What Does a Bounty Hunter Do?
A bounty hunter, also known as a bail enforcement agent or fugitive recovery agent, is responsible for locating and taking into custody someone who has 'skipped' on their bail and failed to meet the requirements in their bail contract. This means that bounty hunters sometimes pursue dangerous individuals who will attempt to resist capture. Being a bounty hunter is thus a dangerous occupation.
What Do I Need to Be a Bounty Hunter?
Certain skills are necessary in order to become a successful bounty hunter. Because of the danger involved in this occupation, bounty hunter qualifications also include physical strength and mental quick-wittedness. Bounty hunters need to be able to quickly assess a situation and to have negotiation skills, which include persuasiveness and an intimidating presence for dealing with fugitives. Bounty hunters will also need to be ready to survive during violent altercations, which means that close-combat training, experience with weapons, and knowledge of the law are also important.
Requirements to Be a Bounty Hunter
To become a bounty hunter, most states require the completion of a training program, such as those offered by various vocational schools. These programs ensure that bounty hunters have the skills necessary to receive bounty hunter licensing, which is key to starting a career as a bounty hunter. Those wondering 'what does it take to be a bounty hunter?' can follow this step-by-step process for how to become a bounty hunter:
- Meet bounty hunter requirements for training
- Pursue bounty hunter licensing for your state
- Meet additional bounty hunter qualifications
- Advance career with bounty hunter certification
Step 1: Meet Bounty Hunter Requirements for Training
There are no formal education requirements for bounty hunters, as most only need a high school diploma. However, bounty hunters must meet their state's requirements for bounty hunters, which usually include completing some sort of training program. Some of these bounty hunter certification and training programs can be found online. Other training programs may be offered through apprenticeships or short training courses.
For example, in the state of Oklahoma, aspiring bounty hunters can complete training at a number of career tech schools. These training programs include 5 phases of training that provide training for unarmed security guards, private investigators, and unarmed and armed bail enforcers. These different phases of training include topics in:
- First aid
- Firearms training
- Tactical considerations
Apprenticeships may be available in certain areas with an experienced fugitive recovery agent. These experienced agents often find apprentices in their area through connection with the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents (NAFRA). These experienced agents serve as a mentor for the apprentice and help train them in the field. Along with apprenticeships, degrees in criminal justice or criminology can also help prospective bounty hunters to gain experience and boost their credentials.
Step 2: Pursue Bounty Hunter Licensing for Your State
Students needing to earn a bounty hunter license must examine their state's requirements for licensure. Some states, such as Utah, have general requirements, like being 21 years of age and a citizen or legal resident, as well as specific requirements in regards to training. For example, Utah requires those applying for bail enforcement agent licensure to have 2,000 hours of bail enforcement/recovery experience. State licensure may also require a state exam and/or continuing education hours to maintain or renew licensure. Some states, like Oklahoma, also require that a bounty hunter has liability insurance and has passed a psychological evaluation in order to receive licensing.
Step 3: Meet Additional Bounty Hunter Qualifications
Generally, states will have additional requirements for bounty hunters who intend to carry firearms. Typically, carrying firearms requires additional training and/or a valid state permit. Some states may also require bounty hunters to have workers compensation insurance if they intend to run a bail bond recovery agency. This proof of insurance may be required during the licensure process.
Step 4: Advance Career with Bounty Hunter Certification
Although it is not usually required, NAFRA does offer a professional certification for bounty hunters. This certification requires an exam and may help bounty hunters advance their careers. Membership to the organization also offers access to SkipNet, where bounty hunters can create a listing for exposure into the profession.
How to Start a Bounty Hunter Business
Bounty hunters effectively operate a small business as they seek fugitives who have broken their bail contracts. Bounty hunters thus need assignments from bail bondsmen, which requires networking and marketing. After attaining the necessary licenses, certifications, and qualifications to become a legal bounty hunter, one also needs to form good relationships with bail bondsmen in order to start a successful bounty hunter business. In order to get assignments, it is also important that a bounty hunter is able to advertise their abilities, which requires basic competence in marketing.
Bounty Hunter Salary
According to PayScale.com, bounty hunters made an average annual salary of $50,565 as of October 2021. It is also expected that the incomes of private detectives and investigators will rise faster than the national average in the coming years, which means that bounty hunters will likely also enjoy higher wages in the future.