Texas Bail Bond Agent Guide: Requirements and Steps
The state of Texas has a population of 26 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, or licensed private investigators can work as fugitive recovery agents. Private investigators work independently for clients and may investigate a variety of information. In Texas, they can also be hired by a bail bondsman to recover fugitives who have skipped bail for a fee, usually the percentage of the bond. Private investigator licenses in Texas are administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety. If a career as a private investigator in Texas interests you, continue reading to learn about the regulations and requirements.
Requirements for Prospective Private Detectives 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 or have been convicted within the past five years (nor currently charged) of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor
- Not have been dishonorably discharged from the US military
- Not have been found incompetent by 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.
Steps to a Career as a Private Investigator in Texas
To become a private investigator in Texas and act as a bounty hunter, you must have experience in investigation or criminal justice, pass a background check, and pass a state exam. Private investigators should apply for the Class A license as a sole proprietor (if you will be the only owner of the PI business). As you grow your business, you may become interested in increasing your licensure to include a guard company and a guard dog company. The text below focuses on a Class A license– the licensed required to be a private investigator and bounty hunter 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 years of investigative experience, OR
- Possess a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, OR
- Possess a bachelor’s degree in any field plus have six months of investigative experience, OR
- Possess an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field plus 12 months of investigative experience, OR
- Have completed a specialized course of study designed specifically for private investigators and accredited by the state of Texas. 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 any other 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 Department 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. If applying by mail, you must submit the application and fee submission form (PSB-50) plus the appropriate fees*. For your application to be considered, all supporting documentation must be on file with the Department and you must pass the required exam within 90 days.
As of March 2016, the fee for a Class A private investigator license is $361*. If you are applying under an assumed name (which is any name other than your birth name), you must submit a certificate from the county clerk certifying your place of business and assumed name.
All private investigators must be fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check. As of March 2016, the fee for the federal criminal background check is $25. Fingerprints must be submitted electronically by scheduling an appointment. If you cannot submit your fingerprints electronically, contact the Department of Public Safety.
*According to Senate Bill 807, application and exam fees will be waived for current military service men and women 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.
After submitting their application, private investigators in Texas must take and pass the manager’s exam. Applicants will be mailed a schedule of dates and times and may schedule the 100-question, open book exam upon receipt of the letter. The manager’s 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 2016). 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’s 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 private investigator license is $60 (as of March 2016). To renew, you must complete eight hours of continuing education (CE) with one hour in ethics and the remaining seven in investigative services.
Private investigators sometimes work in other similar professions to gain valuable experience and earn extra income. One of those careers is that of a process server. Below you will find some information about the position and the requirements in Texas.
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 a particular case. In Texas, the Texas Judicial Branch certifies process servers. To become certified, you must complete an approved civil process service education course, the application ($225 as of March 2016), pass a state and federal background check, and be fingerprinted. The process server certification must be renewed every three years.
Training and Education Options in Texas
The minimum education required by the Department of Public Safety is a 200-hour course on private investigation, but you may also become licensed 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 accredited education under your belt. Below, you will find some schools in Texas that offer associate and certificate programs in criminal justice and related fields.
College of the Mainland
1200 N Amburn Rd
Texas City, TX 77591
14200 N Interstate 35 Frontage
Austin, TX 78728
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. You can find more information about the group below.
Featured Bail Agents in Texas
Listed below are some well-known and top-rated bail bond agencies throughout the state of Texas. You can use these listings to connect with bondsmen, network, and find work capturing fugitives.
1 Stop Bail Bonds
801 Myrtle Ave
El Paso, TX 79901
A 24-7 Bail Bonds
700 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701
AA Best Bail Bonds
359 S Riverfront Blvd
Dallas, TX 75207
A-Affordable Bail Bonds
111 Continental Ave
Dallas, TX 75207
Around the Clock Bail Bonds
909 Nueces St
Austin, TX 78701
ATX Bail Bonds
607 W 1th St
Austin, TX 78701
Blackwood Bail Bonds
1002 N San Jacinto St
Houston, TX 77002
Delta Bail Bonds
257 S Riverfront Blvd
Dallas, TX 75207
Kubosh Bail Bonding
1701 Lubbock St
Houston, TX 77007
McRae Bail Bonds
4023 S Presa St
San Antonio, TX 78223
My Bail Bonds Houston
945 McKinney, Ste 602
Houston, TX 77002
Southern Bail Bonds
3936 S Polk St #110
Dallas, TX 75224
Private Detective Salary and Outlook in Texas
Texas reported the third-largest number of employed private investigators in the country (2,220) in 2015.2 PIs in Texas earned an annual average salary of $54,000 during that year.3 Jobs for private investigators in Texas are projected to increase by 23.5% between 2012 and the year 2022, which is much higher than the national average; that amounts to 90 new private investigator job openings per year.4
|City or Metropolitan Area||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary||Dallas-Plano-Irving||N/A*||$45,850||Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown||N/A*||$52,950||San Antonio||110||$50,450|
*Estimates were not released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2
The following are groups or associations in Texas that you may wish to join to build your network and increase potential job opportunities.
- Texas Associations of Licensed Investigators – An association that encourages standards and professoinal conduct for private detectives in Texas.
- North Texas Private Investigators Association – An association in Texas for licensed private investigators that focuses on professionalism of the field, networking, community service, and maintaining a code of ethics.
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Texas: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/tx
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Private Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Texas: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tx.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm