registration permit that you will need to carry with you.  If you are approached or addressed by a law enforcement officer, you are required to let them know that you are carrying a firearm and have a valid permit.  You will have to renew this permit annually.

After you are done conducting an investigation, you are required to provide a written report to each client within 30 days that details your findings.  You must keep a copy of this report.

There are continuing education requirements that you need to fulfill to keep your PI’s license.  You need to have at least 12 credit hours of training that has been approved by the Private Protective Services Board during your two year period of being licensed.  Ways to receive this credit include the following:

  • Attending a complete meeting of the Board
    • 1 credit per meeting; maximum of 4 credits per renewal period
  • Obtaining formal education in any of the following from an accredited institution:
    • Crime prevention
    • Criminal justice
    • Ethics
    • Finance
    • Forensics
    • Investigation
    • Law
    • Security profession
      • 1 credit per hour; not to exceed 8 hours
      • Only 6 credits allowed for online courses per renewal period
  • Conferences or seminars of the North Carolina Association of Private Investigators

You will have to turn in proof of your continuing education credits when you submit your license for renewal.  You need to have a report for each course signed by the instructor that includes the following:

  • Your name
  • The date the course was completed
  • The number of hours taken



Private Investigator Salary Information for North Carolina

Slightly more than 500 private investigators were employed in North Carolina in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Charlotte had the highest number of PIs of any of the cities in North Carolina, while Fayetteville had the fifth highest concentration of jobs in this field of any metropolitan area in the county.

The average annual salary for a private investigator or private detective in North Caroline was $60,020 in 2012 according to information provided by the BLS.  Experienced PIs earned substantially higher wages with those in the top tenth percentile having made $107,380 a year on average.

Average salaries overall and for the top tenth percentile for 2012 are listed for selected cities in North Carolina:

North Carolina City
Average Annual Salary

To become a private investigator in North Carolina, a license from the state’s Department of Justice is required.  Applicants must be at least 18 years old or 21 if they want to carry a firearm in the line of work.  They must have a criminal background check from every county they have lived in over the past five years.

The state requires that applicants have a substantial amount of experience—three years (3000 hours) as one of the following:

  • An investigator with a private person or a company
  • A law enforcement official

Obtaining a college degree can count towards the 3000 hour requirement.  The amount of experience that can be substituted for each type of degree is listed below:

  • Graduate: 1200 hours
  • Bachelor’s: 800 hours
  • Associate’s: 400 hours

Information on licensed private investigators who worked in North Carolina in 2012 is provided by the BLS.  A detailed listing of annual and salary levels for a number of cities in the state is shown below.

Private Investigator Salaries in North Carolina

Area name
Annual mean wage
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
Estimate not released
Fayetteville NC
Raleigh-Cary NC
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC

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