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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in Virginia

In order to obtain a private detective license in Virginia you must the following requirements:

Learn the Basic Virginia Private Investigator License Eligibility Requirements
Get Fingerprinted and Complete the Initial Training Requirements in Virginia
Virginia Firearms Endorsement
Insurance, Bonding, and Additional Forms in Virginia
Continuing Education in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services oversees the private investigator verification and application process.

In the state of Virginia, a private investigator is defined as any of the following:

  • A person who performs the duties of a private investigator or advertises themselves as such
  • A person who investigates or agrees to investigate, on a contractual or employment basis, crimes or civil transgressions or the location of stolen property
  • A person who investigates the cause of accidents, fires, or other incidents (Materials collected during the course of a private investigation can be used as evidence in a hearing before a court, board, or any other kind of investigative or judicial committee.)
  • A person who provides personal protection services to another person or group, including protection from bodily harm and death



Step 1. Learn the Basic Virginia Private Investigator License Eligibility Requirements

In order to become a private investigator in the state of Virginia, you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older.
  • You must achieve successful completion of all precursory training requirements for applicable registration categories.
  • Be a citizen or legal resident of the United States.



Step 2. Get Fingerprinted and Complete the Initial Training Requirements

The initial training requirements to become a private investigator in the state of Virginia include 60 hours of entry level training which involves the following topics:

Orientation – The orientation section includes information on applicable Virginia codes, ethics and signs of terrorism.

Law – The law section includes the topics of basic law, criminal and civil law, evidence and privacy.

General investigative skills – The General investigative skills section includes the topics of surveillance, research, interviewing, and more.

Documentation – The documentation section includes the topics of photography, audio recording, courtroom testimony and general communications.

Types of investigations – The types of investigations sections includes the topics of accident, insurance, background, as well as fraud and financial.

Note: The topics of law, general investigative skills, documentation, and types of investigations all include a practical exercise, which does not count toward the required 60 hours.

Applicants must submit an initial registration application form along with the nonrefundable application fee and a completed fingerprint card.

The fingerprint processing application also must be submitted along with the applicable processing fee.

Exam – The Virginia licensing exam must be taken and successfully passed before you can become licensed.  Your training course will provide you with instructions on how to enroll for the exam when you are nearing completion.

Optional Education – Though Virginia does not have education requirements to practice private investigations, many prospective private investigators choose to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in investigations or a related major as a way to gain a foundation of knowledge in the field of investigations, and to better prepare for success on the license examination.



Step 3. Firearms Endorsement (optional)

The firearms endorsement requirements must be completed for those applicants who plan to carry or have access to a firearm for the purposes of their private investigation duties.

The Firearms Endorsement page of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services has more information including the various types of firearms that are permissible and the requirements for each.



Step 4. Insurance, Bonding, and Additional Required Forms

Virginia requires all private investigator firms to carry a surety bond in the minimum of amount of $100,000. This requirement only applies to those wishing to establish a company, not to individual private investigators. $300,000 in liability insurance is also required of private investigator firms.

Applicants who are already registered with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services but who want to include additional categories on their registration are required to complete an Additional Registration Category mandate. Information for additional categories can be found on the Additional Registration Category page.

Applicants who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor with the exception of minor traffic violations (i.e. speeding, parking tickets, etc.) in the state of Virginia are required to fill out and submit a Criminal History Supplemental Form which can be found on the Criminal History page. This requirement also applies to those who have been the subject of military court martial.



Step 5. Continuing Education

Your private investigator’s license will be valid for 24 months from the date of issue.  In order to renew the license you must be able to prove that you have completed at least 8 hours of state sanctioned continuing education (CE). Here is a list that the state has furnished of CE courses.

Also, you may wish to join the Private Investigators Association of Virginia to keep up with industry news and continuing education opportunities.



Private Investigator Salary Information for Virginia

Virginia is a good state in which to be a private investigator or private detective for two reasons.

  1. It has the fourth highest level of salaries of any state in the county, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  2. The field is growing rapidly in Virginia.  The state projects job growth from 2010 to 2020 to be over 30% – much higher than the national average.

The 620 private investigators employed in 2012 in Virginia made an average annual salary of $62,800.  Experience private investigators earned an average of $100,530 a year.  Salary information from the BLS on selected cities in Virginia is listed below:

Virginia City
Average Annual Salary
Virginia Beach

Job growth is projected to be particularly high in the following regions of Virginia:

  • Northern Virginia and Alexandria/Arlington:  40.1%
  • Shenandoah Valley:  35.2%

Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services requires a license to become a private investigator in the state.  Applicants must be a minimum of 18 years old.  They are also required to complete sixty hours of entry-level private investigator training.

Individuals who wish to be armed when they work as a private investigator in Virginia are required to meet the standards for firearms endorsement and must document that they have had training in using firearms.

A private investigator’s license is good for two years, while a license to carry a firearm must be renewed annually.

A variety of industries employ PIs.  The most common source of jobs is private investigation firms (detective agencies).  Retail stores hire a number of PIs to help with loss prevention.  State and local government agencies are another common source of jobs.

Information from the BLS is provided below for private investigators who worked in Virginia in 2012.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Richmond VA
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division

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