There are two types of private investigators in Washington state. Those licensed as agency operators and those hired by agencies. This means that a person can not become individually licensed and work as a sub-contractor for private investigations agencies. If a person wants to become a private investigator they will have to form their own company (even if the person has no intention of hiring employees) or be hired by an established agency. Private investigators may apply to be armed or unarmed. Those who plan to be armed must complete a firearms safety course approved by the State of Washington and pay more in licensing fees. The difference in fees is not much but it is something to be considered since the firearms course has to be completed every year and carrying a firearm will require the applicant to obtain a Concealed Pistol License.
Whether applying for a private investigator agency license or a private investigator license as an employee, the following requirements must be met. Unarmed private investigators must be at least 18 years old and armed private investigators must be at least 21 years old. All private investigators in the State of Washington must be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien. Private investigators must not have any criminal convictions which relate to the ability to act as a private investigator or hinder public safety. The private investigator must have a business location within the State of Washington and private investigators must have a valid business license from the State of Washington (private investigator employees must be employed by an agency with a valid business license issued by the State of Washington with a business location located in the state).
Armed and unarmed private investigators requesting licensing through an already established agency should apply directly through the agency. If requesting an armed private investigator license, submit to the agency you wish to work for a current firearms certificate issued by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, a completed Private Investigator License Application, an application fee of $300, one completed fingerprint card, a copy of your current Concealed Pistol License, and proof of Alien Firearm License if a resident alien. If requesting an unarmed private investigator license, you must only submit the Private Investigator License Application, an application fee of $200, and one completed fingerprint card. Pre-assignment training will need to be conducted by a certified trainer for armed and unarmed investigators. This can be coordinated through the agency you are applying for. The current length of required training is four hours and covers various aspects of private investigation laws and procedures in the State of Washington. After completing training but before the license can be issued, the applicant will be required to pass a test to verify understanding of training topics. The test is administered by the Washington State Department of Licensing. Required documentation should be submitted to the agency you are applying for who will foward the documents to the state.
Requirements for armed and unarmed agency private investigator licenses are the same as the above listed requirements for private investigator employees with the following additions. The application fee is $700 for an armed agency principal (the person starting the agency) and $600 for an unarmed principal. The principal must submit a Private Investigator Agency/Principal License Master Business Application Supplement (not the regular Private Investigator License Application) and be able to show at least three years of private investigations (or related field) experience before applying for the license. If no experience can be shown, the principal will be required to pass a test of private investigator related laws and procedures administered by the Washington State Department of Licensing. Lastly, agency principals must submit proof of liability insurance coverage with minimum coverage of $25,000 bodily injury and $25,000 property damage OR a $10,000 Private Investigator Agency Surety Bond. The required documentation will be submitted by the agency principal directly to the state.
Additional information, required forms, and examination study materials can be found on-line at the State of Washington Department of Licensing website.
Private Investigators. Washington State Department of Licensing.