How to Become a Bounty Hunter: Requirements, Salary & License
Explore the requirements for bounty hunters. Get the facts about education, licensure, salary, and potential job growth to make a good career decision.
Career Information at a Glance
Bounty hunters -- also called bail fugitive investigators, bail enforcement agents and fugitive recovery agents -- are investigators who track down fugitives in exchange for a reward. Bounty hunters may conduct stakeouts, do reconnaissance work and question friends, coworkers and relatives to discover a fugitive's whereabouts. See the table below for a quick overview of bounty hunting as a career.
|Education Required||High school diploma|
|Training Required||On-the-job training|
|Key Skills||Patience, resourcefulness, street smarts|
|Licensure Required||In some states|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||8% (for all private detectives and investigators)*|
|Median Salary (2019)||$50,868**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Payscale.com
What are the Duties of a Bounty Hunter?
When a person gets arrested, he or she can pay bail to get out of jail in exchange for agreeing to appear in court at a predetermined date and time. If they don't show up for their hearing, or if they skip town, they are considered a fugitive of the law. Bounty hunters track down these fugitives and bring them in for a cut of the bail bond money, usually around 10%.
To find fugitives, bounty hunters use a wide range of tactics. They may search social media, interview people who might know the fugitive and conduct stakeouts. Laws vary by state, but bounty hunters can often use tactics that police can't. In some states, for instance, they can enter properties unannounced without a warrant. This is because when fugitives sign a bail bond agreement, they waive their constitutional rights.
What are Bounty Hunters Paid?
Because they are paid a percentage for every fugitive caught, bounty hunters don't always make a set salary. In fact, salaries can vary wildly within the profession. Payscale.com, a site that compiles salary data, reports that the median pay for a bounty hunter is $50,868 in 2019. But that site also shows that about 25% made a median salary of $27,000, and about 75% pulled in a median salary of $61,000 during that same year.
How Do You Become One?
There's no degree required to become a bounty hunter. However, there are training courses and schools that can help would-be bail enforcement agents learn the ropes. Many get their start by working for free for a bail bondsman to show that they have what it takes to do the job.
Do You Need a License to Be a Bounty Hunter?
The laws regarding licensure for bounty hunters vary from state to state. Some states don't require bounty hunters to get any kind of license. Others require prospective bounty hunters to take pre-licensing courses and to complete some security guard training.
What's the Job Outlook for Bounty Hunters?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't offer a projection for the growth of bounty hunters in particular, but does have numbers for private detectives and investigators, which is an overlapping field. According to the BLS, the employment for private detectives and investigators will rise by 8% between 2018 and 2028.