How To Become A Private Investigator in Ontario: A Comprehensive Guide

How To Become A Private Investigator In Ontario

Becoming a Private Investigator in Ontario offers a fascinating and rewarding career for individuals who have a keen eye for detail, excellent communication skills, and a passion for uncovering the truth.

Private investigators work in diverse fields, including criminal defence, insurance fraud detection, and corporate investigations.

To pursue this career in Ontario, you must navigate a structured licensing process that ensures professionalism and ethical standards in the industry.

The process involves meeting specific educational requirements, gaining practical experience, and obtaining the necessary licenses.

Additionally, understanding the legal and regulatory framework governing private investigation in Ontario is crucial.

The demand for private investigators in Ontario has surged due to a combination of factors, including the escalating need to combat insurance fraud, corporate espionage, and cybercrimes.

With the evolving landscape of technology and increased concerns about personal security, individuals and businesses alike are turning to private investigators to safeguard their interests and gather essential information.

This heightened demand reflects the indispensable role these professionals play in today's complex world of investigations and security.

Understanding the Role of a Private Investigator

what does a private investigator in Ontario do?

What Does a Private Investigator in Ontario Do?

As a Private investigator in Ontario, you play a crucial role in collecting vital information for your clients. Their job involves investigating people or organizations, checking backgrounds, and looking into legal, financial, or criminal matters as their clients need.

To be successful, a private investigator in Ontario needs to work well with clients and law enforcement.

They must provide accurate information that helps their clients achieve their goals, even if it means presenting their findings in a legal setting.

It's a profession that combines detective work with assisting clients to find the information they need.

Key Skills and Qualities of a Successful Private Investigator

Successful private investigators possess a unique set of skills and qualities that enable them to excel in their field.

Here are some key skills and qualities that are essential for a private investigator in Ontario:

Ethical Integrity

It forms the bedrock of trust and credibility with clients and the community at large.

Upholding ethical standards means conducting fair, honest, and transparent investigations while respecting the rights and privacy of all parties involved. It also involves strict adherence to legal and ethical guidelines.

This commitment not only preserves the investigator's reputation but also ensures the pursuit of truth and justice remains unquestionable, reflecting the profession's highest ethical ideals.

Strong Communication Skills

This encompasses clear expression, active listening, and empathy.

These skills enable investigators to extract vital information during interviews, build rapport, and present findings convincingly.

Effective communication fosters trust and collaboration, connecting all aspects of an investigation and ensuring the seamless flow of critical information.

Patience and Tenacity

An investigator's journey often demands unwavering patience, serving as the cornerstone of success.

This patience extends to situations where meticulous research may involve sifting through extensive records or enduring prolonged surveillance operations.

Tenacity, on the other hand, signifies an unwavering determination to overcome obstacles and persistently pursue the truth, even in the face of setbacks.

These qualities together form the core of an investigator's dedication to uncovering hidden facts and achieving successful outcomes.

Attention to Detail

Private investigators must have a sharp eye for detail, whether they're observing situations or conducting research.

The skill to pick out relevant information from the noise is crucial for collecting valuable evidence.


Discretion is essential in this profession, especially when handling cases related to personal matters like relationships or legally sensitive issues such as fraud or employment disputes.

Maintaining strict client confidentiality is a standard practice.

Legal Requirements and Licensing in Ontario

The Private Security and Investigative Services Act (PSISA)

PSISA stands for the “Private Security and Investigative Services Act.” It is a piece of legislation that governs the private security and investigative services industry.

The PSISA sets out regulations and requirements for individuals and companies involved in activities such as security guarding, private investigations, and electronic security services within Ontario.

Under the PSISA, individuals and businesses in these sectors must adhere to specific licensing and training requirements to operate legally in Ontario.

The Act aims to ensure the professionalism, integrity, and competence of those providing security and investigative services in the province while safeguarding the rights and privacy of individuals.

