So you wanna be a P.I.? Here's what it takes:

The Bureau of Security and Investigative Services division of the California Bureau of Consumer Affairs is the regulatory and licensing authority for private investigators in California.

A licensed private investigator must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Undergo a criminal history background check through the California Department of Justice and the FBI (this includes submitting fingerprints and photographs).
  • Have a minimum of three years (2,000 hours each year, totaling 6,000) compensated experience in investigative work, or a law or police science degree plus 2 years (4,000 hours) of experience; an AA degree in political science, criminal law, or justice and 2 1/2 years (5,000 hours) of experience; be a sworn law enforcement officer possessing powers of arrest and employed by agencies in the federal, state or local government, a military police officer of the United States or National Guard; an insurance adjuster, a person employed by a licensed investigator, skip tracer, arson investigator or a trained investigator working for a public defender.
  • Pass a state-administered written and/or oral exam
  • Feature his or her business name, business address or telephone number and license number on ALL company printed materials and advertising.

Process servers' and public records researchers' experience does not qualify towards licensure.

Infractions of licensing requirements, including employing non-exempt unlicensed persons, are misdemeanors punishable by a $5,000 fine, a year's imprisonment in county jail, or both.

So, you see, it takes more than a trench coat and a magnifying glass.

For more information on licensing, visit www.dca.ca.gov/bsis.