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Become a Private Detective through Training and Certification in West Virginia

Follow the steps in this guide for details on how to become a private investigator in West Virginia:

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

In West Virginia, the West Virginia Licensing Division handles the licensing and regulation of private investigators operating in the state. In order to become a private investigator in West Virginia, you must meet the requirements of basic eligibility, obtain and provide character references, decide if you will become an employer or not, get fingerprinted and photographed, provide verification of experience, and obtain a surety bond and pay a fee. It should be noted that a two or four-year degree in a law enforcement or criminal justice related field will significantly increase your odds of being approved for licensure as a private investigator in West Virginia.



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 fire arms, 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 week. Your application must be accompanies with 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.

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 plant 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 is you’ll be starting your own firm.

The bond issuing company must be authorized to work in the state of West Virginia. Present this form 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 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 is a good place to start.



Private Investigator Salary Information for West Virginia

The wages for private investigators in West Virginia have been steadily rising over the past ten years according to WORKFORCE West Virginia.  The median wage for PIs in the state in 2011 was over 25% higher than that during 2001. 

Salaries for private investigators in West Virginia in 2012 are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are listed below:

West Virginia City
Average Annual Salary
West Virginia-statewide

According to WORKFORCE West Virginia, the salaries for PIs in the state vary greatly depending on what industry they are employed in.  Sixteen establishments were reported as having employed private investigators in 2012.  The best paying industries for PIs in West Virginia are listed below along with their hourly median wage for 2012:

  • Financial activities:  $24.86
  • Professional and business services:  $14.02
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities:  $10.86
  • Public administration:  $8.39

The state of West Virginia requires a license from its Secretary of State to become a private investigator or private detective.  A business license is also required.  Applicants cannot apply for a license until they have character references filled out from five people.  They must also obtain a $2,500 surety bond as liability insurance.

There is a substantial requirement for training and/or experience to become a private investigator in West Virginia.  The state requires documentation for 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

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of salary information by city for private investigators who were employed in West Virginia in 2012 as shown in the following table.

Private Investigator Salaries in West Virginia

Area name
Annual mean wage
Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna WV-OH
Estimate not released
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division

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