How to become a Private Investigator in Washington State
Private Investigator Licenses
In Washington State there are two types of private investigator licenses:
- Private Investigators licensed as agency operators (also known as principal investigators).
- Private Investigators hired by agencies or agency operators.
This means an individual cannot be a licensed private investigator and work as a subcontractor for private investigation agencies. If a person wants to be a private investigator, they will have to form their own agency. Private investigators apply to be armed or unarmed and those who plan to be armed, must complete a firearms safety course approved by the state of Washington and pay more in licensing fees.
Here are important links to Washington State RCW definitions for private investigators:
- Private Investigators
- Private Investigator Agencies and Private Investigators
- Uniform Regulation of Business and Professions Act
If you are applying for a private investigator agency license or a private investigator license as an employee, you must meet the following requirements:
- Unarmed private investigators must be at least 18 years old and
- Armed private investigators must be at least 21 years old.
- All private investigators in the State of Washington must be a US citizen or resident alien.
- Private Investigators must not have any criminal convictions which relate to the ability to act as a Private Investigator or compromise public safety.
- Private Investigators must have a business location within the State of Washington.
- Private Investigators must have a valid business license from the state of Washington.
- private investigator employees must be employed by an agency with a valid business license issued by the State of Washington and business location in the State of Washington.
Armed and unarmed Private Investigators requesting licensing through an already established agency should apply directly through that agency.
Armed Licensing Requirements
When requesting an armed Private Investigator license:
- Submit to the agency you wish to work for a current firearms certificate issued by the State of Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission.
- A completed private investigator license application.
- The current state required application fee (which can be found at which can be found at DOL).
- One completed fingerprint card.
- A copy of your current concealed pistol license.
Unarmed Licensing Requirements
When requesting an unarmed Private Investigator license:
- You must only submit the private investigator license application.
- The current state required application fee (which can be found at DOL).
- One completed fingerprint card.
The current length of required training is for hours in covers various aspects of private investigation laws and procedures in the State of Washington. After completing training, and before the license can be issued, the applicant will be required to pass a test to verify understanding of training topics. This can be administered the State of Washington Department of Licensing, or a licensed Private Investigation trainer with the State of Washington. The required documentation should be submitted to the agency you are applying for school for the documents to the state.
Requirements for armed and unarmed agency Private Investigator licenses are the same as the above listed requirements for private investigator employees with the following additions:
- The principal must submit a private investigator agency/principal licensed master business application supplement and
- Be able to show at least three years of private investigations or related field experience before applying for the license.
If no experience can be shown, the principal will be required to pass a test of Private Investigation related laws and procedures administered by the State of Washington Department of Licensing. Agency principles must submit proof of liability insurance coverage with a minimum of $25,000 bodily injury and $25,000 property damage or a $10,000 Private Investigation agency surety bond. The required documentation will be submitted by the agency principal directly to the State of Washington.
Washington State Department of Licensing
Additional information, required forms, and examination study materials can be found online at the State of Washington Department of Licensing website (Here's the link to DOL).
Training Instructor Contact Information
Jim Tyrrell, MA, CFE
Seattle Investigative Services
1916 Pike Place #12-374
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: (206) 910-8888
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