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Top 10 Private Investigator Certifications

This article provides an overview of the top certifications available for private investigators, including details on the requirements and benefits of each.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 16 min read

Certifications for private investigators are important for a few reasons. First, they demonstrate that the investigator has the knowledge and skills to do the work required of them. This can help employers or clients feel more confident in hiring an investigator because they know they have been trained and certified in their field. Additionally, certifications can also help investigators stand out from other candidates when seeking employment, as having such credentials can give them an advantage over those without them. Finally, certifications can provide an investigator with access to additional resources and information that may be useful in their line of work. This could include access to databases or other investigative tools that could help them solve cases more effectively and efficiently.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the top certifications for Private Investigators and explain how they can enhance a private investigator's career.

What are Private Investigator Certifications?

Private investigator certification is a designation given to individuals who have demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary to work as a private investigator. It is typically awarded by a professional organization or an educational institution after the completion of a certain set of courses or examinations. Certification can help demonstrate an individual’s level of expertise in the field, which can be beneficial for those seeking employment as a private investigator. Certified professionals may be more attractive to potential employers, as they have demonstrated their knowledge and experience in the field. Additionally, certification can provide access to resources and networking opportunities that can help give investigators an edge over other applicants. Finally, it can also help ensure that investigators are compliant with applicable laws and regulations in their area.

Pro Tip: Make sure to research the certifications available in your area when considering becoming a private investigator. Different states and countries may have different certification requirements, so it’s important to know what is required in order to become certified and be able to practice as a private investigator.

Related: What does a Private Investigator do?

Top 10 Private Investigator Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Private Investigators today.

1. Certified Professional Investigator (CPI)

Certified Professional Investigator (CPI) is a professional designation awarded by the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI). The CPI credential is designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a high level of professional competence in the field of legal investigations. To be eligible for certification, applicants must meet certain educational and experience requirements, pass an examination, and adhere to a code of ethics.

It typically takes between six months and one year to complete the process of becoming certified as a CPI. This includes completing all required coursework, passing the exam, and submitting all necessary paperwork.

To become certified as a CPI, applicants must first complete at least 40 hours of approved training in areas such as legal research, evidence collection techniques, interviewing techniques, and report writing. Applicants must also possess at least two years of full-time investigative experience or three years of part-time investigative experience within the last five years.

Once these criteria are met, applicants can register for the exam with NALI. The cost for taking the exam is $250 USD plus any applicable taxes or fees. After passing the exam, applicants must submit an application packet to NALI that includes proof of their training and experience along with other documents such as letters of recommendation from colleagues or clients. Once approved by NALI, applicants will receive their CPI certification.

2. Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) is a professional who has been trained to investigate and detect financial fraud. CFEs are certified by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), an international organization that sets standards for the profession and provides education, training, and certification.

To become a CFE, candidates must meet certain requirements set by the ACFE. These include having at least two years of experience in fraud-related work or a degree in accounting, law enforcement, or criminal justice; passing a four-hour exam; and agreeing to abide by the ACFE's Code of Professional Ethics. The exam covers topics such as fraud prevention, detection, investigation, and legal elements.

It typically takes between six months and one year to prepare for the CFE exam. Candidates should plan to allocate significant time to studying for the exam and familiarizing themselves with its content areas.

The cost for taking the CFE exam varies depending on whether you are an ACFE member or not. For non-members, it costs $400 USD plus applicable taxes; for members, it costs $300 USD plus applicable taxes.

3. Certified Legal Investigator (CLI)

Certified Legal Investigator (CLI) is a professional certification program designed to recognize individuals who possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to conduct effective legal investigations. The CLI certification is administered by the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI).

It takes approximately 4-6 months to complete the CLI certification process. To become certified, applicants must first meet the eligibility requirements set forth by NALI. This includes having at least five years of experience in the field of legal investigation and successfully completing an approved training program. Once these requirements are met, applicants can then submit their application for review by NALI’s Certification Board.

The cost of becoming a Certified Legal Investigator varies depending on the specific training program chosen. Generally speaking, most programs range from $500-$2,000. Additionally, there is an annual renewal fee of $100 that must be paid in order to maintain active status as a Certified Legal Investigator.

