Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in North Dakota

North Dakota State Capitol BuildingWhether they’re involved in investigating a case of marital infidelity in Fargo, tracking down a missing person in Bismarck, or digging around to get to the bottom of an insurance fraud case in Grand Forks, North Dakota is where PIs with an eye for detail and a nose for the truth make their mark.

Take Al Kulesa, for example, a private investigator with Sentry Security and Investigations in the Fargo-Moorhead area. 

According to Kulesa, who was interviewed by Fargo’s Valley News Live, PIs here spend much of their time conducting surveillance, whether it’s working a disability fraud case or confirming the suspicions of a client’s cheating spouse. Kulesa, like many PIs in North Dakota and elsewhere, had a career in law enforcement before making the transition to private investigations.

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


Whether you want to get your own PI firm up and running and start taking cases in the city, or get your boots dirty working for an established PI agency or insurance company investigating injury claims out in the Williston Basin, with the right attitude and credentials, you can have more fun earning a living than you might have thought possible.



Step 1.  Meet North Dakota Requirements to Obtain a License

You must meet the following qualifications to become a private investigator in North Dakota:

  • Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have not been found guilty or convicted of any of the following (including as a juvenile):
    • Felony
    • Misdemeanor (Class A or B) involving violence, intimidation, or controlled substances
    • Theft, including shoplifting
  • Be free of a mental defect or condition that would impair your ability to professionally and competently provide services
  • Have not committed an act indicating the bad moral character

You may still be able to become a private investigator in North Dakota if you have one of these prohibited convictions if the board feels that you have been rehabilitated or that your offense would not prohibit you from serving the public.



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

You will need to have a substantial amount of experience to obtain your license to be a private investigator in North Dakota. The state requires that you have worked as a registered employee for a detective agency and have provided 2000 hours of investigative services in this manner.

To be an attractive candidate and to help you prepare for the exam, you may want to consider obtaining a formal degree in criminal justice. This will help train you in the analytical skills that are required to be a top-notch investigator and will help you in navigating the legal system as you perform your job.

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You can obtain an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from schools within the state or from online schools that offer such degrees. You may also want to take some courses in business management, as there will be questions in this area when you take your exam.

Armed PI Training – To work as an armed private investigator in North Dakota requires special training.  You will need to comply with all state and federal laws governing the use of firearms.  The state requires that you receive the same training as peace officers.

You will have to take an exam that has both a written part and a portion in which you demonstrate your skills with using a firearm. To pass this, you will have to score 70% overall and 100% on the portion about North Dakota’s laws.



Step 3.  Take the North Dakota Examination

Before you can apply for your license to become a private investigator, you will need to have passed North Dakota’s written examination. There are multiple versions of this 150-question exam. You are well-advised to study ahead of time to make sure you are prepared.

You will need to contact the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board to arrange a time to take the exam, which is proctored in Bismarck. You can contact them at 701-222-3063.

If you do not pass the exam, you can arrange to take it again at least 30 days after being notified of your results. If you fail it twice, you will need to wait a year before you can take the test again.



Step 4.  Submit Your North Dakota Application

Once you have received your training and passed your exam, you can apply to receive your North Dakota private investigator license. You will have to pay a $130 fee for your license. When you apply for the first time, you will also have to pay a one-time fee of $100.

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You will have to submit several forms that you can download from the state’s website. These include the following:

  • Application
  • Personal authorization for a criminal background check
  • Certification of training
  • Employment history for the past ten years



Step 5.  Start Work as a Private Investigator in North Dakota

Now that you have received your license, you can start working as a private investigator. The state requires that you conspicuously post your license at your place of business. They will send you a laminated pocket card that you should use as you interview people.

You will need to renew your license annually, and it is a crime not to do so if you are working as a North Dakota PI. Licenses expire on September 30, and you have 30 days to renew it so that it continues to be valid.


Private Investigator Salary Information for North Dakota*

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national average salary for private investigators was $50,510 as of May 2019. Although North Dakota doesn’t track average salaries for PIs, the average salary for PIs in South Dakota will give you a good idea of what you can expect to earn. 

According to the BLS, fellow PIs in South Dakota earned an average of $39,760 as reported in May 2020. Work your way up by doing great work and a solid reputation in the profession and you’ll likely land among the top earners in this field, who earned an annual average salary of $75,340 during this time.

A license from the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board (NDPISB) is required to become a private investigator in the state. To qualify for licensure, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old, and you’ll need to pass a written exam and show proof that you performed investigative services as a registered employee of a detective agency for at least 2,000 hours.

If you want to earn licensure as an armed PI in North Dakota, you must complete a course of training that’s equivalent to peace officers in the state and pass an additional examination that includes a written component and a demonstration of your firing skills.

PI Salaries in Major Metros in States Neighboring North Dakota

Although the BLS does not outline average salaries for private investigators in North Dakota’s metro areas, you can get a good idea of your earning power as a PI by looking at nearby metro areas.

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PIs in the Sioux Falls metro area earned an average salary that rivaled that of the national average of $49,740 in 2019.

*May 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary and Job Market Figures for Private Detectives and Investigators reflect state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

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