Texas Bail Bond Agent Guide: Requirements and Steps

    The state of Texas has a population of 29 million and has the third-highest employment level for private investigators (PIs) in the nation.1,2 In Texas, only peace officers, commissioned security officers, and licensed private investigators can work as fugitive recovery agents, commonly referred to in other states as “bounty hunters.” Private investigators (PIs) work independently for clients and may perform various duties related to finding information. In Texas, PIs can be hired by a bail bondsman to recover fugitives who have skipped bail for a fee, usually a percentage of the bond. Private investigator licenses in Texas are administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). If a career as a private investigator in Texas interests you, continue reading to learn about the regulations and requirements.

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    Requirements for Prospective Private Investigators in Texas

    Since bounty hunters are not allowed to work as such in Texas, those interested in working to apprehend fugitives (or “skips”) may wish to become private investigators. Private investigators must:

    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Have no felony convictions nor have been convicted within the past five years of, or be currently charged with, a Class A or Class B misdemeanor
    • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the US military
    • Not have been found incompetent by a court for mental defect or disease
    • Not have been required to register as a sexual offender in any state

    If you meet these basic qualifications, you can follow the steps below to become licensed as a PI.

    Steps to a Career as a Private Investigator in Texas

    To become a private investigator in Texas and act as a fugitive recovery agent (known in some other states as a “bounty hunter”), you must have experience in investigations or criminal justice, pass a background check, and pass a state exam. Private investigators working independently should apply for the Class A license as sole proprietors. The text below focuses on the Class A license, as it is the minimum required to become a private investigator in Texas.

    1. Obtain the required education or experience.

    To become a licensed private investigator in Texas, you must have one of the following combinations of education and/or experience:

    • Have three consecutive years of investigative experience, OR
    • Have another combination of education and experience deemed acceptable by the DPS, generally regarded as possessing a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field plus investigative experience; and/or
    • Have completed a specialized course of study designed specifically for private investigators that holds accreditation recognized by the DPS. The course must have 200 hours of face-to-face classroom time and must include the study of ethics, private security administrative rules, the Private Security Act, and any related statutes.

    All degrees and specialized courses must be accredited and/or recognized as being accredited by the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board, Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, or by another accreditation entity in the state of Texas.

    2. Submit the application.

    Once you have the experience and/or education required, you must apply to the DPS for a Class A license. If you will be self-employed and not working with any other partners, you will apply under the sole proprietor ownership option. Be prepared to submit supporting documentation plus the appropriate fees, which will vary based on the structure of your business and any individual licenses required.* For your application to be considered, all supporting documentation must be on file and you must pass the required exam within 90 days.

    All private investigators must be fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check. As of March 2022, the fee for the federal criminal background check is $28.25. Fingerprints must be submitted electronically by scheduling an appointment with IdentoGO. If you cannot submit your fingerprints electronically, the DPS provides an alternative fingerprint process for those who qualify.

    *Application and exam fees will be waived for current military and veterans. Fees may also be waived for a military spouse who has a current PI license in another state if the requirements are equal to that of the state of Texas, or a military spouse who held a PI license in Texas within the past five years.

    3. Take and pass the examination, if applicable.

    Private investigators in Texas who will be managing or supervising others must take and pass the Manager Exam. The Manager Exam is only administered in Austin, Texas. The exam tests your knowledge of the rules and regulations governing the private security industry in Texas. You must score a 70 or higher in order to pass and you will receive your score results within 30 days. The original exam fee is included in the application fee, but if you fail, you will have to pay the re-examination fee of $100 (as of March 2022). On the day of testing, you must bring with you a copy of your invitation letter, a driver’s license or state ID, and a copy of your private investigator license application. There is no limit to the number of times you can re-take the Manager Exam as long as you pass within your 90-day window.

    4. Receive your license.

    Once you complete the steps above and pass the exam, you will become a licensed private investigator in Texas. Becoming a private investigator in Texas means that you can act as a bail enforcement agent and recover fugitives who have skipped bail.

