How to Become a Private Investigator in Texas

Last Updated:

Private investigators (PIs) are in high demand, not just in Texas but also globally. They investigate everything from marital infidelity to wire fraud, and their importance has only grown over the last few years. This growth has been so exponential that the Texas Workforce Commission estimates that at least 300 PIs will join the Texas workforce between 2019 and 2021.

Before anyone can start working as a PI in Texas, they must meet the regulations set out by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security Bureau (PSB), and the Texas Private Security Act. The PSB regulates PIs, their agencies, and the agency owners, authorizing them to conduct investigations while the security act regulates the investigation procedures.

The PSB dictates that all PIs must either start an agency of their own or work with one. An agency can comprise of just the PI or the PI with other employees. Thus, PIs who do not want to work for agencies can open theirs. Before you join or start an agency, please read through this guide to understand how you can join the exciting world of private investigators.

Step 1. Meet the Basic PI Registration Requirements

PIs working in Texas must meet the following requirements before they can venture into the world of private investigation:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You cannot have been dishonorably discharged from the US military service.
  • You cannot have been convicted of a felony in any jurisdiction.
  • You cannot be facing charges of a Class B misdemeanor.
  • You cannot have been convicted of a Class B misdemeanor in any jurisdiction in the last 5 years.
  • You cannot have been charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
  • You cannot be a registered sex offender in Texas or any other jurisdiction.
  • You must be competent and cannot be found incompetent by a court due to disease or mental ailments.

Step 2. Fulfill Education and Experience Requirements

The education and experience requirements will depend on if you’re joining an agency or starting one of your own.

If you would like to work with a private investigation company, below are the conditions to meet:

Before getting your PI license, the private investigation firm will have to hire or offer you a job in their agency. They can then sponsor you to get a license in Texas to start working as a PI.

The state of Texas does not impose any requirements for you to work as a PI in a private investigation firm. As such, the education and experience requirements come down to the firm’s management. Often, employers want the most experienced and qualified candidates. Thus, they lean on candidates with experience in:

  • Law enforcement,
  • The military, or
  • Investigative work.

If you do not have experience in the above fields, the following degrees can give you an upper hand over the other candidates:

  • Bachelor of Science in administration (legal studies), or
  • Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, criminal justice (homeland security and emergency management), and criminal justice (human services).

You can study these and related fields in Texas to help you inch closer to a job position or job offer at a PI firm.

If you want to start a private investigation company, you must meet the minimum requirements to work as a PI in Texas. That means you must possess one of the following requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field, or
  • A bachelor’s degree in any field and at least 6 months of investigative experience, or
  • At least 3 years of private investigative experience, or
  • At least 200 hours of specialized private investigative training, or
  • An associate degree in criminal justice or a related field and at least one year of investigative experience.

Step 3. Register your New PI Agency or Become Registered with an Existing Agency

The due processes to become a registered PI or start your PI agency are as follows:

If you’re going to work with a PI firm, the company will handle the application on your behalf as follows:

If you wish to start your PI company, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must submit a PSB-01 Company License Application Form if you are starting a new company. This process will include:
  • Selecting a business name: You can use your name or any other combination, regardless of whether you will work with other people in the future. The state will check if anyone is using your name, and if it’s available, it will register the name.
  • Identifying the business owners and the company structure: Examples include corporations, sole proprietorships, and LLCs.
  • Submitting the Original Owner/Manager Application: If you submit the form online, you must wait at least 24 hours before submitting the Online Owner/Manager Application Supplement.
  • You must get your fingerprints taken for the FBI background check. Use these instructions to find the list of approved fingerprinting sites in the state.

You must pay the following fees:

  • $33 for the application,
  • $25 for the FBI classification. Include two completed fingerprint cards or a receipt from the electronic fingerprinting.

You must pay the fees as stipulated by the PSB as follows:

  • Online submissions can be settled through credit card payments.