4. Certified Surveillance Investigator (CSI)

Certified Surveillance Investigator (CSI) is a professional certification that recognizes the knowledge and skills of experienced surveillance investigators. It is awarded by the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC). The certification requires a combination of experience, education, and training in the field of surveillance investigation.

To become a Certified Surveillance Investigator (CSI), an individual must have at least five years of documented experience in surveillance investigations or related fields. This experience must be verified by two references from employers or supervisors who can attest to the applicant’s qualifications and abilities. In addition, applicants must complete an eight-hour IAPSC-approved course on surveillance techniques and pass a written exam with a score of 80% or higher.

The cost for the Certified Surveillance Investigator (CSI) certification varies depending on where you take the course and exam. Generally speaking, it will cost between $500-$1000 to obtain this certification. The time it takes to get certified depends on how quickly you can complete the necessary training and pass the exam. On average, it should take about three months from start to finish to become a Certified Surveillance Investigator (CSI).

5. Certified Background Investigator (CBI)

A Certified Background Investigator (CBI) is an individual who has been certified by a professional organization to conduct background investigations. CBIs are typically employed by companies, government agencies, and law enforcement organizations to verify the accuracy of information provided by job applicants or other individuals.

The process of becoming a CBI can vary depending on the certifying organization, but generally involves completing an in-depth training program and passing a comprehensive exam. The training program covers topics such as legal issues related to background investigations, interviewing techniques, and research methods. The exam tests knowledge of these topics and may also include a practical component.

The cost of becoming a CBI varies depending on the certifying organization and the type of training program chosen. Generally, it can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Additionally, some organizations may require additional fees for certification renewal every few years.

The amount of time required to become a CBI also varies depending on the certifying organization and the type of training program chosen. Generally, it can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to complete the necessary coursework and pass the exam.

6. Private Detective License

A Private Detective License is a license issued by a state or local government that allows an individual to legally operate as a private detective. The license grants the holder the right to investigate and report on criminal activities, civil matters, and other investigative matters.

How long does it take to get it?

The amount of time required to obtain a Private Detective License varies from state to state. Generally, the process can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. Depending on the jurisdiction, applicants may be required to complete pre-licensing courses, pass background checks, and provide proof of insurance coverage before being granted a license.

How do I get it?

In order to obtain a Private Detective License, applicants must meet certain qualifications as determined by their state or local government. This includes completing pre-licensing courses and passing background checks. Applicants must also provide proof of insurance coverage before being granted a license. Additionally, some jurisdictions require applicants to pass an exam or submit fingerprints for further investigation.

How much does it cost?

The cost of obtaining a Private Detective License varies from state to state but typically ranges between $100-$500 depending on the jurisdiction. In addition to the licensing fee, applicants may also be required to pay additional fees for pre-licensing courses, background checks, and fingerprinting services.

7. Private Security Officer License

A Private Security Officer License is a license issued by the state in which the security officer works. It allows individuals to work as private security officers in that particular state.

The requirements for obtaining a Private Security Officer License vary from state to state. Generally, applicants must be at least 18 years old, have no criminal record, and pass a background check. Additional requirements may include completing an approved training program and passing an exam.

The amount of time it takes to obtain a Private Security Officer License varies depending on the individual's background and the specific regulations of the issuing state. In some cases, it can take up to several months for an application to be processed and approved.

In order to get a Private Security Officer License, applicants must submit an application form with all required documentation to their local licensing agency or board. Applicants may also need to provide proof of completion of an approved training program, a copy of their driver's license or other photo identification, and any other documents requested by the licensing agency or board.

The cost of obtaining a Private Security Officer License varies from state to state but typically ranges from $50-$200 depending on the specific requirements of each jurisdiction.

8. Private Investigator Diploma

A Private Investigator Diploma is a certificate that demonstrates an individual has completed the necessary training and education to become a private investigator. The diploma typically requires the completion of courses in investigative techniques, criminal justice, and legal issues related to investigations. It may also include courses in business management, public relations, and marketing.

The length of time it takes to get a Private Investigator Diploma varies depending on the program you choose. Most programs require between one and two years of study, but some can be completed in as little as six months.

To get a Private Investigator Diploma, you must first complete the required courses. You will then need to pass an exam administered by your state or province's licensing board. Once you have passed the exam, you will receive your diploma.

