Want to Become a New York State Licensed Private Investigator?

Obtaining a license in New York as a private investigator is one of the most coveted licenses in NY and for good reason: It is very difficult to achieve. Before we begin, let’s get past a common semantic:


License vs. Registration

The first question you should ask yourself when pursuing private investigation as a career is: Do you want to run your own private investigation firm or do you want to work under a private investigator? In order to get a license in Private Investigation in NY, you need to be the principal of a private investigation business entity with the NYS Department of Business and oversee the day to day affairs and cases. If you do not plan on owning your own business, once employed with a private investigator or detective agency, then you need to register as support staff, which the requirements and process in New York are much less rigorous than a private investigator license, but with less notoriety. Remember: NYS requires that there is at least one licensed private investigator at a private investigation firm. You will not be able to work as a fully independent private investigator or run your own private investigation business unless you are licensed.


What is required to be a licensed NYS Private Investigator?

According the NYS Division of Licensing Services, by the time you apply for licensure, you must:

  • Be at least 25 years old
  • A US Citizen
  • Have a High School Diploma
  • The principal in a private investigation business entity: this includes overseeing the day-to-day affairs and possessing the expertise in the investigations.
  • Pass the NYS private investigator exam within two years before you submit your application
  • Three years experience or “equivalent position and experience.”
  • Get fingerprinted for the Department of Justice Services (Information on finding a fingerprinting location and scheduling)

Keep in mind that these are the requirements to get licensed: to get hired in New York State by a private investigation firm, they may have more job requirements.


Experience and “Equivalent position and experience”

NYS Division of Licensing Services defines the two as the following:

“Experience” is defined as three years of full-time investigative experience as a proprietary investigator, employee of a licensed private investigator, or an investigator in a government investigative agency or police agency.

“Equivalent experience” is defined as three years in a position where the primary duties were to conduct investigations, or three years of experience supervising and reviewing the work of at least three persons performing investigations, or New York State police officers or fire marshals with 20 years of service irrespective of title.


How long does it take to become a Private Investigator?

The amount of time is relative to how long it takes for you to pass the NYS Private Investigator License Exam and become a principal to a private investigation business entity. Regardless, it will take at least 3 years of experience before you can be at least considered for a New York State Private Investigator License.


Does a Private Investigator License expire?

NYS Private Investigator license expires two years after date of issuance.


Do I need to take classes to become a New York State Private Investigator?

While you are not required by New York to complete professional development courses per se, it is highly recommended that you take the following courses* in preparing to become a private investigator:

  • We offer an Introductory Private Investigator Course* for those who are interested or have just started in the private investigation field.
  • If you have been in the private investigation field for at least three years and are over the age of 25, Radius Investigations offers NYS Private Investigation License Exam Preparation Course.*

*Disclaimer: Introductory Private Investigator course and preparation course for the Private Investigation NYS License Exam are not sanctioned or part of any curriculum set by NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services or NYS Division of Licensing Services. Radius Investigations cannot guarantee any score or level, nor passing the NYS P.I. License Exam.

  • Radius Investigations hosts anti-crime tactics and technique lectures by licensed private investigator and security expert Don Longo. Lectures include how to survive an active shooter situation, verbal judo techniques to generate compliance and successfully negotiate with difficult people, and situational awareness. These lectures have been given to the public, as well as security personnel and police officers.