You are considered a private investigator if you investigate any of the following in Pennsylvania:
- Crime or wrong done against the U.S. government
- Conduct, habit, movements, or character of any person, group, or organization
- The credibility of witnesses or other people
- The whereabouts of a missing person
- The recovery of location of stolen property
- The cause of accidents, injuries or damage to a person or property
- Securing evidence to be used in a criminal or civil trial
For a full list of private detective business, view Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Private Detective Act of 1953.
All private investigators in Pennsylvania must first get their Pennsylvania Private Detective License. Here are the steps you need to take to get licensed:
How to get a Pennsylvania Private Detective License
Step #1: Meet Requirements
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be at least 25 years old
- Be a member of the U.S. government investigative services OR
- Be a sheriff OR
- Be a member of the Pennsylvania State Police OR
- Have at least 3 years of private detective experience
- And have not been convicted of a felony
For tips on how to gain experience, check out this post (Step #3).
You could also gain experience as a PI by searching out a company and work under a company PI License.
Step #2: Obtain Application
You will need to get an application from the county you plan to work in.
Obtain an application by contacting your County Clerk of Courts.
Step #3: Complete Application
Your application will require you to submit the following:
- Fingerprint cards
- The signatures of 5 references who have known you for at least 5 years
- 2 passport-sized photographs of yourself
There will likely be a filing fee and fingerprint fee. The fee amount will vary depending on what county you are applying for.
Step #4: Purchase Pennsylvania Private Detective Bond
A Private Investigator Bond is a type of surety bond required by law. These bonds protect the county and residence you live in. If you do not abide by rules and regulations, someone can make a claim against your bond.
Pennsylvania has set the bond amount at $10,000.
You will not need to pay the full bond amount to get bonded. Instead, you will just pay a small portion of the amount.
We've issued Pivate Detective Bonds for as low as $100.
Step #5: Pay Fees
- $200: if applying as individual
- $300: if applying as partnership, corporation, or association
Fees may vary depending on the county you are applying in. Consult your county licensing fee chart for exact amounts.
Step #6: Submit Application
Submit your application to your County Clerk of Courts office. In most counties, the District Attorney will process your license within 10 days.
Once you get your license, you can begin conducting business. You can also join the Pennsylvania Association of Licensed Investigators.
License Expiration and Renewal
Pennsylvania Private Detective Licenses are valid for 2 years.
Some counties may have different licensing terms and renewals.