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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Oregon

There are a number of different types of jobs for private investigators in Oregon, ranging from investigating potential investment companies to aiding attorneys in criminal defense cases.

These are the steps you need to go through to be become a licensed private investigator in Oregon:

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

Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) licenses private investigators who work in the state.  The DPSST officially defines these professionals as investigators who solicit or accept employment to furnish or obtain information about crimes, persons, property, accidents, etc. 



Step 1.  Meet Oregon Requirements to Obtain a License

You must meet several requirements to be able to become a private investigator in Oregon.  These include:

  • Being a U.S. citizen
  • Being at least 18 years old Having the following verifiable experience performing investigative work:
    • 1,500 hours
    • A substitution of up to 500 hours of education



Step 2.  Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in Oregon

Before you can become a licensed private investigator in Oregon, you will need to have 1500 hours experience performing investigative work.  You will have to contact a detective agency or a private investigator to offer them your services as an apprentice.

You can reduce the time you will need to work by 1/3 by obtaining advanced education. Three hours in class counts as one hour of allowable experience.  Also, having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice would help make you a more desirable candidate for jobs in the investigative field.

Obtaining a degree in criminal justice will also help you learn about the legal system that you will be navigating and help to hone your analytical skills.  You can obtain this training from schools located in cities such as Portland, Salem, Eugene, or Gresham.  Another option is to enroll in online training that is offered by a number of accredited institutions.



Step 3.  Submit your Oregon Application

When you apply for your license, you will need the following items:

  • Fees made out to DPSST (no personal checks or cash)
    • Background check and exam fee:  $79
    • License fee:  $550
      • Those who have returned from active military status are exempt
  • Application (PS-1)
  • Letters of reference (3 professional)
  • Fingerprint cards
    • Sealed with affidavit (PS-4) in a tamperproof bag
  • Photographs (2 electronic taken within last six months)
  • Bond or insurance:
    • $5,000 corporate surety bond or
    • $5,000 errors and omissions insurance, showing individual licensee
  • Resume (clearly showing education, qualifications, and work experience)
  • Professional Code of Ethics for PIs (PI-27)

You can expect the process to take 4 to 8 weeks.



Step 4.  Take the Oregon Examination

Once your application packet has been processed, the state will notify you of your registration to take the PI Proficiency exam.  Once you have been approved for the exam, you can call 503-378-8531 to make an appointment to take it.  You should study for this exam ahead of time to increase your chances of passing.  Oregon statutes Chapter 9, 40, 135, and 161-167 will be covered.

There are two phases in the examination process.  First, you will be given an orientation that covers general licensing requirements and standards.  You will be given a lunch break and then will take the exam immediately afterwards.

This open book exam has a combination of 50 true/false and multiple choice questions.  Copies of Oregon Revised Statute and Administration Rule that are relevant to the exam will be provided to you.  You are not allowed to bring your own material.

You will have to attain a score of 86% to pass, and you will be given up to three tries to pass it.  If you do not pass during these three attempts, you will have to wait a year to take it again.



Step 5.  Start Work as a Private Investigator in Oregon

Once you passed your exam and received your license, you will be ready to start work as a licensed private investigator. Your license will be good for two years.

You may want to join the Oregon Association of Licensed Investigators, Inc..  In addition to opportunities for networking, you can obtain such benefits as a discounted website for your business.

During the time period for which your license is valid, you will need to obtain 32 hours of continuing education.  Two of these hours must be in ethics.  You can obtain this education from a variety of places, including:

  • Attending:
    • Educational institutions
      • Up to 20 hours can be obtained online
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Computer seminars
  • Publishing an article or a book
  • TV and radio appearances
  • Reading:
    • Non-fiction books relevant to investigation
    • Professional/technical manuals

To determine exactly what qualifies for continuing education credits, you can review the continuing education guidelines in Division 61 section 259-061-0260 of Oregon’s Administrative Rules.  You must submit a summary form of this education when you apply for your renewal.

To be sure your renewal is processed in time, you should apply at least two weeks before the expiration date of your license.  If you turn in your renewal package late, you will have to pay a $25 late fee.  You will have to retake the exam and go through another background check if you apply for your renewal more than 30 days past the expiration date.  It is illegal for you to work as a PI in Oregon after your license expires.



Private Investigator Salary Information for Oregon

The growth of jobs for private investigators in Oregon is expected to be robust in the ten year period leading up to 2020.  Oregon’s Employment Department estimates job growth to be 16.1%.  While 60% of these jobs are predicted to come from replacing investigators that leave the workforce, 40% are projected to be from the creation of new jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 230 PIs were employed in Oregon in 2012. 

Their annual median wage is listed below followed by that of the highest earning PIs in the top 10th percentile.

Oregon City
Average Annual Salary

To become a private detective or private investigator in Oregon, a license from the state’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) is required.  Veterans who actively served in the military do not have to pay a licensing fee.

Applicants will have to fulfill a number of requirements and take a written exam to obtain this license.  They must achieve a score of 86% to pass this test.

Only those who are at least 18 years old can apply for a license.  They must have at least 1500 hours of experience as an investigator.  This time can be reduced by up to a third with college credit hours.

A criminal background check is also required, and applicants must have $5000 liability insurance either as a surety bond or errors and omissions insurance.  The DPSST also requires three professional letters of reference.

Licenses are good for two years, and private investigators must obtain 32 hours of continuing education to be able to renew it.

The BLS provides detailed 2012 salary information for private investigators in geographic regions.  In the case of Oregon, a detailed breakdown of the Portland area is available and is shown in the following table.

Private Investigator Salaries in Oregon

Area name
Annual mean wage
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro OR-WA

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