Exams: Private investigators

Learn how to take the exam for private investigator certified trainers and principals and read the study guide.

Who needs to take the exam?

If you're applying for a certified trainer license, you must pass an exam.

If you're applying for an agency principal license, you may:

  • Pass an exam, or
  • Show proof of 3 years of experience as a private investigator

How to take the exam

Follow the steps below to take the certified trainer or agency principal exam.

1. Meet the requirements

  • Be a licensed private investigator
  • Have 3 years of investigative experience (certified trainers only)

2. Pay the exam fee (if necessary)

Fees vary based on which exam you must take.

Certified trainer exam fee

You must pay the certified trainer exam fee when you submit your application.

Agency principal exam fee

There's no cost to take your first agency principal exam.

3. Submit your application

Choose the method that works best for you.

Apply to take the exam online

Save time by applying online.

Log into SecureAccess Washington (SAW)

Don't have a SAW account? Learn how to create a SAW account.

Apply to take the exam by mail

Complete a Private Investigation Agency Principal/Certified Trainer Exam/Reexam Application form.

Mail your form and a check or money order for the exam fee (payable to the Department of Licensing) to:

Public Protection Services
Department of Licensing
PO Box 35001
Seattle, WA 98124-3401

4. Take the exam

After you apply, we'll email you to schedule your exam. On your scheduled date, we'll email you a link to take the exam online.

You must correctly answer 85% of the questions to pass the exam.

5. Get your results

We'll call or email you about 10 business days after you take the exam to let you know if you passed.

How to retake the exam

If you don't pass the exam, you can schedule a new exam 7 business days after the previous one. You can retake the exam as many times as you'd like, but you must pay a re-exam fee each time.

Study guide

The certified trainer and agency principal exams cover these subjects:

State laws (45% of exam)

You must have a thorough understanding of state laws to pass this portion of the exam.

Private investigator licensing and regulations

  • Private investigators (RCW 18.165)
  • Private investigative agencies and private investigators (WAC 308-17)
  • Minimum pre-assignment training and testing requirements (includes a list of all topics contained in the private investigator pre-assignment training course) (WAC 308-17-300)
  • Privacy, violating right of (surveillance and wiretapping) (RCW 9.73)
  • Disclosure—campaign finances—lobbying—records (public disclosure) (RCW 42.17)
  • Washington criminal code (RCW 9A)

Other resources

  • Courts of record (RCW 2)
  • District courts—courts of limited jurisdictions (RCW 3)
  • Domestic relations (marriage, dissolution, adoption) (RCW 26)
  • Counties (RCW 36)
  • Motor vehicles (accidents, forms) (RCW 46)

Federal laws (30% of exam)

Court systems (7.5% of exam)

You must study both federal and state court subject matter.

Federal courts

State courts

  • Municipal courts (RCW 35.20)
  • Courts of record (RCW 2)
  • District courts—courts of limited jurisdictions (RCW 3)
  • Civil procedures (RCW 4)
  • Evidence (RCW 5)
  • Enforcement of judgments (RCW 6)

Legal procedures and definitions (10% of exam)

Make sure you understand all of the following:

Terminology and definitions

  • Washington State Criminal Code (RCW 9A)
  • Courts of Record (RCW 2)
  • District Courts/Courts of Limited Jurisdictions (RCW 3)
  • Civil Procedures (RCW 4)
  • Evidence (RCW 5)
  • Enforcement of Judgments (RCW 6)
  • Domestic Relations (marriage, dissolution, adoption) (RCW 26)
  • Black's Law Dictionary (available at your local library or bookstore)

Other resources of public information (7.5% of exam)

Explanation of abbreviations

  • RCW—Revised Code of Washington (Washington State laws)
  • WAC—Washington Administrative Code (Washington State agency regulations)
  • USC—United States Code (federal laws)
  • CFR—Code of Federal Regulations (federal agency regulations)

Need additional help? Here's how to contact us:

call Phone: 360-664-6611
(TTY: Call 711)
mail Email: security@dol.wa.gov
Was this information helpful?