How to Earn a Bounty Hunter License: Info and Requirements

A bounty hunter license is a required credential for bail enforcement agents. Earning a bounty hunter license qualifies an individual to capture and detain fugitives out on bond or bail. View article »

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  • 0:59 State Requirements
  • 2:08 Complete Training Course
  • 2:58 Apply For Licensure
  • 3:24 Gain Work Experience
  • 3:44 Become Bonded

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent
Degree Field(s) None
License/Certification Licensure required in some states
Experience Bail enforcement training; previous law enforcement or criminal investigation a plus; some employers require an apprenticeship
Key Skills Criminal investigation, surveillance, negotiation, self-defense and lethal and non-lethal weapons skills; pass background check; meet age requirement (18/21); ability to be bonded
Median Annual Salary (2015) 10% to 20% of the bond paid for the individual's release

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bounty hunters, officially known as bail enforcement agents, are paid to capture and detain individuals who flee while out on bond or bail for a crime and turn them in to the proper court or correctional facility. Agents regularly locate fugitives' last known whereabouts, interview the fugitives' acquaintances, stake out possible whereabouts, and confirm fugitives' location. All candidates applying for licensure must meet state requirements, pass a background check, and complete formal training.

A high school diploma is required, with no college degree being required for this job. Skills in criminal investigation, surveillance, negotiation, self-defense and lethal and non-lethal weapons are helpful. You should complete bail enforcement training and a license may be required in some states. In addition, you have the option of specializing in state or federally issued bonds in addition to local bonds.

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Steps to Earning a Bounty Hunter License

The following are the steps to take to earn a bounty hunter license:

Step 1: Pass a Background Check and Meet State Requirements

A background check is required before a bounty hunter license is granted. Each state sets its own qualifications for passing the background check. Individuals with felony convictions or certain misdemeanors may be disqualified. The background check also ensures that applicants have no previous mental illness and that they haven't entered an alcohol or drug treatment center within a specified time period. Age requirements are 18 for some states and 21 for others. A high school diploma or equivalent is typically needed and the person must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident. State residency may also be necessary.

A valid driver's license and clean driving record may also be required.

Some states do not allow employees of local or regional jails, sheriff's offices, police departments, corrections or criminal justice departments, attorneys, or probation services to work as bail enforcement agents. However, previous experience in law enforcement or investigations may be beneficial.

Step 2: Complete Training Course

Most states insist that bounty hunters complete a training course before granting them a license. The number of training hours candidates must complete varies by state. Individuals can check with state licensing departments for acceptable bail enforcement agent training programs. Previous experience in law enforcement may exempt individuals from a training course.

Core subjects in these programs include state laws, the legal system, investigative techniques, recovery methods, care and custody of prisoners, and bail law. Additional training in firearms is required for bounty hunters who carry or have access to firearms. These include classroom instruction, hands-on exercises, and range training. A concealed weapons permit may also be needed. Regular continuing education classes are usually required.

Step 3: Apply for Licensure

In addition to the application for a bounty hunter's license, some states may ask for documents like a copy of the applicant's driver's license or identification card, a recent photograph, a fingerprint card, a high school diploma or college transcript, a bail enforcement training course certificate, a motor vehicle report, and a recent credit report. A fee is usually required.

Step 4: Gain Work Experience

Some states require that entry-level bounty hunters work as apprentices under experienced bail enforcement agents. These apprentices must attain a certain number of hours before they are allowed to advance to higher positions or to work as independent contractors of a bail enforcement agency.

Step 5: Become Bonded

While a bounty hunter's license is active, the individual must maintain a surety bond in an amount specified by that state. Some states allow bounty hunters to acquire a liability insurance policy that protects them against damages that may arise while performing bail enforcement duties. Employees of bail enforcement agencies are usually exempt from this requirement.

Salary Information

Typically, bounty hunters earn salaries based on commission; for each apprehension, a bounty hunter may take anywhere from 10% to 20% of the bond paid for the individual's release. Skill, experience, and location contribute greatly to the amount of money a bail enforcement agent can make. Those bounty hunters able to safely bring in more dangerous fugitives will make significantly more money than those required to escort individuals who have no criminal or violent records. Other contributing factors to money made include crime rates in the area as well as the number of bounty hunters employed in an immediate vicinity.

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