How to Become a Bounty Hunter & How Much You Can Make


When we think of  bounty hunters, we think of Duane “Dog” Chapman and that awful Jennifer Aniston movie from a few years ago…Well that is until we sat down to do some research on how to become a bounty hunter. We have to admit that we never gave the profession much thought before now, but it’s pretty interesting. Plus you get to carry handcuffs…double cool! Get ready to grow your hair into an majestic mullet and rock some leather, because it’s bounty hunter time, kids!

How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Deciding that you’d like to become a bounty hunter is step one of your journey. By now you have likely weighed all of the pros and cons of a life as bounty hunter and are pretty set on pursing the career path. If this is the case, you will need and want to know how to become a bounty hunter. There are two ways to travel down the road of a bond recovery agent, so get ready for the details of both. Pens at the ready!

You don’t have to have a college degree to become a licensed bounty hunter. You can however pursue a degree and become a skip tracer (another fancy word for bounty hunter), if you’d like the extra knowledge for future jobs. It is recommended that you select a degree program that’s in a related criminal justice field. These degree types will help to familiarize yourself with the laws, court proceedings and societal aspects of a job as a bounty hunter. A four year bachelor’s degree would likely cover everything that you need to know and will prepare you for the required examination to receive a license.

If you decide to skip the degree program, it’s no sweat! You can go ahead and complete the necessary courses that are needed and take your state license test. Bing, bang, boom…you are ready to rock and roll as a bounty hunter. You may not have garnered all of the knowledge that you would have with a four year college degree, but you will definitely learn enough to be pretty amazing at your job.

What Does a Bounty Hunter Do?

Most people have a vague and general idea of what a bounty hunter does, but let’s take it a step further and really find out what to expect on the daily with this job. Maybe this way we can finally get the images of Dog the Bounty Hunter and his most excellent mullet out of our heads!

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Bounty hunters are hired dudes and dudettes that are tasked to locate, apprehend and bring in the bad guys…err we mean the criminal defendants. These fugitives have failed to show up at their scheduled court dates after posting bail and are now in even bigger trouble. Orange is the new black from what we hear, so these offenders will be fashion forward after skipping out on bail.

Before you actually capture the flag, or in this case the fugitive, you’ll have a ton of things that you will have to do to lead up to that point. Once you have your target, you will need to keep them under close surveillance per the request of the bail agents. This can sometimes be a long and boring task. There will be lots of waiting and coffee drinking at this stage in the game.

You will also have to review phone records and credit card or bank statements from time to time while on assignment. This purpose of this step is to get an idea of where the fugitive in question is located. This is an especially important thing to do if you’ve got an offender that is hard to pin down. It’s like Lowjack for people!

One of the cool things about being a bounty hunter is that you don’t have to have a warrant to enter the residence or secret hideout of the offender. This is one area that you have a leg up where law enforcement has to deal with red tape. You also may apprehend an offender without reading them the Miranda Rights (phew…who has the brain space to remember that anyway) and you are not restricted by extradition laws (state lines…smate lines, right?!). These little loop holes will make it easier for you to bring in your fugitive and collect your bounty.

That’s the long and the short of what a bounty hunter does. There will be times that you may have an offender that gives you some trouble and makes you really work for the money. You likely already know that and are down for the action.

Bounty Hunter License

One of the many cool things about this profession is that it does not require you to complete a degree in order to get working. You will have to obtain a bounty hunter license, but this isn’t all that difficult, time consuming or costly. Sounds like a good deal to us.

If you are looking to get your license as a bounty hunter there are some things that you will need to consider. First off, if you live in Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon or Wisconsin – you will not be allowed to become a bounty hunter…womp womp womp! We know this is a bummer if you plan to work or live in these areas. Florida is also a state that can be an issue too as they will allow bail bondsmen but not bounty hunters. There are still 45 other states that are willing and ready for you to start bringing in those naughty guys and gals.

In order to get your license as a bounty hunter, you will need to have a high school diploma or a GED. You will also need to be at least 18 years old or older. It is super important that you don’t have a criminal record as well. You won’t be able to get a license if you have one and it’s kind of like a pot calling a kettle black or a people in glass houses situation.

