By now you’re either hardened by years of criminal investigations experience from your time in law enforcement or fresh from a PI training program. Either way, you’re champing at the bit and can’t wait to get out in the field so you can start putting your skills to work for private clients and making a payday for yourself doing what you do best – surveillance and investigations.
The one remaining hurdle is the exam. Twenty-two states require you to pass an exam as a condition of becoming licensed, and three additional states offer the option to take an exam as one possible route to licensure.
State Jurisprudence Exam
The most common type of evaluation is a state jurisprudence exam designed to validate a candidate’s understanding of state laws as they relate to private investigations work. There are several underlying reasons why your state board wants to know that you’re familiar with local laws before handing you a PI license:
- To ensure you know the applicable laws that relate to your practice
- To protect the public by ensuring you understand applicable laws
- To help you understand how to look up laws and statutes that relate to PI work
PI Skills Assessment
Some states also require a PI skills exam designed to evaluate whether or not you have what it takes to do the work competently. Questions you might encounter in a skills exam would cover key topics that include:
- Proper identification
- Report writing
- Courtroom testimony
- Manufacturing evidence
- Transmission tracking
- Obtaining and researching public information
State licensing exams represent the final test of your legal knowledge and aptitude for PI work. Even gaining a clear understanding of the requirements in your state can present something of a challenge.
Here at PrivateInvestigatorEDU.org we look for opportunities to make things a little easier on the people that have what it takes to make it in this industry. Here you’ll find the basic licensing requirements in your state along with links to the exam proctoring agencies that administer the exams, applications, and exam preparation material.
Choose A State To View Exam Requirements
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- One hour time limit
- 70 percent required to pass
- 50 questions divided into two categories:
- 34 practical PI knowledge
- 16 Alabama laws and rules
Currently Alaska has no PI license requirements
Arizona does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Arkansas does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
- Two-hour time limit
- 150 questions divided among these categories:
- Information gathering – 22 percent
- Planning – 19 percent
- Reporting – 18 percent
- Analysis – 15 percent
- Ethics – 12 percent
- Trial preparation – 10 percent
- Surveillance – 4 percent
Jurisprudence exam required:
- No time limit, however the exam must be completed within 30 days
- The exam is sponsored by the state and taken via any internet connection
- Passing score is 75 percent
- There are a total of 45 questions covering the following topics:
- Standards of practice – 42 percent
- General laws, rules, and regulations – 27 percent
- Disciplinary provisions and procedures – 16 percent
- Grounds for discipline – 15 percent
This test is administered by ISO-Quality Testing. See the test taker information bulletin for more information.
Connecticut does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Delaware does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
The District of Columbia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Anyone who performs services as a private investigator must obtain at least a Class C PI license. To be eligible for this you must pass a jurisprudence exam.
- No strict time limit, but you should be able to finish within two hours
- Questions evaluate your knowledge of:
The exam is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You apply for this exam by filling out a PI license application.
Georgia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
- Exams are held once a month on Oahu
- The passing score is 75 percent
- The content of the exam covers two main subjects:
- Private investigator skills and security investigations
- Laws, statutes, and rules related to being a PI in Hawaii
Exams are administered by the Hawaii Board of Detectives and Guards. You’ll receive a notice of exam approval once you’ve submitted a complete PI license application. For more information see the private detectives and guards study materials.
Currently Idaho has no PI licensing requirements
- The time limit is 90 minutes
- You must score at least 70 to pass
- There are a total of 75 questions in total, divided among these topics:
- Federal and state law – 23 questions
- Gathering information – 16 questions
- Licensing and practice requirements – 12 questions
- Case management – 12 questions
- Analysis, presentation, and reporting – 12 questions
The exam is administered by Continental Testing Services (CTS) and you can apply with them online. For more information see the private detective licensure examination information.
Indiana does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Iowa does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
- 20 questions total – 5 true/false, 5 fill-in-the-blank, and 10 multiple choice
- You must answer at least 18 questions correct to pass
- The exam covers information from:
The exam is included in the state’s PI application for licensure.
- The exam covers these topics:
- KRS Chapter 329A – Private Investigations Act
- The Privacy Act of 1974
- Freedom of Information Act
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Bill of Rights
- Kentucky Penal Code
- Private Investigators Board – Code of Ethics
- KRS Open Records Act
- Private investigator skills
A scaled score of 260 is considered passing. You can register for this exam with the Kentucky Department of Professional Licensing. To read all the relevant study material for this exam, see the Kentucky PI examination study guide.
- The exam covers the following subjects:
- Private investigator business
- General federal and state constitutional principles
- Relevant court decisions that could affect PI liability
- Search and seizure laws
- Invasion of privacy laws
- Weapons laws and use, including concealed weapons
The exam is managed and regulated by the Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners. You’ll receive information about registering for the exam once your PI license application is approved.