The cost of a Private Investigator Diploma depends on the program you choose and any additional fees associated with taking the exam or obtaining your license. Generally speaking, most programs range from $2,000-$5,000 USD for tuition alone. Additional costs such as books and supplies may also be required.

9. Licensed Private Investigator (LPI)

A Licensed Private Investigator (LPI) is a professional who is licensed by the state to conduct investigations for private individuals, corporations, and government agencies. An LPI is typically hired to investigate matters such as missing persons, fraud, theft, infidelity, and other criminal activity.

In order to become an LPI in the United States, applicants must first meet certain requirements set forth by their state of residence. These requirements vary from state to state but generally include passing a background check and having experience in law enforcement or related fields. Once these requirements are met, applicants must submit an application with their local licensing board. The application process usually takes several weeks or months depending on the state and can cost anywhere from $50-$500 depending on the jurisdiction.

Once approved, LPIs must complete continuing education courses every year in order to maintain their license. This ensures that LPIs stay up-to-date on the latest investigative techniques and laws governing private investigation.

The cost of becoming an LPI varies depending on the jurisdiction but typically ranges from $500-$1,000 including fees for licensing applications and continuing education courses.

10. Certificate in Investigative Skills

Certificate in Investigative Skills is a professional certification program designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to become a successful investigator. The program focuses on developing the core investigative skills needed to conduct effective investigations, such as interviewing, evidence collection, surveillance techniques, and report writing. The program also covers topics related to legal issues and ethical considerations when conducting investigations.

The Certificate in Investigative Skills typically takes between six months and one year to complete. This includes both online coursework and hands-on training. Students must complete all of the required courses in order to receive their certificate.

To get a Certificate in Investigative Skills, students must first complete an application process that includes submitting transcripts from any previous college or university courses taken. They must also pass a background check and drug test before being accepted into the program. Once accepted into the program, students will be required to take classes such as Introduction to Investigations, Evidence Collection & Preservation, Interviewing Techniques & Report Writing, Surveillance & Counter Surveillance Techniques, Legal Issues & Ethical Considerations for Investigators, and Advanced Investigation Techniques & Practices.

The cost of obtaining a Certificate in Investigative Skills varies depending on the institution offering it. Generally speaking, most programs range from $1,000-$3,000 for tuition fees alone. Additional costs may include books and supplies as well as any applicable registration or testing fees.

Do You Really Need a Private Investigator Certificate?

The answer to this question depends on what you’re hoping to achieve with a private investigator certificate. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain a certificate in order to practice as a private investigator, depending on your state's laws and regulations. However, even if it is not required by law, having a private investigator certificate can help demonstrate your knowledge and experience in the field of investigation, making you more attractive to potential employers or clients.

In addition to demonstrating your knowledge and experience, having a private investigator certificate may also come with certain privileges such as access to databases or special investigative techniques that are not available to the general public. It could also provide you with an advantage when competing for jobs or clients against those without such credentials.

Ultimately, whether or not you need a private investigator certificate will depend on your goals and the specific requirements of your state. If you are looking to start a career in investigation and have the opportunity to pursue certification, then it might be worth exploring further.

Related: Private Investigator Resume Examples

FAQs About Private Investigator Certifications

1. How do I become certified as a private investigator?

Answer: To become certified as a private investigator, you must meet the licensing requirements of your state and complete an approved training program. You may also need to pass an examination or have relevant experience in the field.

2. What type of certification is available?

Answer: The type of certification available varies by state and may include certifications such as Licensed Private Investigator (LPI), Certified Private Investigator (CPI), or Registered Private Investigator (RPI).

3. What are the benefits of becoming certified?

Answer: Becoming certified as a private investigator can help to demonstrate your level of knowledge and expertise in the field, which can open doors to new job opportunities, higher pay, and greater credibility within the industry.

4. What does a certification involve?

Answer: A certification typically involves completing an approved training program and passing an examination that tests knowledge in areas such as investigative techniques, ethics, laws, regulations, and other topics related to private investigation.

5. Is recertification required?

Answer: In some states, recertification may be required every few years to maintain your certification status. This usually involves taking continuing education courses or passing an updated exam on relevant topics.