University of North Texas launches Private Investigator Program

The University of North Texas is simplifying the process required to become a private investigator with the launch of the state’s first training program that will qualify participants for the Texas private investigator licensing exam. Prior to this program, becoming eligible for the state exam required a degree in criminal justice or at least three consecutive years of investigative experience. Last month, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Private Security Board passed a regulation based on presentations by the developers of the UNT program, making individuals who earn a certificate from UNT eligible for the exam.

“During my time on the Private Security Board, I became aware that approximately 50 percent of all private detective companies fail in their first year of business. These failures occur primarily because the new licensees have no idea what is required to succeed,” said John Chism, chairman of the state Private Security Board. “Programs like UNT’s will provide a sound footing for a new licensed private investigator to succeed and better serve the citizens of the state of Texas.”

UNT’s program will not only train participants in the theory and practice of private investigations, but will also cover the business side. Upon completion of the program, students will be able to launch their own private investigations businesses or work in a variety of fields such as insurance, law and business.

The program will be administrated by the Professional Development Institute at UNT, and will be offered in Dallas and in Houston. Dr. Scott Belshaw, UNT professor and former owner of a Houston-based private investigation firm, and Karen Hewitt, UNT alumna and co-founder of Hewitt & Cowden Investigations in Dallas, developed the program’s curriculum. They were committed to developing a program that was comparable to a four-year degree. Participants will be required to complete 12 courses, for a total of 220 hours of instruction. Upon completion, students will earn a certificate in professional private investigations.

“These students will have every advantage as they work toward becoming quality private investigators,” said Belshaw. “Our instructors will include professors, private investigators from the community and even former FBI agents.”

The Dallas program will begin on March 19 at the University of Dallas, and the Houston program will begin on March 26 at the University of St. Thomas. The program will be taught in an executive style with classes on Friday evenings and all day on Saturdays. The program lasts for approximately four and half months.

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