Become a Private Detective Through Training and Certification in Texas

There is a growing demand for PIs in Texas, skilled in everything from investigating fraudulent insurance claims to gathering evidence to build cases that can prove marital infidelity. In fact, with the Texas Workforce Commission expecting the state to see an average of 300 annual job openings for PIs during the two-year period from 2019 to 2021, some are saying there’s never been a better time to become a licensed PI.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security Bureau (PSB) is responsible for regulating private investigations agencies, agency owners, and the PIs that work for them. Gaining the authorization necessary to legally conduct investigative services as defined in the Texas Private Security Act requires an individual PI to be affiliated with a registered agency or to establish an independent private investigations agency of their own. A private investigations agency can consist of just the agency owner working independently, or the owner and a number of employees.

If you are interested in becoming a private investigator but don’t have any active job prospects with established PI agencies, you may consider going into business for yourself.

Whether you plan to open a new PI agency or go to work for an agency that is already licensed in Texas, this guide will explain the exact steps you’ll need to take to get there:

 

Meet the Basic PI Registration Requirements
Fulfill Education and Experience Requirements
Register your New PI Agency or Become Registered with an Existing Agency
Now That you’re a Registered Private Investigator or PI Agency Owner in Texas

 


 

Step 1. Meet the Basic PI Registration Requirements

Whether you intend to start working as a PI for an established private investigations agency or establish one of your own, there are a few fundamental requirements you must meet in order to become registered in Texas.

Consult this checklist to make sure you meet all the basic requirements:

  • You are at least 18 years old
  • You have never been convicted of a felony in any jurisdiction
  • You have not been convicted in the past five years of a Class B misdemeanor in any jurisdiction
  • You are not currently charged with or under indictment for a Class A misdemeanor or felony
  • You are not currently charged with a Class B misdemeanor
  • You have never been found incompetent due to mental defect or disease by a court
  • You are not required to register in Texas or any other jurisdiction as a sex offender
  • You have never been dishonorably discharged from U.S. military service

 


 

Step 2. Fulfill Education and Experience Requirements

If you plan to work for a private investigation company …

You must be sponsored by a private investigations agency licensed in Texas before you can apply for registration as a private investigator. This either means that you must be employed by or have a firm job offer from a private investigative agency licensed in Texas.

As an individual private investigator that plans to work for an established PI agency that is licensed in the state of Texas, you are only subject to the education and training requirements that your employer sets. The state of Texas does not regulate or require training for individual PIs working for licensed agencies.

Employers will always look for the most qualified candidates, so in the absence of law enforcement, military or investigative experience, you may consider earning an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or a related field. Degree options available at schools in Texas include:

  • Bachelor in Business Administration – Legal Studies
  • Bachelor of Science-Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice- Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Human Services

If you plan to start a private investigation company …

If you wish to open your own licensed private investigative agency in Texas, you must meet the qualifications to become a private investigation company owner/manager. This means you must meet ONE of the following combined education and experience requirements:

  • Three years of private investigation experience
  • Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field
  • Bachelor’s degree in any field, plus six months of investigative experience
  • Associate degree in criminal justice or a related field plus one year of investigative experience
  • Specialized private investigator training (200 hours minimum)

 


 

Step 3. Register your New PI Agency or Become Registered with an Existing Agency

If you plan to work for a private investigation company …

If you are applying for initial private investigator registration in Texas, your employer will gather your personal information, have you complete the Original Registration Application Supplement and use the online application system to submit an application for your registration with the Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security Bureau (PSB) as an employee of the agency. Becoming registered involves submitting fingerprints that will be used for an FBI background check.

After completing the online registration process and paying the application fee, your employer will be issued a receipt with instructions on how to go about getting your fingerprints taken along with a list of third-party locations approved for electronic fingerprinting in Texas.

When your FBI background check clears and you have been approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security Bureau, your private investigator license will be mailed to your employer’s place of business.

If you plan to start a private investigation company …

If registering a new PI company, you will need to submit a PSB-01 Company License Application Form. This will involve having your company name approved to ensure it isn’t being used by another business in Texas. You are allowed to simply use your own name, and may choose to do so whether working independently or hiring employees. The company license application also involves identifying all owners/partners/shareholders and the ownership structure of the company (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, LLC or LLP).

If submitting online, you must wait 24 hours after completing your company application before submitting your individual owner/manager application. As the owner of the PI company, you must submit the Original Owner/Manager Application or apply online and submit the Online Owner/Manager Application Supplement.

You will then need to submit:

  • $33 application fee
  • $25 FBI classification fee and two completed fingerprint cards or a receipt from electronic fingerprinting (Use these instructions for fingerprinting and consult this list to find electronic fingerprinting sites in Texas)

If sent by mail, payment must be made by check or money order payable to the Texas Department of Public Safety. All applications and fees submitted by mail must include a PSB-50 form. If applying online, fees are payable by credit card.