Luckily for you, the licensing portion requires completion of a small amount of classroom training. The work will include criminal and civil law, investigation techniques and tactical safety courses that will teach you how to safely snag your fugitives. If you want to carry a fire arm you will need to complete additional training for safety and to obtain a permit.

After the classroom training, you’ll have to train as an apprentice of sorts. You will have to train under a licensed bail enforcement agent to learn all the ropes before receiving your license.  You’ll have to take some classes to maintain your license after you are a working bounty hunter.

You can train to become a professional bong enforcement agent through a new national and state bail agent association. The National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents (NABEA), Professional Bail Agents of United States (PBUS) and the National Institute of Bail Enforcement (NIBE) are excellent sources licensing for bounty hunters.

Bounty Hunter Jobs

As a bounty hunter with a license, you will obviously be able to play capture the criminal and earn some hard earned money. I bet you are wondering what exactly it is that you can do or where you can work. Well let us tell you all about your other possible jobs that can come from being a bounty hunter.

Once you are a licensed bounty hunter you will have gained a lot of experience in the court system and law enforcement. With this experience you could easily go for a job that is a bit different, but is easily pretty reflective of some of the skills you will obtain. You can transition to a job as parole officer, prison guard or even a police officer. You will obviously be required to extend your schooling a bit, but that too will likely be worth more consistent pay and less job stress.

Bounty Hunter Salary

We all know that money talks and can be a deciding factor for you when determining which career path is right for you. Let’s go ahead and take a look at what you can expect to earn as a bounty hunter, shall we?

Unfortunately there aren’t really any official statistics on bounty hunter salaries. This is due to the nature of the job and the payment arrangements that are made between the skip tracer and the payer. From what we could find from industry publications and insiders, there is an average commission rate of roughly 10 to 20 percent of the bond itself. This seems to be pretty standard from what we discovered in the interim of our research – So what this means is that with a bond of $10,000, you will most likely be able to expect anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 from the bail bondsman. You will receive this payment once the fugitive is located, apprehended and brought in to the police station.

Like we always say, this amount may vary depending on where you are collecting your fees, how much the bond was initially and what your certification is. It is reported that some bounty hunters with more experience may bring in higher percentages. Another little something to consider is if you are working for yourself or under a larger fugitive recovery agency. If you are working under someone, they will be taking a cut of that 10 to 20 percent, so you will be receiving less.

We’d also like to add that this is a slightly oversaturated industry and that can make making money a bit difficult. You’ll be pushing and shoving against other recovery agents and that can be frustrating. Before completely committing to a career as a bounty hunter you may want to do a bit of research on the area you intend to work in first. Try to find out what the demand for bounty hunters is, find out the number of licensed or registered bounty hunters that are authorized to work in your area and see if there is anything that you can do that will increase your odds of making more greenbacks than they do.

Bounty Hunter Gear

As a bounty hunter you will need lots of gear when on duty. This tactile gear will keep you safe and help you to do your job a bit better. We’re going to tell you all about what type of gear you need, how you will benefit from using it and where to get it.