Age and Citizenship Requirements

To be eligible for a private investigator license in Ontario, individuals must meet several specific criteria, each designed to ensure that licensed private investigators are well-suited for their important roles. 

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, emphasizing the need for maturity and legal adulthood. 

Candidates must possess legal authorization to work in Canada, adhering to immigration regulations, which underscores the importance of legal status within the country.

A clean criminal record is imperative for all applicants, serving as a fundamental requirement to establish trustworthiness and integrity.

This stringent background check helps maintain the credibility and ethical standards of the private investigation profession, as individuals entrusted with sensitive information and investigations must be of the utmost reliability.

Criminal Record Checks and Their Importance

A criminal record check is a crucial process that involves accessing official databases to gather an individual's criminal history.

The check reveals any past convictions, outstanding charges, and judicial matters like restraining orders. 

There are three main types: 

  • Criminal Record Check (CRC), which outlines convictions; Criminal Records, and Judicial 
  • Criminal Record and Judicial Matters Check (CRJMC), offers a comprehensive view of convictions and pending charges; 
  • Vulnerable Sector Check (VSC), is the most extensive, and vital for roles involving vulnerable groups. 

These checks are essential for employment, volunteering, licensing, and other scenarios where evaluating an individual's criminal background is essential.

They ensure safety, compliance, and informed decision-making while respecting privacy and legal guidelines.

Educational and Training Requirements

Recommended Courses and Programs in Ontario

Several recommended courses and programs are available to help individuals pursue a career as a private investigator:

Workshops and Seminars by Professional Associations: Professional associations like the Canadian Association of Private Investigators (CAPI) and the Council of Private Investigators Ontario (CPIO) periodically organize workshops and seminars relevant to private investigation.

Investigative Interviewing Courses: Courses focusing on interviewing techniques and strategies, which are vital skills for private investigators, are offered by various institutions and professional organizations.

Ontario College Diploma in Police Foundations: Offered by various colleges, this program provides a foundation in criminal law, investigation techniques, and community policing.

Importance of hands-on training and where to get it

Hands-on training is integral for aspiring private investigators, providing the practical application of theoretical knowledge essential for effective investigative work.

This training, offered by educational institutions, private investigation agencies, professional associations like CAPI and CPIO, and even online platforms, equips individuals with crucial skills and confidence needed in the field.

From mastering surveillance techniques to understanding legal and ethical considerations, hands-on training prepares investigators for the diverse challenges they may encounter, fostering competence and a deeper understanding of the private investigation profession.

Specialized Areas of Investigation and Their Respective Training

Surveillance Investigation: Specialized training in surveillance techniques, including vehicle tracking, advanced photography, and covert operations, is essential.

Cybercrime and Digital Forensics: Training in cybersecurity, data analysis, digital forensics tools, and understanding cyber threats and laws is crucial in this rapidly evolving field.

Missing Persons and Skip Tracing: Courses on locating missing individuals, skip-tracing methods, and search strategies are essential for investigators involved in finding missing persons.

Insurance Fraud Investigation: Specialized training in identifying insurance fraud indicators, claims investigation, and understanding insurance laws and regulations is vital.

Undercover Operations: Training in undercover operations, including role-playing exercises and scenario-based training, prepares investigators for covert assignments.

Steps to Obtain a Private Investigator License in Ontario

The Licensing Process

This section provides a comprehensive overview of the steps to obtain a private investigator license, the associated costs, and the renewal and maintenance of the license, ensuring aspiring private investigators are well-informed about the requirements for a successful career in the field.

Once an individual fulfills the necessary qualifications, becoming a licensed private investigator in Ontario involves completing three essential steps:

Basic Training Course

To commence the journey, one must undergo a minimum 50-hour basic training course meeting prescribed Ministry of Solicitor General guidelines. These courses are available at approved institutions like universities, colleges, licensed private investigation services, and approved training companies. 

It is imperative to ensure the institution's approval by the MSG for eligibility to apply for the license post-course completion. 

