Iowa Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

    An estimated 3.1 million people live in Iowa.1 Bail bonds and bail enforcement are an important part of the state’s criminal justice system, which recognizes the practice of bounty hunting. Bounty hunters retrieve individuals released on bail who have failed to appear for required court appearances in criminal cases. This page covers how to obtain a license to work as a bounty hunter–also known as a bail enforcement agent–in Iowa, training suggestions for a career in bounty hunting or other fugitive recovery professions, and links to agents and associations that may help you find work once you receive your license. Statistics on the job outlook in related professions in the state are also included.

    Table of Contents

    Requirements for Prospective Bounty Hunters in Iowa

    Anyone working as a bounty hunter, also referred to as a bail enforcement agent in Iowa, must have either an employee ID card issued through the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) (if working as an employee for a bail bond agency) or have a bail enforcement agent license (if working as a freelancer or other independent agent).

    To be eligible for an ID card or license, you must:

    • Be at least 18 years old and a US citizen
    • Have no felony or aggravated misdemeanor convictions
    • Have no history of domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse

    Steps to a Career as a Bounty Hunter in Iowa

    To obtain a bail enforcement agent ID or license in Iowa, follow the steps provided below.

    Bail Enforcement Agent ID (For Employees)

    1. Obtain employment through a bail bond agency.

    In order to receive a bail enforcement ID card, you must have an employment agreement with each bail bond agency for which you will be working. You may work for more than one bail bond agency on an employee basis, but you must have a separate ID card for each agency.

    2. Request that your employer apply for your ID card.

    In Iowa, bounty hunters who are working as employees of a licensed bail bond agency do not apply directly for the ID card. Instead, your employer(s) must apply to the DPS for the ID card on your behalf, which will include submitting your fingerprints for a background check. Note that you may not perform fugitive recovery services until your ID card has been issued. There is a $10 fee (as of July 2022) for the ID card, which is typically covered by the employing agency.

    Bail Enforcement Agent License (For Independent Contractors)

    After you have gained experience working as an employee, you may wish to expand your options and work on a freelance basis and/or hire other bounty hunters. To do so, you must apply for a bail enforcement agency license.

    1. Obtain a $5,000 surety bond and liability insurance.

    You must submit proof of a $5,000 surety bond and proof of liability insurance with your bail enforcement agency license application because bail enforcement agents may be subject to civil action if they do not follow the appropriate procedures while apprehending an individual. Depending on your business structure, you may also need to submit your company’s articles of incorporation and/or statement(s) of use of trade name(s), if operating under a name other than your own.

    2. Submit your application package.

    Send your online application to the DPS with two passport-style photos, the $100 application fee, and $10 identification card fee. You will also need to send two fingerprint cards with your application. These fingerprints must be taken by an approved office, such as the DPS office, and the cost is at your expense. You must also send the $30 fingerprint card processing fee for each set of fingerprints with your application. Fees are current as of July 2022.

    3. Receive your license.

    Once you receive your license you will be able to look for freelance employment in the fugitive recovery field and perform other fugitive recovery and bail bond services. You must still carry your identification card with you at all times.

    Related Careers

    If you are interested in bounty hunting careers, you may be interested in related professions, such as private investigation and process serving.

    Private Investigator/Private Detective

    Private investigators (PIs) find information related to crimes or court actions and must also obtain a license from the DPS. The licensing process to obtain a private investigator license is similar to the bounty hunter license process in Iowa and also costs $100 (as of July 2022). The license is valid for two years. You will be required to complete 12 hours of continuing education during each two-year period in order to renew.

    Process Server

    Process servers transport and deliver documents to involved parties for court proceedings. You do not need a license to work as a process server in Iowa. Check with your local court system and private process server businesses to find opportunities.

    Training and Education Options in Iowa

    There are no specific educational requirements to apply for bail enforcement or private investigator licenses in Iowa. However, pursuing an education in a subject relevant to fugitive recovery such as criminal justice or policing may help you learn useful skills before you start working. Several colleges offer two-year associate degrees that include courses in criminology, corrections, and litigation. Four-year bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice may provide even more in-depth information, including courses in psychology and law. Below are select schools in Iowa offering such programs.

    Hawkeye Community College
    1501 East Orange Rd
    Waterloo, IA 50704

    University of Iowa
    108 Calvin Hall
    Iowa City, IA 52242

    Western Iowa Tech Community College
    4647 Stone Ave
    Sioux City, IA 51102

    Finding Work

    Finding work in the fugitive recovery field requires a strong network because many companies hire bounty hunters based on reputation and results. To start your career and find work opportunities, you might consider working with an experienced bounty hunter who can act as a mentor and help you gain experience in the field. Contacting bail bond agencies, which hire bounty hunters to retrieve individuals who have skipped court appearances after having bail posted on their behalf, may help you find opportunities. The Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS) directory lists three member agents in Iowa.

    Featured Bail Agents in Iowa

    There are many bail bond agents across the state. Here are a few that are highly rated and/or well-known.

    A-2-Z Bail Bonds
    2595 NE 46th Ave
    Des Moines, IA 50317

    A Bail Co.
    4902 University Ave
    Des Moines, IA 50311

    Kenny’s Bail Bonds
    2051 E Euclid Ave
    Des Moines, IA 50317

    Lederman Bonding Co.
    1534 Ave J
    Council Bluffs, IA 51503

    Wild Side Bail Bonds
    413 1st Ave SW
    Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

    To find even more bail agents and bondsmen in your area, use the Member Search tool on the PBUS website.

    Bounty Hunter Salary and Outlook in Iowa

    In this section, we provide statistics and information about the job outlook for private detectives and investigators in Iowa as a proxy for bounty hunters, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not gather information on bounty hunting. In 2021, there were an estimated 70 individuals employed as private detectives in the state overall, with an average annual salary of $58,460.2 This was slightly below the national average salary for this occupation in 2021, which was $60,970.3 Jobs for private investigators in Iowa are projected to increase 27.8% through 2030, with a projected average of 20 annual job openings including replacements.4

    City or Metropolitan AreaNumber Employed2Average Annual Salary2
    Des Moines-West Des Moines40$63,370
    Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA40$74,030

    Additional Resources

    1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Iowa: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/IA/PST045221
    2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Iowa: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ia.htm
    3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, Private Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm
    4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm