Guest Post: What Do You Need to Become a Private Investigator in New Jersey?

What Do You Need to Become a Private Investigator in New Jersey?
Clark Palmer


There aren’t as many careers that can be as fulfilling and exciting as being a private investigator. If you are the type of person who has a sense of adventure, a knack for getting hunches right, and a keen eye for details, then this job may just be for you.


Most importantly, this kind of service is in high demand in many places all over the country, and being a private investigator in New Jersey is one of the most lucrative assignments you can ever have. As a highly populated and diverse state, New Jersey residents have growing needs for domestic investigations such as those involving spousal infidelity, child custody, and the like.


Top pay

According to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are close to 300 licensed private investigators working in New Jersey as of 2012, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects is anticipating this number to grow by a rate of 8% annually up to the year 2020.


It might interest you to know as well that, as of 2012, the annual median salary of private detectives in the state was pegged at $54,370, with the average salary for those in the top tenth percentile reaching as high as $90,980.


Getting licensed

If you are thinking of getting into this line of work, do know that it is a highly regulated and licensed profession. This is justifiably so since it involves handling sensitive information, taking undercover action and interacting with other individuals. Here are the steps that you need to take to become a full-fledged, legally practicing private investigator in New Jersey:


Meet the minimum age and residency requirements. You should be a resident of the United States and at least 25 years of age to become eligible for licensing as a private investigator in New Jersey.  

Attain relevant education and career experience. For you to become a licensed private detective in the state, you must prove that you have had at least 5 years of experience as a police officer with a local or state department, or an investigator within a country, city, state or federal organization. Strictly speaking, there is no requirement for a particular college course or degree in order to become a private investigator. However, having a degree in criminal justice or similar related fields is an advantage because you gain relevant knowledge in the criminal justice system.

Submit to electronic fingerprinting. You need to submit to electronic fingerprinting process before applying for a license. Contact the New Jersey State Police–Private Detective Unit at (609) 633-9835 to request for a temporary agent license number, which will be needed in the Universal Fingerprint Form. You will then need this to set an appointment on where you can also find accredited MorphoTrak sites that you can visit where the fingerprinting will be carried out. Note that this process will cost you a fee of $67.50.

Apply for the license. After meeting these initial requirements, you may now proceed to actually applying for a license to become a private investigator in New Jersey. Accomplish the form (available online at: and submit it to the New Jersey State Police together with the following:

  • $250 application fee (for individuals)
  • Passport-size photo
  • At least 5 professional references on your competency as a licensed private investigator
  • Accomplished and notarized Authorization for Release of Information form (included in the general application form)
  • A Detective Agency License Surety Bond of at least $3,000 (for individuals)

You may mail the submission to the New Jersey State Police: Private Detective Unit, P.O. Box 7068, West Trenton, NJ 08628.

Don’t forget to renew your license every two years, where you must also make sure that your surety bond is updated. You will have to re-submit your fingerprints again through the same online process.

Get affiliated. Once that you have received your license, congratulations! You can now get to work or enjoy gainful employment as a private detective in New Jersey. To enhance your practice and gain credibility, consider joining professional organizations in the state or national level. These memberships can help a lot in terms of networking and continuing training and education through conferences and seminars.

A rewarding career

Embarking on a career as a licensed professional private detective may take some effort, but these are all worth it in ensuring that you present your best, trustworthy self to clients. You may choose to strike it out on your own and build your own detective agency, or you can find rewarding employ for law firms, insurance companies, the local or state government, and even private individuals.


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