How to become a bounty hunter?

How to become a bounty hunter?


In this article, let’s know How to become a bounty hunter?

  • A Bounty hunter is a private investigator or agent working independently for a commissioner or a bail bondsman for a designated task. They pursue and apprehend criminals or fugitives who have escaped without paying a certain amount to the court as Bail. Bail is the amount of money the defendant has to pay for the court when brought in for their sentencing. This money is like an insurance for the court to make sure they arrive at their court dates. When they cannot pay the bail on their own, they appoint bondsmen who guarantee this payment to the court. 
  • The payment of bail money ensures that the defendant makes it on time to the court for the hearing. In addition, the judiciary does not have to provide housing for the defendant until a sentencing or court order. If the defendant cannot appear before the court on their designated date, the bondsman must pay the amount to the court. This is mostly the reason that they hire bounty hunters.
  • Agents regularly locate the whereabouts of individuals; check the last known stake-out location. 

Bounty Hunter Requirements:

  • Bounty hunters require licensure nowadays. To apply for the licensure, they should pass a background check to meet certain state requirements.
  • Every state has its requirements for passing a background check. The candidate should not have felony convictions or misdemeanors, should be mentally healthy and stable. They should not be an alcoholic or a drug addict. During background checks, they will ensure whether the candidate attended a rehabilitation center within a certain period. The age requirement for joining the training center is 18 years or 21 years in some states. 
  • Individuals with no previous law enforcement experience can complete bail enforcement agent training programs. They can enquire about the period of training and other schedules with their respective state licensing departments. 
  • In the training programs, the subjects will include.
  • The state laws, the legal system, different investigative techniques, recovery methods, bail law, how to handle the custody of patients with care. How to handle weapons, firearms during the job, range training combat training. The training program will require a certain fee. 
  • When applying for the licensure, submit a copy of the driver’s license, identification card, a recent photograph, and high school applicant diploma certificate, bail enforcement training certificate, motor vehicle report, and bank credit details.
  • After getting your license, apply for an internship or apprenticeship under experienced bail enforcement officers. Complete your apprenticeship with the required field experience for the required amount of time. Although the duration of the apprenticeship may entirely depend on the level of your efficiency and skills. You can climb the ladder to higher positions and work as an independent contractor.
  • A bounty hunter with a license must maintain a surety bond with the state. They have to pay a certain amount to the state to ensure the person’s protection against damages that may occur in the line of duty. Although mandatory, some management agencies exempt their employees from these requirements.
  • It is important to build a network with local bail bond representatives to get assignments. While educational requirements are important, fieldwork is the challenging part, and it tests your efficiency constantly.
  • Bounty hunters take assignments from bond agencies, while they enjoy significant legal privileges. Bounty hunters receive 10%-25% of their bail bond value as their fees. Because of the job, the people working as bounty hunters must have experience as a police officer or private investigator. The job also requires you to have a network of professional contacts and your weapons to defend yourself.

National Association of fugitive recovery agents (NAFRA)

  • The association was formed by a group of veterans, who saw the need for establishing professional standards, regulations, and representation of their community with the lawmakers and media. They named the association, officially the National association of fugitive recovery agents association in 2014. 
  • The association protects the industry by managing public relations and ensures that the media and lawmakers convey accurate information to the public. The organization contributes to the system by apprehending over 20000 fugitives each year.  They also maintain the public safety and efficient operation of the criminal justice system. The members of the organization are essentially from military, security, and law enforcement background.
  • NAFRA has established an apprentice category of membership for the new professionals joining the association. The newcomers to the association will receive a listing in their directory of state. The listing also provides exposure to other experienced recovery agents, especially for mentoring. The candidates can apply for the registration of certification at this link. 

Eligible candidates can check out the link.  Fill in the online form for registration with the required details and be certified.

  • The currently registered members with a good relationship with the association can get the certification. The certification is an essential part of developing and maintaining the professional status of the members.
  • In each state, the legal procedures and rules for bounty hunters are different. In addition, to the civil and criminal laws, they should know their state laws and statutes. Constitutional law, detainee civil rights, surveillance laws, access to public records, and the procedure on handling the surrendered defendants are other skills expected of new candidates.
  • Firearms and Non-lethal weapons

The criminal justice training commission conducts firearms training for aspirants. They also provide certification for formal firearms and non-lethal weapons as Taser, batons, and pepper spray.

  • You may have to pursue fugitives on foot. The fugitive might be someone dangerous and would do anything to avoid jail time. In addition, self-defense training, additional lessons in kickboxing, or any other martial arts will be good. No skill will be too much, as this profession demands all of your mental and physical ability. 
  • N.A.F.R. A conduct educational courses and seminars which they update for every bounty hunter in their respective states with the latest gadgets, information, and tools.


  • The job brings a lot of excitement, adventure, and an action-packed profession. The tradeoff is that you cannot count on a regular paycheck. Although some bail bond agencies pay bounty hunters’ salaries. Bounty hunters are freelancers.
  • Currently, there are 16000 bail agents in the United States and there are more opportunities for the candidates if you have enough experience and a wider skill set.
  • The median commission rate estimated for a bounty hunter is 10%-30% of the bail bond amount designated at the court for the fugitive.

