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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in South Carolina

These are the steps that you need to take if you want to become a private investigator in South Carolina:

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

In South Carolina, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) licenses private investigators.  This license entitles you to do the following:

  • Operate a private investigation or private security business or entity
  • Perform or employ others to pursue investigative activities
  • Charge fees for private investigative services



Step 1.  Meet the Requirements to Obtain a License in South Carolina

You must meet a number of requirements to become a private investigator in South Carolina.  They include the following:

  • Be at least 18 years old (21 if armed)
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • If you are a veteran, you must have one of the following discharges:
    • Honorable
    • General under Honorable
    • Uncharacterized
  • Not have been convicted of one of the following crimes:
    • Felony
    • Crime of moral turpitude
  • Not have a pending criminal charge that would disqualify you
  • Not currently holding a position that would be a conflict of interest
    • Exception is law enforcement officers that work unregistered for Premise Companies under the Moonlighting statute



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

To get a license to operate a PI business, you need to have a substantial amount of experience or training.  These include either:

  • Three years of employment as a full time sworn police officer employed in an investigative capacity
  • Equivalent amount of experience while a registered employee of a licensed PI business

Formal training in criminal justice can be applied toward the experience requirement.  The amount of credit that each degree provides is as follows:

  • Certificate for study of PI:  Six months
  • Associate’s degree:  Six months
  • Bachelor’s degree:  One year
  • Graduate degree:  One and a half years

Criminal justice degrees are available from schools in Charleston, North Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and other cities in South Carolina.  Another way to obtain such degrees is by enrolling in one of the online schools that offer criminal justice training.



Step 3.  Submit Your South Carolina Application

Once you have obtained the required training, you can submit your application for a new private investigator’s business license.  You obtain the forms you need from the state’s website.  You will need to provide the following items:

  • Application (signed and notarized)
  • License fee:  $350 money order, cashier’s check, or company check made out to SLED
  • Fingerprint cards (2 complete sets)
  • Photograph (color taken within the past 3 months)
  • Surety bond for $10,000
  • Statement from your county’s Clerk of Court’s office that you do not have any outstanding civil judgments
  • Forms:
    • PD/PS-9
    • Disclosure of Principal(s)
    • Qualifications
    • DD-214 (if you have served in the military)
    • Copy of a sample contract



Step 4.  Start Work as a Private Investigator in South Carolina

After 4 to 6 weeks, you should receive your license and you can start work as a private investigator.  There are a number of different types of jobs that you can take as a PI in South Carolina.  Civil and defense attorneys, insurance companies, and some individuals employ private investigators.

The requirements for being an armed PI differ depending on your experience.  If you are a retired law enforcement officer, you do not need a permit to carry a gun in South Carolina.  If you are a resident of the state and meet the standards for a Concealable Weapons Permit (CWP), you can carry a handgun anywhere in the state except where prohibited by state or federal law.

Your license will be good for one year.  To renew it, you will need to have 12 hours of continuing education credits that have been verified by SLED during the 24-month period before your renewal.

This can include college, correspondence, or self-study programs.  SLED offers seminars that count towards this requirement, and at least 4 hours of the training must be presented by SLED or approved in advance in writing.  You will have to provide proof of your education when you submit your renewal.



Private Investigator Salary Information for South Carolina

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 160 private investigators were employed in South Carolina in 2012.  Their annual median wage was $49,920 with those in the top tenth percentile of their wage bracket averaging $68,670 a year.

Information on salaries from the BLS are presented for selected areas in South Carolina:

South Carolina City
Average Annual Salary
Augusta-Richmond County

A license from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is required to be a private investigator or private detective in the state.  Applicants must be at least 21 years old if they wish to be armed or 18 years old otherwise.  They must submit proof of having liability insurance in the form of a $10,000 surety bond.

SLED requires that applicants have a substantial amount of experience to become a private investigator or a private detective.  Three years of full time employment is required in one of the following categories:

  • Investigative sworn police officer
  • Registered employee of a private investigator business that is licensed

Applicants can get credit towards this requirement by obtaining a formal education in criminal justice.  The following amount of credit is granted for these degrees:

  • Six months:  certificate or associate’s degree
  • One year:  bachelor’s
  • One and a half years:  graduate

The permit requirements for carrying a firearm as a PI vary depending on the person’s background.  Retired law enforcement officers do not need a permit.  Other private investigators have to meet the state’s standards to carry a concealed weapon.

A private investigator’s license is good for one year in South Carolina.  Twelve hours of continuing education is required to get a renewal.

Salary data on the private investigators that were employed in 2012 is available from the BLS.  The data available on South Carolina is presented in the following table.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Augusta-Richmond County GA-SC
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
Estimate not released
Columbia SC

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