The course offers a comprehensive curriculum covering topics such as:

  • Introduction to the industry
  • Criminal and civil law
  • Investigative techniques
  • Self-management skills
  • Communication and interaction key principals

Upon successful completion, a certificate is awarded, containing a completion number essential for registering with ServiceOntario to schedule the licensing exam.

Licensing Exam

The licensing exam assesses the understanding of the material learned during the basic training course.

Consisting of 60 multiple-choice questions, the exam results are usually available within two days.

Administered by MSG's testing provider, Serco, the exam takes place at various DriveTest centres across Ontario. Visit for details regarding the exam and testing locations.

Application for a Private Investigator License

Upon successful completion of the basic training course and passing the exam, one can proceed to apply for a private investigator license.

The application is submitted through ServiceOntario via mail or online.

Personal information collection, including name, address, and testing completion number, is necessary for processing the application and accurately updating the private investigator's license details. 

Along with a completed application form, essential documents to include: 

The approval process for the application may take up to 10 days. Opting for a digital license is often a faster option, available upon approval.

However, receiving the hardcopy version by mail may take up to 8 weeks.

Carrying the license while on duty and presenting it upon request is mandatory.

Costs Associated with Licensing

Becoming a licensed private investigator in Ontario involves several associated fees, including:

Basic Training Course Fee

The cost for the basic training course typically ranges from $225 to $500.

The specific fee varies depending on the instructor and the institution or company providing the course.

Exam Fee

Test Fee is $35.00 plus 13% HST for a total of $39.55.

License Fee

The license issuance involves a fee of $80.00, an essential cost for obtaining the private investigator license.

These fees cover the essential aspects of training, examination, and license acquisition necessary for pursuing a career as a private investigator in Ontario.

Renewal and Maintenance of the License

Renewal of a private investigator license is required every two years, with the expiration set for two birthdays following the date of issuance.

To maintain legal authorization to work as a private investigator, the renewal process should be initiated at least 30 days before the license expiration date.

To renew a license or restore an expired license, you must apply ServiceOntario. It is the same application that is used to apply for a new license.

Building Experience and Networking

Joining Professional Organizations 

Joining professional organizations like The Council of Private Investigators – Ontario can significantly elevate a private investigator's career.

These organizations offer a vital platform for networking with peers and industry experts, beyond just formal credentials and qualifications.

Members get to exchange ideas, share experiences, and gain valuable insights into the ever-evolving field of private investigation.

Participation in workshops, training sessions, and seminars helps members stay updated on industry trends, technology, and legal changes.

Moreover, these organizations represent a collective voice for private investigators, advocating for their rights and interests while upholding high standards of professionalism and ethics.

Benefits of Internships and Apprenticeships

Engaging in internships and apprenticeships is highly advantageous for those pursuing a career as a private investigator.

These opportunities provide hands-on experience, fostering the development of crucial skills and a deep understanding of the field.

They also offer a chance to build a professional network, receive mentorship, and enhance one's resume with practical experience.

Ultimately, internships and apprenticeships open doors to job opportunities and set aspiring private investigators on a path to success in the industry.

Networking Events and Seminars for Private Investigators

Networking events and seminars are invaluable resources for private investigators in Ontario.

These gatherings offer a platform for professionals to connect, share knowledge, and foster collaborations within the industry.

Attending such events allows investigators to stay updated on the latest trends, technological advancements, and legal developments specific to Ontario's regulations and investigative landscape.

Setting Up Your Own Private Investigation Business

Starting your own private investigation business is a promising venture, but it requires careful consideration of business registration, legal compliance, essential tools, and effective marketing strategies.

Here’s a comprehensive overview to help you navigate these crucial aspects in the context of the security and private investigation industry.

Business Registration and Legal Considerations

In Ontario, security guards or private investigator agencies must adhere to the Private Security and Investigative Services Act (PSISA) and related regulations.

Failure to comply can result in substantial fines and even imprisonment for directors, partners, and officers.

It's crucial to maintain a valid agency license and ensure all security guards and private investigators hired possess valid licenses.