Salary expectation

  • You apprehend a fugitive for a bond worth $10000 to $25000 for capturing them. It comes down to higher salary expectations. The higher the bail bond, the higher your income. 
  • A beginner in the field should keep in mind the level of experience and the record of accomplishment of the fugitive apprehensions play an important role in salary increment.
  • A bondsman will pay generously to experienced bounty hunters. Build your team of talented bail agents, spread your work, expand in the field, and manage your team. You can branch out interstate and international skip tracing with gained experience. 
  • The earning potential of a bounty hunter depends on several bails set by courts, the defendants who agree with the contracts, and the defendants who cannot pay the bail amount.
  • A larger probability is with the bondsmen, as the more bail bond they have secured, the greater potential opportunities they have to earn their salary.
  • Most states do not disclose information regarding the bail bond money. The estimated median bail for felonies in the U. S. is $10000. For more serious crimes like gun possession, drugs, etc., is $250000 and upwards.
  • The pretrial incarcerated jail population is about 65%. There is an increase in drug offenses by 33%. A 50 percent of all detainees required services from the bail bondsman.
  • You can refer to further details of salaries for bounty hunters in this link.

Factors affecting the salary

  • Bounty hunter is freelancing. While some make millions every year less experienced, bounty hunters usually have to approach the occupation as a side hustle. In the extremely competitive world, we live in, several factors determine the success rate of bounty hunters.
  • According to the occupational employment statistics, the average national annual salary is $8700. The job market for bounty hunters will grow 10% through the year 2030. If the bail bondsman is in a certain jurisdiction with plenty of cases, there are plenty of cases for the bondsman and hence plenty of work for agents in fugitive recovery.
  • The market is over-saturated. With a large number of bail agents, you may have to gather information and gather background information through different resources to know about the demand. 
  • Look at the job boards, online job offers, check out different agencies, and contact bondsmen and study the availability of bondsmen, bond agencies. In addition, it is important to build a professional relationship with bail bondsmen, build referrals, and have a good career reputation for yourself. The success of your job also depends on your networking skills. 
  • When you establish yourself as a successful bounty hunter, you attract more percentage in your pay. The record of successful apprehensions will give you an advantage when it is time for negotiation with the bondsman. 
  • Credentials are important for success in bounty hunting. Retired police officers, private investigators, and military service members with years of experience have more probability to succeed as private investigators.  All have the essential experience, which will help them get their job done more efficiently. This gives them a competitive edge compared to a less experienced bounty hunter. They prefer people with more experience and finesse for high-profile jobs, which pay more.
  • Family members employ bounty hunters in case they have assigned their assets as collateral for bail. Sometimes, the victim’s family can employ bounty hunters. Always explain your terms of payment clearly to your clients. In the end, it is business and it will not be ideal to rely on individual contracts when compared to communicating with several bondsmen in the long term.

Where do bounty hunters work?

Bounty hunters mostly work from home or in a space designated as an office for their work. Bounty hunters must have space, especially for paperwork.

Relevant education information

  • Aspiring bounty hunters can earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. It is voluntary to get a degree to pursue bounty hunting, however, in the end, especially to get licensure; it will be helpful with a degree. Gaining a degree can give you a competitive advantage, especially to understand the legal framework that is essential in the successful operation of capturing the fugitive. When you approach the job with a degree. You can go further up in the ranks, one day successfully manage your agency.
  • A degree in law enforcement provides knowledge of the legal, psychological demands of the career. It also gives a good foundation in legal criminal justice systems. The other relevant degrees to the bounty hunter profession are.
  • Forensic science
  • Juvenile justice
  • Law enforcement
  • Criminology
  • Public safety

A few associate and bachelor degree subjects, which the candidates can explore, are:

  • Associate of applied science in criminal justice
  • Bachelor of Science policing and law enforcement
  • Crime and criminology
  • Crime prevention
  • Criminal investigation
  • Deviance and violence
  • Research methods in criminal justice
  • Applied criminal and justice ethics
  • Exploration of cybercrime
  • Criminal law
  • Gaining a degree is useful when applying for state licensure. The process for the application of licensure starts with passing a comprehensive examination. These are some associations in each state, which provide support for gaining licensure.
  • South Carolina bail agents association 
  • Kansas bail agents association
  • Indiana surety bail agents association
  • Professional bail agents of Hawaii
  • Professional bail agents of Idaho
  • Professional bail agents of Texas
  • Tennessee association of professional bail agents,
  • Florida surety agents association
  • Ohio surety agents association
  • Mississippi surety agents association
  • Georgia association of professional bondsmen Inc.
  • Bail bond Association of Minnesota
  • California bail agents association
  • Some states which require licensure for bounty hunting are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington.  
  • States such as Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Wisconsin, do not have a private bail system.
  • States such as Alabama, Alaska, California, Hawaii, North Dakota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, and Montana are some places that do not allow bounty hunting without a license. 

