Texas Licensing Requirements

The private investigation industry is a fascinating and exciting profession. Each state regulates the private investigators and licensing requirements within their particular state. In Texas, private investigators are regulated by the Texas Department of Public Safety/Private Security Bureau (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/psb/) as provided in the Private Security Act (Chapter 1702, Texas Occupations Code).

It is a violation of the Texas Occupations Code to advertise, solicit business, bid on contracts or perform any investigative services without being properly licensed. Violations can result in administrative and civil penalties as well as criminal filings against the violator.

Qualification Summary:

An agency must have a qualified manager who has to have a minimum of 3 years experience (or combination of higher education and experience), pass a written exam and show proof of liability insurance. If the person does not qualify as the manager/owner, they will have to locate an agency that will hire and train them as a private investigator. To be licensed as a PI, you must be 18 years of age or older with no criminal history (see specific requirements). Again, it is like applying for any other job and you must find a licensed agency that will hire and train you as a private investigator if you do not meet the requirements to own your own agency.

To operate in Texas, a PI agency must have a qualifying manager that directly supervises the agency and investigators licensed under their company. This manager must have experience and qualifications that meet one of the following:

  • Three (3) consecutive years of investigation-related experience
  • A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice; a bachelor’s degree, with an additional six months of investigation-related experience
  • An associate degree in criminal justice or related course of study, with an additional twelve months of investigation-related experience; or a specialized course of study directly designed for and related to the private investigations profession, taught and presented through affiliation with a four-year college or university accredited and recognized by the State of Texas. This course of study must be endorsed by the four year college or university’s department of criminal justice program and include a departmental faculty member(s) on its instructional faculty. This course of study must consist of a minimum of two hundred face-to-face classroom hours including coverage of ethics, Private Security Board administrative rules, the Private Security Act, and related statutes. Other combinations of education and investigation-related experience may be substituted for the above at the discretion of the Bureau manager. The bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and specialized courses referenced in section (a) of this rule must be affiliated with a college or university recognized by the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board, Southern Association of Schools and Colleges or other accreditation organization recognized by the State of Texas.

After meeting the qualifications for manager, the person must register to take the manager’s exam with the Private Security Bureau. Upon successful completion of the written exam, the person must show proof of liability insurance.

Upon qualifying as the manager/owner of the agency, the manager can hire other individuals that can operate as private investigators under their agency after they meet the manager’s requirements (including the requirements below). To be licensed and employed by a licensed company as a private investigator, a person must meet all the requirements set forth in Texas Occupations Code 1702.113, summarized in part (but not in whole) below. The person must

  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Not have been convicted, in any jurisdiction, of a felony level offense;
  • Not have been convicted, in any jurisdiction, of a Class A or equivalent misdemeanor;
  • Not have been convicted, within the past 5 years, in any jurisdiction, of a Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense;
  • Not currently charged with, or under indictment for, a felony, or a Class A misdemeanor;
  • Not currently charged with, a Class B misdemeanor;
  • Not have been found by a court to be incompetent by reason of a mental defect or disease and not have been restored to competency;
  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the United States armed services, discharged from the United States armed services under other conditions determined by the Board to be prohibitive, or dismissed by the United States armed services if a commissioned office in the United States armed services;
  • Not be required to register in this or any other state as a sex offender.

Additional Business Considerations

Private Investigators in Texas are required to charge their clients sales tax. The taxes must be collected and paid to the State Comptroller (http://ourcpa.cpa.state.tx.us/coa/Index.html) by the 20th of each month. Taxes do not have to be charged to a client if they are a government agency (city, county, state, etc).

Depending on how you decide to set up your business, you may decide to incorporate and this is done through an attorney and/or the Secretary of State (http://www.sos.state.tx.us/).

For additional information, click here to visit the Private Security Bureau of Texas (PSB) Web Site, or contact the PSB by phone: 512-424-7710