Additionally, agencies must adhere to federal and provincial legislation, including the Employment Standards Act, of 2000.

Familiarity with the Trespass to Property Act, the Criminal Code, and all relevant laws and regulations is essential.

Ensuring your business is registered and follows these legal requirements is crucial for building trust and credibility with clients.

Essential Tools and Equipment for Private Investigators

To conduct effective private investigations, it's essential to equip your agency with the right tools and equipment.

Consider investing in surveillance cameras, audio recording devices, GPS trackers, and other surveillance equipment.

Specialized software for case management, data analysis, and report generation can significantly enhance your efficiency.

Reliable vehicles and secure communication systems are vital for on-field investigations.

Marketing and Building a Client Base

Marketing is crucial for attracting clients and growing your private investigation business in Ontario.

Develop a professional website and leverage social media platforms to establish a strong online presence.

Networking within the industry and forming partnerships with legal professionals, insurance companies, and other potential clients can help you secure contracts.

Positive referrals from satisfied clients play a significant role in building a solid client base.

Challenges and Rewards of Being a Private Investigator in Ontario

Private investigation is a profession that offers a unique blend of challenges and rewards, making it a fascinating career choice.

Here's a glimpse into the journey of being a private investigator in Ontario, outlining the ethical dilemmas, financial aspects, and personal satisfaction associated with the job.

Ethical Dilemmas and How to Navigate Them

Conflict of interest can arise when a client requests an investigation involving a personal relationship with individuals from a competitor's organization.

The key is to maintain objectivity by disclosing the conflict and potentially recommending another investigator.

Handling Sensitive Information: If you find personal information about someone that's not related to the case you're working on, follow privacy laws and professional rules.

Only share this info if it's really about the case and has legal importance.

Evidence Tampering: If the client asks you to change or manipulate evidence to make their case stronger, firmly say no.

Stress that altering evidence is against the law and not ethical. Encourage the client to build their case using legal and ethical methods.

Misrepresentation of Identity: If the investigation involves pretending to be someone else to get information, that might mislead the person being investigated, be very careful.

Only use this approach when needed.

Make sure it follows the law and ethical standards and serves the investigation's purpose.

The Financial Aspect: Potential Earnings and Job Stability

The financial aspect of being a private investigator can vary based on experience, specialization, and the number of cases undertaken.

Establishing a steady income can be challenging, especially during the initial stages of setting up a private investigation business.

However, as you gain expertise and build a reputation, the potential for higher earnings increases.

Job stability is often contingent on securing consistent cases and maintaining a good reputation within the industry.

Personal Satisfaction and the Thrill of the Job

Despite the challenges, being a private investigator in Ontario can offer immense personal satisfaction.

The thrill of solving cases, uncovering truths, and helping clients navigate complex situations is incredibly rewarding.

The job's dynamic nature, the diversity of cases, and the opportunity to continuously develop your skills contribute to a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.


Becoming a private investigator in Ontario is a promising and fulfilling career choice for those with a keen eye for detail, strong ethical values, and excellent communication skills.

Following the structured licensing process, meeting educational requirements, and gaining practical experience are essential steps.

By upholding ethical integrity, focusing on continuous learning, and honing specialized skills, aspiring private investigators can thrive in this dynamic field.

Whether working with agencies or establishing their own, the path of a private investigator offers both challenges and rewarding experiences.

If you're passionate about uncovering the truth, assisting clients, and contributing to a safer society, leap into this exciting profession.

The journey awaits you, and the difference you can make is boundless.

Pursue your dream of becoming a private investigator in Ontario and embark on a fulfilling and impactful career.

Pass the Torch: Share the Guide to Becoming a Private Investigator in Ontario!

We invite you to share this comprehensive guide on becoming a private investigator in Ontario with anyone passionate about the world of investigations and security.

Knowledge is empowering, and by sharing this information, you're helping individuals take their first steps toward a rewarding and impactful career.

Last Updated on Mar 4, 2024

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