We must prepare bounty hunters to handle dangerous circumstances and apprehend fugitives swiftly. The success in this profession depends on the ability of the bounty hunter to catch the criminal in time and handover him to bondman. 

Who should pursue a career in Bounty Hunting?

  • Bounty hunters are adventurous individuals. They have to dive into dangerous situations headfirst, to find people who may be extremely dangerous and armed. If these characteristics of a bounty hunter please your personality. Then you are a good fit for the role.
  • If you are someone who always executes tasks with a detailed plan of action. Someone is meticulous when gathering information, knows multiple tools, has good communication skills, especially in the locality that you work in, comfortable interviewing strangers, good at negotiating, and exceptionally detail-oriented then this job is for you.
  • As earlier stated, bounty hunting is essentially freelancing. That means financial risk is part of the business. The job gives a lot of freedom and flexibility regarding execution. It takes a lot of time to set your foot in the business. To achieve certain financial freedom in the business and your personal life comes from years of experience.  The work schedule can sometimes be grueling and unpredictable. You should be flexible enough to handle the work hours and the pressure that comes along with it. Patience is a virtue if you want to be a successful bounty hunter.
  • You should be comfortable adhering to different rules and regulations and statutes set by the state and follow them strictly. 
  • A bounty hunter can present himself as a law enforcement officer without a badge in any state since impersonation of bounty hunters is illegal in all states.
  • In some states where licensure for bounty hunters is very essential, there may be restrictions regarding carrying firearms. In such cases, when confronted with dangerous situations, you should be capable enough to handle them.
  • Being a bounty hunter means wearing many hats. You should be empathetic enough to handle familial cases, dealing with a family member during the inquiry. Play multiple roles, as a law enforcer or an investigator during work. Handle your finances and taxes, or even handle human resources if you are managing a bail enforcement company.

Skip Tracing and Bounty Hunting: Similarities and Differences

  • The definition of skip tracing is a function of bounty hunting. The job is to access information on the subject and uncover details about the individual to apprehend them. 
  • Bounty hunters use skip tracers to help locate individuals who failed to meet the conditions of the bond. There are intentional skippers, the people who do not escape the bail bondsman. There are unintentional skippers as well. These types do not know that they have failed to meet the conditions of the bond. 
  • Skip tracers work more with computers than bounty hunters who do a lot of legwork. Although the job requirements are so similar, skip tracers cannot work as bounty hunters. 
  • Skip tracing is more like detective work. The person should assess the information on the subject, uncover facts and search up for information online, search databases, interview, engage in surveillance, and assess more information about their subject while abiding by state and federal laws. They also compose reports, which are to use by hunters for apprehension.

Famous Bounty Hunters

  • Domino Harvey, the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey and model Pauline Stone, was a famous bounty hunter in America in the mid-1990. She was one of the most skilled bounty hunters in the country. During her career, she apprehended thieves, drug dealers, and murderers. Keira Knightley played her in the 2005 movie ‘Domino’, loosely based on her life.
  • Mickey Free was an apache Indian scout who served in the American Frontier and was a famous bounty hunter who joined the U. S Apache Scouts and served at Fort Verde in 1878-1874.
  • John Riley Duncan, also known as Jack Duncan, was a Dallas ranger and famous bounty hunter well known for his efforts in tracking down the infamous criminal Wes Hardin to justice.
  • The famous book ‘The Hunter’ by Christopher is based on a real-life bounty hunter Ralph Edgar “Papa” Thorson Jr. There was a movie based on him played by Steve McQueen.
  • Thomas Tate Tobin, also known as Tom Tobin, was a famous bounty hunter. He was Irish American, an adventurer, mountain guide, and a U.S. Army scout. He was one of two men to escape alive from the Turley’s Mill and distillery siege during the Taos Revolt. He also tracked down notorious Mexican American murderer Felipe Espinosa and his nephew. He killed them and brought their heads in a sack.


  • Historically, before the civil war, bounty hunters were slave catchers who tracked down escaped slaves and returned them to enslavers. In the Old West, bounty hunters were part of the U. S law enforcement system. The practice of bounty hunting existed in many parts of the world. However, In modern times, bounty hunting does not exist in several countries and exists only in the Philippines and U.S. 
  • The legality and regulation regarding the bail enforcement agents vary within each state. In addition, the name ‘Bounty Hunters’ is rarely used in modern times because of its history. Now, the bounty hunters are ‘bail enforcement agents’ or fugitive recovery agents. 
  • Bail enforcement agents have run into trouble, especially when they operate outside the U. S soil. An example of such an event is the arrest of Duane Chapman, the star of the TV series “Dog the Bounty hunter” for arresting a criminal in Mexico. 
  • The job is demanding in terms of resources but psychologically rewarding. There is more demand for the profession in the 21st century with the increase in fugitives and oversaturation of bail bond agencies and agents in the United States. Projection of 8% increase regarding the career opportunities for bail enforcement agents until 2029. 
  • You can further research Bail enforcement agents in the links referenced below.
How to become a bounty hunter?

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