If you are applying by mail, send all of the above to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security MSC 0242, P.O. Bo 15999, Austin, TX 78761-5999

You must also pass the Qualified Manager Exam within 90 days of submitting your application. This exam is administered in Austin about three to five times each month. It is a two-hour, multiple-choice and true-false exam made up of 140 questions. You must get at least 105 questions correct to pass the exam. Your results will be sent to you about 30 days after you take the exam.

As company owner, you will also be required to show proof of adequate liability insurance using the Certificate of Liability Insurance Form.

For more information, consult the Instructions for Original Company License Application and General Requirements for Licensing.

 


 

Step 4. Now That you’re a Registered Private Investigator or PI Agency Owner in Texas

Well done! You have met all the requirements and completed the process to become a registered private investigator with an established agency, or a private investigative agency owner/manager!

Your registration must be renewed online each year.

As an employee of an established PI agency, your employer will handle the registration renewal for you using the Request for Renewal of Employee form PSB-17.

If you are the owner/manager of the PI agency, you will use the Request for Renewal of Owner/Manager form PSB-18.

As a PI employed with an established agency or agency manager/owner, you will be required to complete continuing education (CE) requirements in order to renew your registration and continue working legally in Texas.

As a registered private investigator employed with a licensed agency, or a participating owner/manager that has been registered for LESS than 15 consecutive years, you are required to complete 18 total hours of continuing education:

  • 14 hours must be related to investigations
  • 2 hours must be specific to ethics
  • 2 hours must be in review of the Texas Private Security Act

As a registered private investigator employed with a licensed agency, or a participating owner/manager that has been registered for MORE than 15 consecutive years, you are required to complete 12 total hours of continuing education:

  • 8 hours must be related to investigations
  • 2 hours must be specific to ethics
  • 2 hours must be in review of the Texas Private Security Act

You must receive your CE from a PSB-approved provider.

Professional Organizations and PI Agencies in Texas

You may consider joining one of the following professional organizations. These professional advocacy agencies will help to increase your networking opportunities as well as provide resources for continuing education:

Just some of the major private investigative agencies found in Texas include:

  • Austin:Akin Investigations
    316 W 12th St., Suite 213
    Austin, TX 78701-1840
  • Houston:DBU Investigations
    7814 Soledad Dr., Suite 120
    Houston, TX 77083
  • Dallas:Gil Wilson
    P.O. Box 190402
    Dallas, TX 75219
    (also serves, Fort Worth, Plano, and Arlington)
  • Amarillo:Sneakers & Heels Licensed Investigation & Trial Work
    3440 S. Bell #320
    Amarillo, TX 79109
  • Lubbock:Kurlander Legal Support Services
    1108 Main St.
    Lubbock, TX 79401
  • Laredo:R&R Private Security
    420 Zaragoza St.
    Laredo, TX 78040
  • Corpus Christi:Eddie Garza Security & Investigations
    4333 Kostoryz Rd.
    Corpus Christi, TX 78407
  • El Paso:S. S. Investigations, Inc.
    521 Texas Ave.
    El Paso, TX 79901


 

Private Investigator Salary Information for Texas*

Texas is a good place to start a career in private investigations.  Average salaries for PIs in the state are the second highest in the nation at $56,190 a year as of May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The most experienced PIs and those with the most hustle can make considerably more, with the top 10% of Texas PIs earning an average of $77,930 that year.

Employment levels are also high in the state. Texas had the fourth highest employment rate for private investigators as of 2019, and strong job growth in the coming years will see even more licensed PIs joining their ranks. According to projections from the Texas Workforce Commission, an average of 300 new PIs will be entering the profession each year through 2021 as a result of both new job creation and normal turn-over as the old dogs retire.

The Houston metro area made it into the top ten cities in the nation with the highest number of PIs, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing 490 actively working cases there as of 2019, earning an average of nearly $53,000 that year. Private investigators based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were among the top earning PIs in the country, rounding out the top ten list for highest-paying metro areas with an average salary of nearly $66,000 in 2019.

A license from the Texas Private Security Bureau is required before you can work cases independently. Applicants must be able to qualify as the manager or owner of their own PI firm to be independently licensed. Those that don’t meet the Bureau’s requirements can still get on as trainees with a licensed agency so they can start learning the ropes.

PI Salaries in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Arlington, Austin, McAllen, Sugar Land and More

Area Name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Austin-Round Rock
340
47420
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington
-
65990
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land
490
52890
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission
-
48330
Waco
-
54230

*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 Texas Workforce Commission are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections CentralEmployment conditions in your area may vary. 

All salary and employment data accessed May 2020.

 

 

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