Washington DC Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

    Washington DC, the national capitol, is home to an estimated 670,000 people.1 Due to the legal structure of the bail system in Washington DC, there is little need or demand for private or commercial bail. Though the law permits licensed bail bondsmen to issue private bonds if approved by the court in individual cases, in the vast majority of circumstances, defendants are released without private bail. Additionally, there is no statute that allows licensing of individual fugitive recovery agents, though it is assumed through common law and precedent that a licensed bail bondsman may act as a recovery agent. Due to these circumstances, it is recommended that those who are interested in fugitive recovery careers in DC instead seek to become private investigators, who are known in DC as private detectives. Private detectives perform similar work investigating legal, financial, and personal matters and may also assist in tracking bond fugitives. Continue reading below to find out more about the licensing process for private detectives in Washington DC.

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    Requirements for Prospective Private Detectives in Washington DC

    Private detectives in DC must be licensed by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). To qualify for licensure, candidates must:

    • Be at least 18 years of age and legally permitted to work in the US
    • Not have any felony convictions within the preceding two years, nor any misdemeanor convictions within the preceding year

    Continue reading to learn more about the process to become a private detective in Washington DC.

    Steps to a Career as a Private Detective in Washington DC

    If you meet the minimum requirements above, you are ready to begin the process to become a licensed private detective in DC. To help you start your career, we have outlined the steps below in our step-by-step guide.

    1. Obtain the appropriate training or experience.

    While the DCRA has not set specific training or experience requirements for prospective private detectives, it is strongly recommended that those pursuing this career pursue formal training or education to hone their investigative skills and legal knowledge. A degree in criminal justice or a related field can provide you with a competitive edge in seeking employment. Information about available programs in the DC area is provided below.

    Training can also make you aware of the rules and laws specific to DC. For example, there are no circumstances under which a private detective may carry a firearm or other weapon while working in the district. In addition, services such as protection or bodyguard services are not permitted. Be sure to learn all applicable laws before embarking on your career.

    2. Complete a criminal background check.

    The DCRA requires all prospective private detectives to complete a fingerprint-based background check through the Metropolitan Police Department Security Officers’ Management Branch (SOMB). Fingerprinting takes approximately 15 minutes and can be scheduled online.

    3. Apply for a license.

    If you meet the basic qualifications, you may submit an application for a private detective’s license. The license application must be completed online. Be prepared to provide supporting documentation, including:

    • A copy of your social security card, birth certificate and/or passport
    • A receipt for your fingerprint completion
    • A passport-type photo
    • A copy of your driver’s license
    • The $99 application fee (as of August 2022)

    You must also provide proof of affiliation with a licensed private detective business, such as an employment letter. Applications or other materials sent to DCRA by mail may cause delays in the licensing process.

    4. Take and pass the Security Officers Examination.

    All prospective licensees applying to the DCRA must take and pass the DC Security Officers Examination. This exam is administered through PSI. You can register for the exam through the PSI online portal. The fee to take the exam was $69 as of August 2022.

    4. Receive your license and keep it active.

    Once the DCRA has received the required documentation, it will issue your DC private detective license. Private detective licenses must be renewed by October 31st of every even-numbered year. To renew, you must complete an online renewal application.

    Related Careers

    Due to the irregular nature of private detective work, private detectives often work in related careers to earn supplemental income. A common secondary source of work for private detectives is process serving.

    Process Servers

    Process servers are appointed by courts to deliver legal documents to individuals who must be served in person. Process servers must be at least 18 years of age and are not required to be licensed in Washington DC. For more information and career opportunities, contact the District of Columbia Courts.

    Training and Education Options in Washington DC

    Although private detectives in DC are not required to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to become licensed, doing so can provide valuable qualifications in a competitive job market. Earning a formal education can also build your investigative skills. Listed below are a few schools to consider that offer criminal justice and related degree programs.

    American University
    4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20016

    Trinity Washington University
    125 Michigan Ave NE
    Washington, DC 20017

    University of the District of Columbia
    4200 Connecticut Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20008

    Finding Work

    In addition to earning a formal education, you may also wish to consider internship opportunities or seek out an experienced mentor to help you learn the ropes. Experienced investigative professionals can also introduce you to other professional contacts to build your network and earn referrals. To help you get started, below we’ve listed a few highly-rated private detective agencies in DC.

    Featured Private Detective Agencies in Washington DC

    Associated Investigators, Inc.
    1220 L St NW
    Ste #100-164
    Washington, DC 20005

    Axios Investigations Firm, LLC
    1775 I St NW
    Washington, DC 20006

    Capitol Process Services, Inc.
    1827 18th St NW
    Washington, DC 20009

    Private Detective Salary and Outlook in Washington DC

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary data for private detectives in Washington DC. To help you understand professional demand, we have used the similar career of public sector detectives and criminal investigators. You should note, however, that while public sector careers can serve as a proxy, the salaries and benefits can vary widely from those typical for private sector work. According to the BLS, as of 2021 there were 3,310 detectives and criminal investigators working in DC, with an average annual salary of $123,760.2 This compares favorably to the national average of $90,370 per year.3 Job projection data is not available for detectives and criminal investigators in DC. However, employment of private detectives and investigators in DC is expected to increase by 14.3% through 2030, with an average of 10 annual openings including replacements.4

    City or Metropolitan AreaNumber Employed2Average Annual Salary2
    District of Columbia3,310$123,760
    Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metropolitan Division5,120$123,460

    Additional Resources

    1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Washington DC: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/DC/PST045221
    2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2021, Washington, DC: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm
    3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, Detectives and Criminal Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333021.htm
    4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm