How to Become a Private Investigator in Washington

Become a Private Investigator in Seattle Washington

The duties of private investigators involve many different kinds of activities and levels of expertise. PI’s may assist individuals, businesses or attorneys by tracking down information about personal, financial or legal matters. Performing background checks, locating missing persons, conducting surveillance and interviewing other citizens are only a few of the duties performed by private investigators.

When researching how to become a private investigator in Washington, you should know that Washington requires all private investigators to obtain a license. If the applicant does not already work for or have an employment offer from a licensed PI agency, they will also have to apply for a business license to operate their own agency before they can become a licensed PI. Essentially, you cannot operate on your own as a licensed PI; you must work for an agency, whether it’s that of your own or another party’s agency.

Washington Private Investigator License Requirements

Minimum Requirements

  • Age: Unarmed private investigators must be at least 18 years old, and armed private investigators must be at least 21 years old.
  • Provisional Requirements: You must be a citizen of the United States or a legal resident of the U.S. Washington also requires that, in order to become a PI, you must already have an employment offer from a licensed PI agency or be employed by a licensed PI agency.
  • Criminal Background Check: Washington requires private investigators to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check. Applicants must also include information about any criminal convictions on their license application.
  • Military Discharge: Your military discharge does not affect your ability to become a licensed PI in Washington, unless you were discharged because of a criminal offense. In this case, you’ll need to include this information in your application.
  • Financial History: Your financial history is only relevant if you are applying for a business license to operate your own PI agency. Otherwise, your financial history is not taken into account.
  • Mental Health Evaluation: Washington does not require its applicants to undergo a mental health evaluation in order to receive their licenses. However, if the director believes that a licensed PI is unable to perform their duties reasonably and safely as a result of a mental illness, the PI may be subjected to an evaluation.
  • Insurance Needed: Private investigator agencies must have a minimum of $25,000 bodily injury liability insurance and at least $25,000 in property damage liability insurance. In lieu of this, agencies can instead have a Private Investigation agency surety bond of $10,000.
  • Automatic Disqualifications: If you have been convicted of a crime that hinders public safety or affects your abilities to perform the duties required of a PI, you cannot obtain a license.

Education and Experience

  • Degree: Washington does not require private investigators to have a degree.
  • Experience: If you’re applying for a PI agency license, you must submit proof of three years relevant experience. If you’re applying for a license as an individual, you don’t need any additional experience other than the required training course and examination.
  • Written Exams: At the end of the training course, you will take a test to gauge your understanding of the topics covered.
  • Training Courses: Before you submit your application for licensure, you must complete a four-hour-long training course covering topics such as federal and state laws, legal procedures and definitions and court systems.

Forms Needed for Detective License

  • Fees Required: The application fee is $200, and the armed endorsement fee is an additional $100 for those wishing to carry a firearm.
  • Registration Needed: Washington private investigators are required to obtain a license through the state’s Department of Licensing.
  • Maintaining Your PI License: Your PI license expires after one year, and you can apply to renew your license up to 120 days prior to its expiration.

Washington Private Investigator Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private investigators in Washington make an average of $57,300 per year. PI’s in the northeastern part of the state are on the higher end of the pay scale, making $102,850 per year. Those in the southwestern part of the state are on the lower end at $42,330 per year.

The Employment Projections Program predicts that there will be an 8.1% increase in private investigator jobs from now until 2024, with approximately 20 positions opening up each year.

Helpful Washington Links and Resources

Forms for Private Investigators

Frequently Asked Questions

Washington State Investigators PI Information

List of Washington Department of Licensing Certified PI Trainers

Exam Study Resources