    Private investigator licenses expire annually on the last day of the expiration month (printed on the license). The fee to renew the PI license varies based on the type of business and the level of the individual. To renew, you must complete eight hours of continuing education (CE) with one hour in ethics and the remaining seven in investigative services.

    Related Careers

    Private investigators sometimes work in other similar professions to gain valuable experience and earn extra income. One such career is that of a process server. Below you will find some information about this position and the requirements in Texas.

    Process Server

    If you are already licensed as a private investigator, you may want to consider becoming certified as a process server. Process servers serve legal documents and court actions to parties involved in court cases. In Texas, the Texas Judicial Branch certifies process servers. To become certified, you must complete an approved civil process service education course, submit the application and fee ($200 as of March 2022), pass a state and federal background check, and be fingerprinted. The process server certification must be renewed every three years, which requires the completion of continuing education and payment of a renewal fee of $200 (as of March 2022).

    Training and Education Options in Texas

    A common educational path for private investigators recognized by the DPS is a 200-hour course on private investigation, but you may also become eligible for licensure with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Having a two- or four-year degree in criminal justice or completing a certificate course will increase your knowledge of criminal procedure and may jumpstart your career as a private investigator. You may be able to negotiate a higher salary with an accredited degree under your belt. Below, you will find some schools in Texas that offer associate and certificate programs in criminal justice and related fields.

    Central Texas College
    6200 W Central Texas Expwy
    Killeen, TX 76549

    College of the Mainland
    1200 N Amburn Rd
    Texas City, TX 77591

    Paris Junior College
    2400 Clarkesville St
    Paris, TX 75460

    Tyler Junior College
    1400 E 5th St
    Tyler, TX 75701

    Finding Work

    While some investigation companies and private clients will be actively hiring, most work for private investigators is gained through referrals from past and current clients. For this reason, it is beneficial to meet with other PIs in the state and join local associations or clubs. If you are new in your career, you may also want to consider identifying a mentor or an apprenticeship program to gain experience and meet potential clients. Check out our Expert Interviews page for more advice. The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators is also a good place to start.

    Featured Bail Agents in Texas

    Listed below are some well-known and top-rated bail bond agencies throughout the state of Texas. According to the organization Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS), there are 31 member agents in this state. You can use these listings to connect with bondsmen, network, and find work capturing fugitives.

    1 Stop Bail Bonds
    801 Myrtle Ave
    Ste 100
    El Paso, TX 79901

    A 24-7 Bail Bonds
    1800 Lavaca St
    Ste 109
    Austin, TX 78701

    AA Best Bail Bonds
    201 Continental
    Dallas, TX 75207

    A-Affordable Bail Bonds
    111 Continental Ave
    Ste 500
    Dallas, TX 75207

    Around the Clock Bail Bonds
    909 Nueces St
    Austin, TX 78701

    ATX Bail Bonds
    600 W 28th St
    Ste 201
    Austin, TX 78705

    Blackwood Bail Bonding Company
    1002 N San Jacinto St
    Houston, TX 77002

    Delta Bail Bonds
    257 S Riverfront Blvd
    Dallas, TX 75207

    McRae Bail Bonds
    4023 S Presa St
    San Antonio, TX 78223

    Southern Bail Bonds
    3936 S Polk St #110
    Dallas, TX 75224

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

    Private Investigator Salary and Outlook in Texas

    Texas reported the third-largest number of employed private investigators in the country (2,360) in 2021.2 PIs in Texas earned an annual average salary of $57,910 during that year.2 Jobs for private investigators in Texas are projected to increase by 24% between 2020 and 2030, which is much higher than the national average (13.1%); this amounts to 56 new private investigator jobs added in the state per year.3

    City or Metropolitan AreaNumber Employed4Average Annual Salary4
    Austin-Round RockN.Av.$57,910
    Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington630$63,680
    Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land480$63,250
    San Antonio-New Braunfels120$55,900

    Additional Resources

    The following are groups or associations in Texas that you may wish to join to build your network and increase potential job opportunities.

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