In Oklahoma, a career in private investigations comes with a sense of pride. The work is never dull and you definitely earn your pay, but at the end of the day you’ll feel good and know exactly why you chose this line of work. Case in point: Tulsa-based private investigator Eric Cullen has spent much of his career working tirelessly for wrongfully convicted Oklahomans. As of 2019, he helped secure freedom for six individuals who, between them, were serving 130 years in prison.
Whether your passions lie with helping the wrongfully convicted or tracking down missing persons, Oklahoma is the place you want to be. According to the Oklahoma Security Commission, there were 300 PIs working in the state in 2016; by 2026, that number is projected to increase 10% based on the demand for investigative services related to everything from job insurance fraud to marital infidelity. While the number of PIs here is small, the demand remains strong and steady, which means there’s no shortage of opportunities for anybody with a little grit and determination, and the work ethic to see a case through to completion.
In Oklahoma, the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) licenses private investigators according to the regulations of the Oklahoma Security Guard and Private Investigator Act.
Step 1. Meet Oklahoma Requirements to Obtain a License
You must meet some basic requirements to be able to apply for a private investigator’s license in Oklahoma. They include the following:
- Be at least 18 years old (21 years old for an armed license)
- Be a U.S. citizen or an alien who is legally residing in the country
- Be of good moral character
- Have not been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or a felony*
*There is a list of several dozen crimes that you must not have committed on page 80 (89 in the pdf) in Appendix A of the CLEET Rules of the private security industry.
Step 2. Obtain the Necessary Training in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has very specific training requirements that you have to follow to receive your PI license. You will need to take the following phases of training:
- Unarmed: Phases I (20 hours) and III (35 hours)
- Armed: Phases I (20 hours) and III (35 hours), and IV (32 hours)
There is a list of approved schools that offer training in these phases in Oklahoma.
If you have equivalent experience, you may be able to get this training requirement waived. This may apply to the following professions:
- Oklahoma Correctional Officers
- Oklahoma Peace Officers
- Oklahoma Reserve Officers
- Military Police
- Out of state Police Officers (full time)
- Private investigators or security guards
- Employed full time for one year during the past three years
The one exception is firearms training. The requirement for firearms training cannot be waived.
Step 3. Submit your Oklahoma Application
When you first apply for your license, you will need to provide a number of items along with your application. You must submit the following:
- Application (including notarized signature)
- Arrest history: letter of no record or certified court judgment and sentence
- Fingerprint cards (usually available from your local Sheriff’s Office or Police Department)
- Photographs (2 current passport sized or 3 for armed licenses)
- Record checks
- Local Police Department
- Sheriff Department
- Proof of bond/insurance or letter of employment
- Documented proof of experience or comparable training
- Fee made out to CLEET (no personal checks; cash only at offices)
- Unarmed PI: $91
- Armed PI: $141
- Agency application (if self-employed)
Applicants for an armed license have additional requirements:
- Passage of a psychological evaluation from a licensed psychologist
- Certification of firearms training
If you do not have the required training, but you are employed as a trainee or full time investigator at an agency, you can apply for a conditional license that is good for 180 days. During that time, you will have to obtain the required training. The cost of a conditional license is the same as for a regular one.
Step 4. Take the Oklahoma Examination
As part of your application process, you will have to take an online examination that is provided by CLEET. The fee for this exam is $25. You can take it at any one of several dozen locations throughout Oklahoma. The tests start at 9 AM, and you will have to achieve a score of 70% to pass it.
Step 5. Start Work as a Private Investigator in Oklahoma
Now that you have passed your exam, the state will send you a license that you are a bona fide private investigator. You will need to carry this card on you at all times while you are working as a PI and be prepared to present it to a law enforcement officer or CLEET representative.
If you change your name, telephone number or address, you will need to notify the Council. This must be within ten days for changes of your phone number and address.
When you are self-employed, you will need to have your own liability insurance or surety bond provided by a company that has a license to do business in the state.
In addition, you may want to join the Oklahoma Private Investigators Association (OPIA) that provides networking opportunities throughout the state. This can provide opportunities for jobs.
Step 6. Fulfill your Continuing Education Requirement in Oklahoma
Both armed and unarmed private investigators are required by the state of Oklahoma to get 16 hours of continuing education a year to renew your license. Your initial training to get your license will suffice for your first year. After that, you have a number of options for your training.
One option is to get training in your field such as formal criminal justice training. One credit hour will count for 15 hours of your mandated training. You can take such courses from instate schools or online courses that offer options in criminal justice.
Another option is to obtain training from established entities such as the National Legal Association or the Oklahoma Bar Association. You will be granted one hour of credit for each hour of training, provided that the training directly relates to your work as a private investigator.
Your final option is to take part in CLEET seminars, conferences, or accredited schools. You will also receive one hour of credit for training if you obtain your training in this manner. OPIA seminars can also count towards this continuing education requirement.
Private Investigator Salary Information for Oklahoma*
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average, annual salary for private investigators in Oklahoma was $39,570 as of May 2019. But get a few years of experience under your belt and establish a solid reputation in the industry and you can soon join the ranks of some of the highest paid who earn an average salary of $68,330.
Private investigators in Oklahoma must earn a license from the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET). To qualify for licensure, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old, or 21 years old if you want to apply for an armed license. You must also pass an online exam, show proof of liability insurance, and complete a specific course of training.
The training requirement may be waived if you’ve worked as correctional, peace, or reserve officer in the state or if you have one year of full-time work experience as a private investigator or security guard.
If you want to apply for an armed license, you must pass a psychological exam and show proof of certification that you have been trained in the use of firearms.
Private Investigation Salaries in Tulsa
According to the BLS, the Tulsa metro area reported an average annual salary of $31,690 for private investigators as of May 2019, with the top 10% earning an average salary of $64,750.
*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 Oklahoma Security Commission 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.