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How to Become a Private Investigator in Canada: A Guide

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As there is a growing need for private investigators in Ontario, we want to clear the air on any questions that students may have. My name is Whitney Joy Smith, and I own The Smith Investigation Agency, a respected and trusted full-service private investigative firm. Additionally, we offer top-rated training courses for a private investigator or security guard license in Ontario. We also take on students for specialized field placements, giving them hands-on experience with the roles they dream of obtaining.

Regarding private investigators, in particular, let’s dig much deeper into the fundamentals of the role. Their responsibilities are varied, but I’ll quickly list what we do in these roles to give you an idea: 

Do any of these duties appeal to you? Does this sound like an ideal role and something you would enjoy for many years? I’m here to open the door. Let’s take a deeper look together!

 

How Do I Become a Private Investigator in Ontario?

As a student seeking to become a private investigator now, you have many opportunities available that weren’t to me at the time I was getting my own license. Private investigative training is relatively new to the industry and, therefore, gives a newcomer incredible insights others may not have. 

With that in mind, there are some important steps to consider as part of the journey. If you’re wondering how to become a private investigator in Canada, below is the basic roadmap for doing so in Ontario in particular.

Four Key Steps of Becoming a Private Investigator

1. Dedicated Training from a Reputable Institution

Our Private Investigator Course syllabus, validated by the Ministry of the Solicitor General, covers these topics:

  • Introduction to the Private Investigation Industry
  • The Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005
  • Provincial and Federal Statutes
  • Criminal and Civil Law
  • Investigative Techniques
  • Principles of Ethical Reasoning/Decision-Making
  • Key Principles of Communication and Interaction
  • Self-Management Skills

Once you complete our private investigator training course, we will then contact you to complete a consent form. Once you complete the form and send it back to us, we will apply for your training completion number. Once this is received, we will then issue you a training certificate.

2.Passing the Licensing Exam

As part of our course curriculum, we offer a standard-issue examination of 60 multiple-choice questions. You’ll receive your results within two days, and retakes are possible. After receiving a passing mark, you’ll be able to apply for your private investigator license.

3.Applying for Your License

As stated by the Ministry of the Solicitor General, if you’ve passed your examination post-training and are ready to apply as a private investigator or security guard, you can do so on the Service Ontario website (not in person). Through here, you’ll be able to keep an eye on the latest prerequisites and steps you need to take in order to successfully apply. Generally, you’ll need to submit a completed Guarantor Information Form, high-quality photo (like those taken for a driver’s license), photocopies of valid forms of identification, and the application fee ($80) in addition to your submission form.

4. Receiving Your License and Renewing it

It will take around 10 days or so before a decision is made regarding your application. Once it’s approved and your physical license is sent out (typically within eight weeks), know that you must always keep it with you when on duty, showing it to anyone who requires that they see it. In addition, don’t forget to renew your license every two years.

 

Who Can Become a Private Investigator or Security Guard? 

To be eligible for a security guard or private investigator license in Ontario, the MCSCS requires the following:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older.
  • You must be eligible to work in Canada.
  • You must have a clean criminal record.

Have you recently taken a police foundations course? Or, perhaps you’re a retired police officer or detective? Regardless, have you considered getting either a private investigator license or a security guard license in Ontario if you meet the aforementioned conditions? 

The private investigative and security industries are continually growing, and the need for newly certified professionals in these roles is always there. As with any industry, there are people who retire, or who move on. Those shoes need replacing, and if you have the commitment and skill set – along with that ever-important licensing – it’s quite possible that you could fill them!

Why Do Private Investigators Need a License?

The licensing is in place to protect not only potential clients and agencies but you as well. Without proper, thorough training and certification that demonstrates a clear understanding of the legal barriers, you must work within, there’s a risk that you’ll break beyond them. Operating illegally can cost you more than your license, obviously, so it’s best to adhere to the established standards as a private investigator. 

Maintaining a license makes it clear to others that you’ve extensively studied the correct legal documentation and requirements of this role, that you’re committed to operating appropriately, and that your services are trustworthy. 

 

Private Investigator Training

Why Our Private Investigator or Security Guard Training Courses?

We strive to achieve a fair market value for the industry. There may be another organization that charges a little less, but at the end of the day, the focus should be on the quality of the curriculum and the student’s experience with us. Essentially, you should get what you pay for. 

We want to ensure capable and dedicated individuals join our industry and maintain its integrity. So, although we are as close to fair market value as possible, we also have something that no other training providers have: Our security guard and private investigator training courses have been top-rated several times over the years; no other training providers have the same efficiency, design, structure, and flow, and the students take notice of this. 

We help you every step of the way, even once you’re licensed. I care deeply about each and every student who turns to our expertise, just as I do for our own clients at The Smith Investigation Agency. As a little extra bonus, we also are the only investigative company in Canada to offer an incentive: AIR MILES® Reward Miles – 25 of them to be exact!

Are Security Guard and Private Investigator Training Courses the Same?

No, although they are both licensed and verified in the same way. They’re each held under the Private Security and Investigative Services Act from 2005. We are separate industries and conduct different training, though the focus of this guide is specifically on private investigator training. There are also similarities regarding discussions of the Act. The courses in general, however, are not the same.

How Can I Complete My Training?