Payments made via mail must be made through money orders or checks payable to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Moreover, they must include a PSB-50 form and the above documents and mailed to the following address:
Texas Department of Public Safety,
Private Security MSC 0242,
PO Box 15999, Austin,
TX 78761-5999

  • You must take and pass the Qualified Manager Exam within 90 days of making an application. This 2-hour exam takes place three to five times each month in Austin. It comprises 140 questions, including true-false and multiple-choice questions. To pass, you must get at least 105 questions right out of the possible 140. You will receive your results within 30 days of taking the exam.
  • You must show proof of adequate liability insurance by presenting the certificate of liability insurance form. However, this only applies to you if you are the PI firm owner.

If you want more information about license applications and requirements, please go through these forms.

Step 4. Now That you’re a Registered Private Investigator or PI Agency Owner in Texas

Congratulations on your successful application. To maintain your license, you must renew it online each year. The renewal forms depend on whether you are working by yourself or under a PI firm. If you’re working under an employer, they will renew the license on your behalf by filling in the Request for Renewal of Employee form PSB-17. But if you are working on your own, you should submit the Request for Renewal of Owner/Manager form PSB-18.

However, before renewing your license, you must meet the continuing education requirements.

Continuing education

As a PI, you will need to keep up with the continuing education requirements to maintain and renew your license. Without completing the stipulated hours, you cannot legally continue operating PI services in Texas. The hours will depend on how long you have been a PI firm owner or how long your employer has been in the PI business.

If you have owned your business for less than 15 years or are working with an employer whose business has been registered for less than 15 years, you must complete:

  • 14 hours on classes relating to investigations,
  • 2 hours on courses on ethics, and
  • 2 hours on classes reviewing the Texas Private Security Act

If you have owned your business for more than 15 years or are working with an employer whose business has been registered for more than 15 years, you must complete:

  • 8 hours on classes relating to investigations,
  • 2 hours on classes relating to ethics, and
  • 2 hours on classes reviewing the Texas Private Security Act

Please note that you can only take classes from PSB-Approved Providers for the continuing education to be valid for license renewal.

Professional Organizations and PI Agencies in Texas

You can grow your skills and revenue as a PI in Texas by joining professional organizations in your niche. These include the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators and International Private Investigators Union (IPIU), which boast a wealth of resources that can help you grow your network.

For a head start as you embark on this new journey, pore through the following list of active private investigative firms in Texas:

  • Amarillo: Sneakers & Heels Licensed Investigation & Trial Work
    3440 S. Bell #320
    Amarillo, TX 79109
  • Austin: Akin Investigations
    16 W 12th St., Suite 213
    Austin, TX 78701-1840
  • Corpus Christi: Eddie Garza Security & Investigations
    4333 Kostoryz Rd.
    Corpus Christi, TX 78407
  • Dallas: Gil Wilson
    P.O. Box 190402
    Dallas, TX 75219
    (also serves Fort Worth, Plano, and Arlington)
  • El Paso:S. S. Investigations, Inc.
    521 Texas Ave.
    El Paso, TX 79901
  • Houston: DBU Investigations
    7814 Soledad Dr., Suite 120
    Houston, TX 77083
  • Laredo: R&R Private Security
    420 Zaragoza St.
    Laredo, TX 78040
  • Lubbock: Kurlander Legal Support Services
    1108 Main St.
    Lubbock, TX 79401

Private Investigator Salary Information for Texas

According to the May 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics for Private Detectives and Investigators, Texas is a promising state for private investigators. For a start, the PI employment rates are high, indicating the state’s apparent need for PI services. The Texas Workforce Commission estimates that at least 300 PIs enter this profession each year. Given the new job opportunities and the normal turnover in the profession, even new PIs can eke a good living from their jobs.

On average, a PI in Texas takes home about $67,420 in a year. That is the second-highest rate in the whole country. Some areas in Texas, like Dallas-Fort Worth, pull higher figures, with an average salary of up to $70,000 a year. Moreover, some PIs, who are more experienced and get more cases with higher ROIs, take home an average of $89,350.

Thus, anyone hoping to join this industry can take advantage of these promising statistics.