Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in South Dakota

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

Whether you’re tracking down a missing person, investigating a cheating spouse, or investing a fraudulent L&I claim, if you’re doing it in South Dakota there’s a good chance you’ll be putting some serious miles on your car and some serious hours behind the keyboard poring over social media to uncover the answers your clients are paying for. But it’s an empowering line of work, and even the dull moments are your own since you’ll never have anybody looking over your shoulder, and that’s something every PI will tell you makes all the long stakeouts and lonely hours well worth it.

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It takes a strong worth ethic and a knack for uncovering the truth, but if you put in the time to learn the ropes you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. With about 100 PIs actively taking cases in South Dakota as of 2019, according to the South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation, you could bump up against some competition, but the market is nowhere near oversaturated.

The path to becoming a PI in South Dakota is a whole lot easier than it is in other states. That’s because the state government doesn’t require PIs to be licensed here. However, keep in mind that if you have plans to work independently, as most do, you will need to establish your business, obtain a sales tax license, and check with your city and county to see if there are any local ordinances that you’ll need to follow.

Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in South Dakota
Set up your Business in South Dakota
Obtain a South Dakota Sales Tax License
Start Work as a Private Investigator in South Dakota



Step 1.  Obtain the Necessary Education and Training in South Dakota

Although there are no stated education and training requirements to become a private investigator in South Dakota, you will need strong analytical skills and a working knowledge of the legal system. You can obtain these skills by working as an employee for a detective agency or by obtaining a degree in criminal justice.

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An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice would strengthen your analytical skills and give you a firm grounding in the state and federal legal system. You can obtain this type of training from schools located in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Yankton, Vermillion, and Mitchell.  In addition, you can obtain criminal justice degrees from one of the many online schools that offer degrees in this field.



Step 2.  Set up Your Business in South Dakota

If you plan on working alone as a private investigator, you will need to set up an independent PI agency business. You should consult with a tax specialist to determine if you want to have a sole proprietorship or incorporate as an LLC.

There are advantages to incorporating. If someone were to sue you over the course of your investigations, your personal assets would be protected. This is not the case if you are the sole proprietor.

If you decide to name your company as something other than your name, you will need to register the fictitious name:

  • Sole proprietors: Register with the county Register of Deeds
  • Corporations: Register and start your business process with the Office of the South Dakota Secretary of State

Once your business has been approved by the state, you will need to obtain a federal tax ID number from the IRS if you have incorporated the business. This is not necessary for sole proprietors. You will also need to register with the Unemployment Insurance Tax Unit.



Step 3.  Obtain a South Dakota Sales Tax License

Your services as a private investigator fall under the Department of Revenue’s Business Tax Division’s Sales and Service Tax License. You will not need to worry about this if you are an employee, but if you have established yourself as a principal of a new PI agency business, you will need to charge sales tax.

The state of South Dakota charges a 4% tax on all of the services you provide.  You will need to obtain a license to charge sales tax from the South Dakota Department of Revenue. In addition, approximately 53% of the municipalities in the state have an additional tax.



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

Once you have obtained your sales tax license and checked with your city or county to make sure you have complied with any local rules, you can start work as a private investigator.

If you want to work for a detective agency, there are several prominent ones that sometimes offer jobs to aspiring private investigators in South Dakota:

  • Executive Services Consultants
  • Investigative Services of Nebraska/South Dakota/Iowa
  • South Dakota Private Investigators
  • Stealth Investigative Agency


Private Investigator Salary Information for South Dakota*

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), PIs in South Dakota earned an annual, average salary of $37,460 in May 2020. Even better, those who have put in a few years of work and established a name for themselves (top 10%) earned an average salary of $60,020 during this time.

Private Investigator Salaries in Sioux Falls

Not surprisingly, Sioux Falls’ private investigators earn an average salary that’s higher than in any other part of the state.

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In 2019, the median-top 10% salary range for PIs in the Sioux Falls area is $49,740 – $75,750.

Outside of becoming your own boss, you can find jobs in this field through investigative and security firms, state and local governments, and insurance companies.

*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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