You can complete the course on any device you prefer. Whichever method works for you – a tablet, laptop, or otherwise – works perfectly for us as our curriculum can all be taught online. If you wish to burn the midnight oil and power through your studies, that’s your decision. Or, alternatively, you can attend course sessions in short bursts based on your availability. It’s all up to you! Complete the course during the day, after work, on the weekends – whatever suits your schedule and lifestyle.

 

Life as a Private Investigator

Once You Know How to Become a PI and Get Licensed, Do You Have to Move?

This is a question we hear all too often: “once I get my private investigator’s license, do I have to travel?” The answer is no; there are many sections of the industry as we outlined above with what The Smith Investigation Agency does. Therefore, if you want to work in undercover investigations only, then you can be paired with a project near you. 

If you love to travel but just not outside of the GTA, then you can become a Private Investigator who investigates only in Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, Mississauga, or anywhere else in the region. The same applies to those with a private investigator license in Ontario who want to work in the National Capital Region; they can focus entirely on projects in Ottawa, Kanata, Orleans, Barrhaven, Nepean, and Gloucester, among other nearby areas.

What’s it Like Being a Private Investigator?

Well, I start my days off with a large double-double Tim Horton’s coffee, as do most private investigators (understandably so). Next, you clean your windows (you should always have clean windows while obtaining video) and then wait. There’s a lot of waiting. This might sound off-putting, but don’t let it deter you. The patience pays off – there’s nothing like catching your subject leaving and your real work beginning, the adrenaline pumping as you tail them. It’s fantastic, and I love it. Is it for everyone? No, but nothing is. 

If you want to become a private investigator, then you should first understand that these are not the same as private detectives. These are roles unrelated to ours, and legally you should always refer to a PI as a PI. Many folks think of the TV shows Cheaters, Private Eyes and/or The Catch. These are not accurate portrayals – it’s an exciting career but nothing like what you see on such shows – although I wish they were sometimes!

 

Work Where You Want to

The licensing used to be limited to a single agency. Now, however, you can work for any licensed agency within Ontario. This gives you the opportunity, if you choose, to work with different businesses that provide a wider array of services, helping you develop your skills further and really sink your teeth into the role.

Equipment

Oh, my favourite topic! As investigators, we have some of the best gadgets and technology available to us. Not all companies care about quality and results like we do, but hey, that’s what makes us different, and we like that. For instance, our agency prefers 4K-resolution video footage while others might not prioritize it. Not only are my results of the best quality while on the road, but also it’s a requirement for any of my investigators to possess only the best equipment and maintain a standard that fits our company. 

This is just a quick example, and we have many more tools and tricks in use daily, but once you’re licensed and ready to start working, we could certainly discuss camera options with you among other things. Digging into tech and what it can do is a fun little side job of sorts in itself! Remember, you get what you pay for, and buying the cheapest equipment will cost you dearly in the long run. Having the best results will make you stand out immediately from the rest of the industry.

Using Change as a Tool

I can tell you that this industry is always changing and growing, and the need to continue learning is not going anywhere. One of my most favourite parts of the industry is that constant change, in fact – it keeps you on your toes and every surveillance, undercover, and a file is so unique as a result. This way, you have an opportunity to learn and refine your approach every step of the way, every single day. That’s a win in my book!

Standard Wages of the Private Investigation and Security Industries

The industry standard is a minimum of $20.00 per hour, but this can increase to $40.00 or more when factoring in reimbursements for kilometres and seniority-based pay raises. Most private investigator students who took our courses have told us they are making over $50,000 a year for their starting salary. Not bad at all!

 

Conclusion

If you’re wondering how to become a private investigator, I hope this guide has helped you develop a deeper understanding of the role and your journey in getting there. Make sure always to keep an open mind and be excited about the new changes and the adrenaline you will feel. Always be safe and follow rules and laws wherever you are. And, of course, have fun and enjoy it – it’s an adventure that I’m sure you’ll cherish forever, and that’s speaking from experience! 

If you want to learn more about our services or training courses, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re happy to discuss the specifics so you can make an informed decision.

About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Founder of The Smith Investigation Agency in 2014, Whitney Joy Smith’s extensive background as a private investigator is matched only by her passion for the role. A graduate of several respected institutions, including Northwest Florida State College and George Brown College, her early years in life were spent between Canada and the United States. This education, along with her formative years as a private investigator in various agencies, informed much of her knowledge of private investigative laws, regulations, and operating standards in both countries.


The recipient of numerous industry awards and accolades, including the Consumers Choice Award, Best in Ottawa, and many others, Whitney takes pride in working closely with her ever-growing agency to raise the bar, maintain compliance, and meet the investigative needs of clients. Whitney is active in various membership and supporting roles, including the CPIRC, CBN, CAPI, Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and many others. Her experience-driven, thought-provoking articles have been featured in everything from Readers Digest to Business News Daily, and she strives to continually redefine standards for those in the private investigative and security fields. Learn more about Whitney and the team at The Smith Investigation Agency today.

2 thoughts on “How to Become a Private Investigator in Canada: A Guide

    1. Hello,

      Our website has a variety of information on our training. If you have any specific questions please contact our office and we are happy to answer your questions.

      The Smith Investigation Agency Inc. Team.

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