Training for Bounty Hunters

    The type and length of training you will need in order to become a bounty hunter (also known as a fugitive recovery agent, bail enforcement agent, bail recovery agent, or bail bond agent) will vary depending on the licensure rules of the state(s) where you wish to work and your previous education and experience. A number of states have formal training requirements. Training requirements will also depend on your prior experience. If you have experience in one of the following fields, some or all formal training requirements for state licensure may be waived:

    • Law enforcement or peace officer
    • Private investigation with possible licensure
    • Military (depending on role and training)
    • Security guard (depending on role and training)

    However, even where formal training is not required by law, training is essential in this field due to the sometimes dangerous nature of the job. In general, state regulation is increasing for bounty hunters and fugitive recovery agents, so it’s fair to expect more required training over time. Continue reading to learn more about education options for prospective bounty hunters.

    Table of Contents

    Pre-Licensing Course in Bail Enforcement

    A number of states that have formal education requirements for bounty hunters have adopted pre-licensing courses in bail enforcement. These courses cover the basics of bail enforcement law, fugitive apprehension, and criminal justice ethics. Bail enforcement pre-licensing courses are typically between 20 and 50 clock hours in length. States that have adopted this requirement include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

    Certificate in Bail Enforcement, Law Enforcement, or Criminal Justice

    Another option for advancing your education in this field is to complete a certificate program. Many community colleges and some four-year colleges and universities offer certificates that focus on different areas of criminal justice that can be of use in a bail enforcement career. A growing number of schools are also offering criminal justice and bail enforcement certificates online. You can find programs that are geared towards people with a college degree as well as programs designed for people with no previous college experience. Particularly at the undergraduate level, credits earned in a certificate program can typically be transferred towards an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a later time.

    Two-Year Criminal Justice Degree with Law Enforcement Focus

    An associate’s degree in criminal justice with a law enforcement emphasis is ideal for many who are just starting out in this field. Associate’s degrees can be completed on campus, online, or in a hybrid format. In addition to bounty hunting, many other careers start with a degree in law enforcement and private investigation, so earning a degree in this field can expand your career options.

    Many prospective bounty hunters choose to pursue an Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree in criminal justice that includes law enforcement training at a police academy as part of the curriculum. In addition to general education courses, such a program is likely to include coursework in:

    • Civil disorder
    • Conflict resolution
    • Detention
    • Disaster control and response
    • Evidence collection
    • First aid
    • Investigation
    • Patrol
    • Report writing
    • Tactics

    Private Investigator Training

    By pursuing training as a private investigator, you will also broaden employment opportunities beyond bail recovery. In some states, such as Texas, you must be a licensed PI to do bail recovery. In many states, prospective PIs are required to have a combination of education and experience in order to be licensed or work independently, so those who already have a degree will be better prepared for the licensure process. Coursework that can prepare you for this career includes subjects such as:

    • Legal principles
    • Investigation business overview
    • Investigation techniques
    • Locating people and background checks
    • Required equipment

    Bounty Hunter-Specific Training Courses

    As noted above, there are specific courses for bounty hunters or bail enforcement agents, particularly in states that require pre-licensing education. In many cases, online bounty hunter training courses are offered. Whether online or in person, these courses typically cover topics such as:

    • Bail industry law
    • Surveillance and skip tracing
    • Fugitive apprehension
    • Firearms and weapons training

    Whether you’re choosing a pre-licensing course, a certificate, or a degree program, make sure you verify the program credentials by communicating with past students, researching owner and instructor experience, and reading third-party reviews, such as from Yelp, Google Reviews, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). For pre-licensing courses, you’ll want to make sure that the course you are considering is approved by your state to meet licensing requirements. For certificate and degree programs, be sure that the school you are considering is from one of the seven regional accreditors recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

    Training and Education Requirements by State

    For more specific information about the training and education you will need to become licensed or prepared to practice bounty hunting in your state, choose your state from the list below.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What does it take to be a bounty hunter?

    Bounty hunters should be calm under pressure and have a strong understanding of the laws related to bail bonds and fugitive recovery. A certificate or degree program in bail enforcement or criminal justice can help prospective fugitive recovery agents build their skills and knowledge. Seeking mentoring and advice from an experienced agent is another way to prepare for this career.

    What courses should I take to be a bounty hunter or fugitive recovery agent?

    Courses that are likely to be helpful in this career include bail bond law, fugitive recovery law, psychology, criminal codes, and criminal justice ethics. Check with your state’s laws and regulations to see what courses may be required or recommended.

    Can you become a bounty hunter with a GED?

    Yes, a high school diploma or GED is the minimum education requirement in many states. States that require a bail enforcement pre-licensing course typically recognize the GED as a prerequisite, meaning you will likely still be qualified to complete any remaining education requirements.

    Can you take bail enforcement courses online?

    Yes. In many states, the required bail enforcement courses are offered online and in hybrid formats to accommodate working professionals.

    How much does a bounty hunter get paid?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track occupational data for bounty hunters or fugitive recovery agents. However, since private investigators (PIs) and private detectives (PDs) perform similar work, we use this occupation as a proxy. The BLS reported an average salary of $60,970 for private investigators as of 2021.1

    Can a felon be a bounty hunter?

    In states where bounty hunters are required to be licensed, a felony will typically disqualify applicants. However, this may be dependent on the specific circumstances; be sure to check with your state licensing board for possible exceptions, especially if your conviction may be expunged. In states that do not require licensing, a felony may or may not be a disqualifier. Check with your state laws and, if in doubt, be sure to consult an attorney about your specific situation.

    Do you need a license to be a bounty hunter?

    License requirements for bounty hunters vary by state. As of 2022, about half of all states required some type of licensure or registration.

    Are bail enforcement agents cops?

    No. Almost all states have laws that prevent certified law enforcement officers from acting as bounty hunters or bail enforcement agents. However, police officers are authorized to pick up fugitives who have skipped bail on a warrant. Check with local law enforcement and/or your state bail bond licensing agency for further information.

    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, Private Detectives and Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm