Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Ohio

Ohio requires a license to become a private investigator.  They are issued by the Private Investigators & Security Services (PISGS) of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.  These are the steps you need to take to obtain a license and seek employment as a private investigator in Ohio:

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

In Ohio, a private investigator is defined as anyone who engages in the private investigation business.  Such a business is defined as conducting for hire any of the following types of investigations:

  • Investigations relevant to any wrong done or threat of crime
  • To obtain information on the identity, conduct, habits, affiliations, whereabouts, transactions, credibility, reputation, or character of a person
  • To locate and recover stolen or lost property
  • To determine responsibility or cause of any slander or libel, fire, damage to property, or accident
  • To secure evidence that is used in any administration, legislative, or administrative investigation or proceeding



Step 1.  Meet Ohio Requirements to Obtain a License

You must meet the following qualifications to obtain the Class B license necessary to work as a private investigator in Ohio:

  • Have a good reputation for integrity
  • Not have been convicted of any of the following crimes of moral turpitude
    • A sexually oriented offense
    • Aggravated murder
    • Murder
    • Violence that is a felony of the 1st or 2nd degree
  • Not have been convicted within the past three years
    • Felony that would affect your ability to work as a PI
  • Not have been found incompetent to hold such a license

It may be possible to get a waiver from the Director if you have committed a felony within the past three years that is not a crime of moral turpitude or a disqualifying offense that would directly affect your work as a private investigator.



Step 2.  Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in Ohio

To get a Class B license, the state of Ohio requires that you have two years of experience (minimum of 4000 hours) working in investigatory work.  This requirement can be waived if you have equivalent experience such as working as a military policeman, law enforcement officer, or peace officer.

If you get formal training in criminal justice, such as obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, this can count for half of your experience requirement.  You can obtain criminal justice degrees from schools within Ohio or from online schools that offer this training.  You will need to prove that you have obtained such a degree.

Armed PI Training – You will need to learn the basics of firearms training at a school that has been approved by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission and prove that you successfully completed the program.  This entails 20 hours of training in using a handgun.  If you plan on using other types of firearms, you will need 5 hours of additional training.



Step 3.  Submit your Ohio Application

When you submit your application, you will also have to provide the following:

  • Photograph (recent full-face)
  • Character references (from at least 5 reputable citizens)
  • Fees:
    • Examination fee of $25
    • License fee of up to $375 (refundable if you don’t get a license)
  • Fingerprints for a criminal background check—submitted directly to the Superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation
  • Proof of liability insurance of at least
    • $100,000 for each investigator
    • $300,000 for each occurrence of bodily injury
    • $100,000 for property damage

Forms are available on the state’s website for the PISGS.  If you want to carry a firearm in the line of work, you will need to notify the Director.



Step 4.  Take the Ohio Examination

After you have submitted your application for your license, you will be notified when and where to go to take your written examination.  Unless you prove illness by a doctor’s certificate, you will have to appear on this date.  The only exception is if you can prove that it would cause you undue hardship.

The exam will cover the state’s regulations for the private investigation business in Chapter 4749 of the state’s revised code, along with other aspects of working as a private investigator.  You will have to score 80% on this 75 question multiple exam to pass it.



Step 5.  Start Work as a Private Investigator in Ohio

After you have passed your exam and received your license, you will be ready to work as a licensed private investigator.  You will need to keep detailed records in English of your business transactions that are relevant to the enforcement of Revised Code Chapter 4749.  You will need to make these records to the Department of Public Safety if they seek to examine them.

You may want to join the Ohio Association of Security & Investigation Services to keep up with what is going on in your field and to network with fellow private investigators.

PI licenses must be renewed yearly.  The fee for this is $275.



Private Investigator Salary Information for Ohio

The Ohio Department of Labor considers the field of private investigation to be one of the occupations with the highest employment prospects in the state.  Three hundred and forty private investigators were employed in Ohio in 2012 according to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics).  The state projects employment levels to increase by 13.3% in the period from 2008 to 2018.

The average annual 2012 salary of a private investigator or private detective in Ohio was $46,080 according to the BLS.  Those in the top 10th percentile earned an average of $73,850 that year.

Nearly two thirds of the PIs in the state were located in Cleveland and Columbus in 2012.  Their average annual salaries and those of the top 10th percentile are listed below, along with those in Cincinnati.

Ohio City
Average Annual Salary

A license from the Ohio Department of Public Safety is required to become a private investigator in Ohio, along with passing a written exam.  A background check and proof of insurance are required to apply for a license.  Applicants must have the following amount of liability insurance:

  • $100,000 per investigator
  • $100,000 for property damage
  • $300,000 for each occurrence of bodily injury

This department also requires that applicants have at least 4000 hours (two years) of experience working as an investigator.  It will waive this requirement for applicants that have equivalent experience such ash having been a law enforcement officer or military policeman.  Applicants that have a criminal justice degree only need 2000 hours of experience

There are additional requirements to work as an armed private investigator.  Applicants must attend a school approved by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission.

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of wages by city for PIs that were licensed and working in Ohio in 2012.  This information is listed in the following table.

Private Investigator Salaries in Ohio

Area name
Annual mean wage
Cincinnati-Middletown OH-KY-IN
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor OH
Columbus OH
Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna WV-OH
Estimate not released

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