How to Become a Private Investigator in West Virginia

Private investigators employ a variety of legal methods to uncover information that their clients need. Their clients may be individual citizens, or they may be lawyers or businesses. Investigative methods include performing interviews, conducting surveillance, computer forensics and collecting evidence to present in a court, among others.

When studying how to become a private investigator in West Virginia, you should know, like most states, WV requires its private investigators to obtain a license. The Secretary of State issues the license after you complete all the necessary application steps and your application is approved.

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West Virginia Private Investigator License Requirements

Minimum Requirements

  • Age: Applicants need to be 18 years of age or older to become private investigators in West Virginia.
  • Provisional Requirements:
    • West Virginia requires that you be either a U.S. citizen or a legal resident of the U.S.
    • You must also be of good moral character and provide five letters of character reference with your application.
    • You also need to submit two passport-size color photographs of yourself taken within the past year.
  • Criminal Background Check: West Virginia requires a fingerprint-based background check.
  • Military Discharge: Your military discharge is not taken into consideration when you apply for a PI license, unless your discharge was related to a criminal offense.
  • Financial History: Your financial history is not taken into account when you apply for a PI license. However, you may need to provide information about your finances when you apply for a business license after your PI application is accepted.
  • Mental Health Evaluation: While a mental health evaluation is not a part of the licensure process, you will not be able to receive a license if a court ruled that you are incompetent due to a mental illness.
  • Insurance Needed: Part of your application involves obtaining and notarizing a surety bond in the amount of $2,500 that names you as the principal.
  • Automatic Disqualifications: West Virginia’s list of actions that warrant automatic disqualification is extensive. The list includes being convicted of a felony in any U.S state or territory, addiction to narcotics, habitual drunkenness, revocation or denial of a previous PI license, and more.

how to become a private investigator in west virginia

Education and Experience

  • Degree: You do not need to obtain a degree in order to become a PI in West Virginia. However, obtaining a degree in a related field such as criminal justice, law enforcement or criminal investigation is one way to fulfill the training and experience requirements. Even if you did not complete your degree, the amount of applicable academic hours can be combined with other experience to fulfil the requirement.
  • Experience: In lieu of a degree, you can fulfil the experience requirement by providing proof of prior employment with a licensed investigative firm or law enforcement agency. You must have been employed at least 32 hours a week for 100 weeks in order for your work experience to fulfil the training and experience requirements.
  • Written Exams: While your degree or training courses may require you to take written exams, there is no specific written exam required to become a PI.
  • Training Courses: If you have neither a degree not prior employment experience, you can also complete at least 60 hours of credit in investigative studies. If you already have some academic and employment experience, you may choose to only take the amount of credit hours in investigative studies that you need to fulfil the requirement.

Forms Needed for Detective License

  • Fees Required: The application fee for WV residents is $150. The fee for non-residents is $550.
  • Registration Needed: West Virginia requires private investigators to apply for a license through the Secretary of State.
  • Maintaining Your PI License: You must renew your license annually. If you fail to renew your license within one year and wish to continue working as a PI, you must reapply as a new applicant.

West Virginia Private Investigator Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide salary data for private investigators in West Virginia specifically. The national average salary for PI’s is $45,610 as of May 2015. The Employment Projections Program predicts that employment will increase 5% and that 1,800 new PI positions will become available between 2014 and 2024.

Helpful West Virginia Links and Resources

Secretary of State Information on PI Licensure

Applying for an Individual PI License

List of Acceptable Experiences to Fulfil the Requirement


Education Programs for Private Investigators in West Virginia

  • Criminal Justice - Bachelor
Baker College Online
  • Criminal Justice, MA
  • Homeland Security, MA
Keiser University Graduate School
  • DEM - Emergency Management
Capella University
  • BS - Criminal Justice
Capella University
  • MS - Cybersecurity
Capella University
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Public Administration
  • JM: American Legal Studies
  • JM: General
  • JM: Health Law
  • JM: International Legal Studies
  • JM: Special Student (Non-Degree Seeking) - Legal Studies
  • LLM: International Legal Studies
  • MPA: Law & Public Policy
  • MS: Criminal Justice
  • MS: Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology
  • MS: Criminal Justice: Homeland Security
Liberty University - Online
  • General-Advanced
  • Online Teaching in Higher Education
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) - Homeland Security
  • PhD in Criminal Justice - Emergency Management
  • PhD in Criminal Justice - Global Leadership
  • PhD in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security Policy and Coordination
  • PhD in Criminal Justice - Law and Public Policy
  • PhD in Criminal Justice - Public Management and Leadership
Walden University
  • DBA - Criminal Justice
  • DBA - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
Northcentral University
  • Master of Science in Information Assurance
  • MS in Criminology
  • BS in Criminology
  • Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance and Cyber Security
  • Master of Science in Criminology - Cybercrime and Terrorism Focus
  • Master of Science in Criminology - Human Behavior Focus
  • Master of Science in Criminology - Leadership Focus
  • Master of Science in Information Assurance - Cybersecurity Specialization
Regis University- Online
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice
  • MS in Computer Science - Cyber Security
Lewis University - Online
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
  • Masters in Financial Crime and Compliance Management
  • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
  • MS Cybersecurity - Intelligence
  • MS Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
  • MS Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
  • BS in Criminal Justice - Cyber Criminology and Policy
  • Computer Forensics Certificate
  • Cyber Crime and Fraud Investigation Certificate
  • Cyber Network Defense Certificate
  • Cyber Operations Certificate
  • Cyber Policy Certificate
  • Cybersecurity Technologies Certificate
  • Financial Crime and Compliance Operations Certificate
  • Financial Crime Investigation Certificate
  • Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis
  • MBA - Cyber Policy
  • MBA - Cybersecurity
  • Monitoring, Surveillance, and Intelligence Operations Certificate
  • MS in Cybersecurity - Electronic Crime
  • MS in Cybersecurity - Malware Analysis
  • MS in Data Science: Cybersecurity
  • MS in Data Science: Financial Crime
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection
  • Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
  • BS in Criminal Justice - General
  • BS in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
  • BS in Criminal Justice - Legal Issues in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Criminal Justice - Public Policy and Leadership
  • BS in Criminal Justice - White Collar Crime
  • BS in Criminal Intelligence Analysis
Utica College - Online
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration
  • Master - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration
  • CTU - Criminal Forensics
Colorado State University - Global