You’ll need to pass a written examination that is administered by the chief of the Maine State Police. Once your application for PI licensure has been approved you’ll receive information about how to register for this.
The exam covers subjects that relate to the situations you’ll encounter as a private investigator and applicable laws.
Maryland does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Massachusetts does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Michigan does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Minnesota does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Currently Mississippi has no PI licensing requirements
You must pass an exam to become a private investigator in Missouri unless you can demonstrate two years of relevant work experience.
- Two-hour time limit
- Passing score is at least 70 percent
- 75 questions in total:
- Rules and regulations pertaining to Missouri PIs – 55 questions
- PI general practice – 20 questions
- 70 percent is the minimum passing score
- The exam evaluates your understanding of:
- 45-minute time limit
- 40 questions total
- Must score at least 80 percent to pass
To register for this test you must first request a PI license application from the Nebraska Secretary of State. Once your PI license application is approved you’ll receive information on taking the exam, which is held the third Wednesday of each month at the State Capitol building in Lincoln.
- Exams are offered quarterly, four times per year
- 100 questions total
- Two-hour time limit
- A passing score is at least 75 percent
- Test questions are on Nevada PI laws, legal procedures, and PI skills
New Hampshire does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
New Jersey does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Jurisprudence exam required:
- No time limit; print the test and take it at home
- 23 questions total
- Exam topics cover:
- PI laws and regulations
- PI licensing
- PI procedures
- 150-minute time limit
- A passing score is at least 70 percent
- Test questions cover these topics:
- PI license law
- Report writing
- Criminal and penal procedure law
- Investigative techniques
- Supervision and restrictions
- Interpreting written material
You register for this exam on a walk-in basis at any testing center throughout the state.
North Carolina does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
- 150 questions total
- The exam covers:
- PI skills and procedures
- North Dakota statutes regarding PIs
- North Dakota rules regarding PIs
Exams are arranged on an individual basis and taken in Bismarck. Contact the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board to schedule an exam. The board will send you an exam study guide if you send it a fee of $40.
- 55 questions in total
- 80 percent is the minimum passing score
- The exam covers rules and laws that pertain to private investigators
Once the company you’re going to work for has filed an employee registration application with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the department will schedule you for an exam. All exams take place in Columbus.
If you do not have relevant private investigator experience or training you must pass an exam to become a licensed PI in Oklahoma.
- Exam is computer-based
- Available at 44 testing locations throughout Oklahoma
- Exam covers applicable laws and regulations that relate to being a PI in Oklahoma
You can schedule your exam at any participating career tech center throughout the state. You’ll receive information about registering for the exam and training once you complete an application for PI licensure.
PI Proficiency Exam required:
- 50 questions total
- Passing score is at least 43 correct answers
- Exam is offered several times per year at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem
- Exam content covers PI licensing laws and legal procedures
Once your PI license application is approved you’ll be registered for the exam and receive information from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST).
No exam required at the state level in Pennsylvania; exam may be required at the county level
No exam required at the state level in Rhode Island; exam may be required at the county level
South Carolina does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
Currently South Dakota has no PI licensing requirements
- 120-minute time limit
- 70 percent is the minimum passing score
- 100 test questions
- Tennessee rules and laws – 60 questions
- Practical knowledge – 40 questions
The exam is managed by the testing company PSI Exams. Once you’re ready you can sign up with PSI online. You do not need prior approval by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. For more information see the PI exam candidate information book (CIB).
Texas does not require an exam as part of the PI registration process
Utah does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
- Comprise of multiple choice questions
- Topics covered are sourced from:
- Vermont statutes and administrative rules regarding private investigations
- Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Vermont public records
Once you have submitted a complete PI license application through Vermont’s online portal, the Office of Professional Regulation will provide you with instructions on taking the exam at the Vermont Board of Private Investigative and Security Services’ office in Montpelier. You must take this within 60 days of submitting your application for licensure.
Virginia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
You must complete pre-assignment training from an approved provider before you can apply for your PI license. State law stipulates you must pass an exam provided by your trainer related to the topics you have been trained in.
- The exam must be at least 30 multiple choice questions
- You must score 100 percent on the exam
- If you answer any questions wrong you must go back and review the question, then answer correctly
- The exam must cover all topics of training, including:
- Probable cause and evidence
- Legal powers and limitations
- Powers of arrest
- Expert witnesses
- Video and photography
West Virginia does not require an exam as part of the PI licensing process
- The purpose of the exam is to familiarize you with locating state laws and regulations
- The minimum passing score is 84 percent
- You can retake the exam as much as you want, however there is a fee each time
- The content of the exam is based on:
Once your application for a PI license is approved the Department of Safety and Professional Services will clear you to test and provide you with exam access instructions. You can take the exam from any computer with an internet connection. Your exam results are valid for a year.
Currently Wyoming has no PI licensing requirements