Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in West Virginia

As of 2019, there were just 70 private investigators licensed in West Virginia, according to the WORKFORCE WV division. This small group of elite professionals travels the state, working either as independent detectives who contract their services out to the highest bidder or otherwise fill positions as investigators for state government in the Division of Labor or for private insurance companies and established PI agencies.

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Meet West Virginia Requirements of Basic Eligibility
Get the Necessary Education and Experience in West Virginia
Prepare your West Virginia Application
Submit Your West Virginia Application and Pay Fees

From Morgantown, Beckley, Charleston, and beyond— with so few investigators in the business, there’s very little competition and plenty of opportunities for anybody with an eye for detail, a nose for the truth, and a drive to undercover the facts.

In West Virginia, any person that performs investigative or security guard functions must be licensed through the West Virginia Licensing Division.



Step 1. Meet the West Virginia Basic Eligibility Requirements

To successfully apply to become a private investigator in the state of West Virginia you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • You must be over the age of 18
  • You must be a U.S. citizen, or legally residing in the U.S.
  • You must be of good moral character
  • You must be free of convictions including drug and alcohol-related crimes, crimes involving firearms, or crimes involving stolen property or moral turpitude
  • You must have never operated as a private investigator without proper licensing

You must meet all the extended requirements that you can find here.



Step 2. Get the Necessary Education and Experience in West Virginia

Experience Only – West Virginia requires that you have valid experience in the field of private investigations equal to a minimum of 32 hours per week for 100 weeks. Your application must be accompanied by a signed letter from a principal of a private investigation-related business. Which shows you worked in the field for at least 32 hours per week for 100 weeks. The letter must detail the work you performed, and your competency in that field.


Education and Experience Option – Experience requirements can be offset by college credits. Education and/or experience requirements can be met this way:

Graduate from a two or four-year program with a major in the criminal justice field. Acceptable fields would include criminal justice, law enforcement, or criminal enforcement This must include at least 60 credit hours of investigative studies.

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The formula for finding how much of the experience requirement is met by your education is found by taking the total number of applicable credits (specific to investigations) and dividing it by 60. You can then find the number of weeks of experience still required (at a minimum of 32 hours per week) by multiplying the result of this formula by 100. The resulting figure is the number of weeks of experience still required.



Step 3. Prepare Your West Virginia Application

Gather References – The state of West Virginia requires five character references in order for you to be licensed as a private investigator. This may be a time-consuming part of the application process, so it is advisable that you get this part of the process started as soon as possible. They recommend that you give five different references a copy of the character reference form, which is included in the application package. The references cannot be related to you by blood or marriage. It is very important that the character reference letters not be returned to the state, but that the references return the letters to you directly, and that you then include those letters in the application package.

Individual or Firm License – If you plan to operate a private investigator’s firm that employs others, you must get a private investigator’s firm license in West Virginia. You do not need a firm license if you plan to operate on your own or if you plan to become an employee or affiliate of another company. You can find out more about the West Virginia private investigator firm licensing process here.

In order to obtain your West Virginia private investigator firm license, you must have a surety bond issued with you, the applicant, as principal. This is only applicable if you’ll be starting your own firm.

The bond issuing company must be authorized to work in the state of West Virginia. Present Private Detective or Investigator Surety Bond to the representative at the surety bonding company. The application must include your signature as principal. Your signature and the agent’s signature must be notarized. Also, the completed power of attorney must be attached.

Get Fingerprinted and Photographed – To obtain your private investigator’s license in West Virginia you’ll need to get fingerprinted. You can either download the application form here or call (304) 558-8000 in order to obtain the form. West Virginia will only accept an official West Virginia fingerprint card, and will not accept substitutes. It is strongly suggested that you go to a local sheriff’s office for fingerprinting, in order to make sure that the fingerprints are clear. Complete the card in its entirety, including the back of the card, and sign it.

Also, the state requires two passport-sized color photographs to be attached to the application. The photos should have been taken within the past year. They recommend a light blue background if possible.



Step 4. Submit Your West Virginia Application and Pay Fees

The processing fee to apply for the license is $50, which is non-refundable. Additional fees are $150 for West Virginia residents and $550 for non-West Virginia residents for the actual licensing once your application is approved.

Once the application is approved you must register a business in West Virginia as either a sole proprietor or corporation if you’ll be establishing your own agency.

In order to keep up with laws and education, it would be wise to join an industry association. The Private Investigator and Security Professionals of West Virginia are a good place to start.


Private Investigator Salary Information for West Virginia*

The state of West Virginia requires a license from its Secretary of State to become a private investigator or private detective. Before you can apply, you’ll need to provide character references from at least five people, obtain a $2,500 surety bond, and complete a specific amount of education/or experience, which means providing proof of at least one of the following:

  • An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field
  • At least 60 hours of college credit in investigative studies
  • Employment by a PI firm:  at least 32 hours a week for 100 weeks
  • A combination of experience and college credit

According to the BLS May 2020 stats, the annual average salary for a private investigator in West Virginia is around $60,950.

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the salary range (median-top 10%) for PIs in Charleston to be $43,270-$52,090.


*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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