  • Handcuffs: Well we all know what handcuffs are used for, right? You will want to have a strong set of handcuffs with a somewhat short center chain. You don’t want it to be too long because never know what kind of shenanigans those wily fugitives may be up in those cuffs. The shorter the chain the less likely they will be to have them hop over it or try to get you in a Full Nelson.
  • Multi-Function Night Stick Baton: There will be times that you may need to break a window, have a flashlight, a super loud alarm or a stun baton. For times like this, you will probably want something that does it all for you at once rather than having to carry 3 or 4 different gadgets at once. It will be pretty helpful to have an all in one gadget that will let you knock out a window, peer inside of the location where said window was broken into, sound an alarm for back up and maybe give a few quick wraps on the noggin of the fugitive that you are after. If you are dealing with an extra feisty offender, you can also give them a little poke with the stunning feature. A little zap goes along way, after all.
  • Pepper Spray: Pepper spray is pretty helpful to have around too. Having some on your utility belt will surely get you out of a pickle or two. It burns, stings and tastes awful…Not like we’ve ever accidentally pepper sprayed ourselves or anything. You can get a good sized canister of the stuff for those heavy duty fugitives. Pepper spray also comes in smaller canisters, on key chains and belt holsters.
  • Bulletproof and Stab-proof Vest: This is probably the most important bounty hunter gear that you will buy and hopefully never need. Unfortunately there will be some fugitives that will give you a hard time and that hard time may involve a gun or sharp weapon. In cases like this you will want a bulletproof and stab-proof tactile vest. Safety first boys and girls!
  • Firearm: Ok, so we hate to have to bring up the potential need for a gun, but it’s the cold hard cold truth that you may indeed need one to protect yourself. The job as a bounty hunter is unpredictable and you really just never know what you are going to face. It’s better to be safe and have the proper protection rather than a victim of circumstances that you may have been able to preempt. We do want to stress the importance of being properly trained with firearms before ever owning one. After all, it’s all fun and games until someone loses a toe!

Confessions of a Bounty Hunter – Meet Topher JonesBounty Hunter

Topher Jones is a bounty hunter. He was pretty young when he decided that he wanted to become a bail recovery agent. When he turned a tender 23 years old he was honorably discharged from the Army, was working as an EMT and was in need of a second job…all of this just to get by.

In 2004 Topher started watching the TV show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and he had the thought that maybe he should become a bounty hunter. So that’s exactly what he did. He did all of his research and got his ducks on a row to begin his journey towards becoming a bounty hunter.

After becoming a bails retrieval agent, Topher was ready for his first case. When Topher received his first bounty from an unknown bondsman from Colorado he definitely side eyed its legitimacy. He went ahead and gave it a go since he was just a green bounty hunter and needed some cash.

Out on the hunt, he was in search of Roger. Roger was a not so nice dude that was convicted of domestic assault charges. Clearly he missed the lesson is preschool where you learn to keep your hands and feet to yourself. Roger had been on the run from Blacky, his bondsman for a week or so by this point. Blacky was fed up and that was what prompted him contact Topher. This was a big job for a newbie, but he played it cool and set about catching Roger.

Topher tried to reach Roger over the phone a few times, but didn’t have any luck. Thinking that is was time to change tactics, he began talking to Roger’s mother and trying to find a way in that way. The relationship between mother and son was very strong. Topher finally got Roger’s mother to agree to put him on the phone. He was successful in his attempt and was able to speak to Roger.

After talking to Roger for a bit, he was able to discern that he did want to do the right thing and turn himself in. Topher made arrangements with him to ride a bus to the police station and turn himself him. Roger made good on his end of the deal and was successfully arrested by Blacky.

Topher did it, he successfully closed his first case without any issues and from a completely different state than the fugitive. Virtual high five for him! Topher is still a practicing bounty hunter and is no doubt kicking butt and taking names.

Final Grade

We’ve talked about all of the ins, outs, ups and downs of becoming a bounty hunter…hopefully we haven’t bored you too much. Now that you know all the details, how about we give you a final wrap up review and final grade? So here it is folks, our final scores for all things bounty hunter related!

  • Degree vs Debt: B-

So we have lukewarm feelings about the degree to debt ratio, if we are being totally honest. The pay varies based upon the amount of the bond. This means that it can be a lot or not very much at all. If you decide that you do want to pursue a degree, you will want to take the cost of your degree program into account. It may not be a big deal if you get big bonds, but if you don’t, you’ll be in the red for a while.  If you decide to forgo the degree (remember, it is not required), the investment to become a licensed bounty hunter isn’t too high. You will still have to work really hard for the money though, but at least you won’t be out as much money.

  • Degree Difficulty: B+

 The difficulty of the degree isn’t really all that bad. You can get a degree or just go the licensing route. Neither route is too hard if you apply yourself and give it your all. There isn’t a whole lot of technical skills required and most of the learning is done through lectures or books. You may experience a bit of writer’s cramp or need a little extra java to keep you focused.

  • Happiness Quotient: C

You likely won’t be jumping for joy while you are in this line of work that is for sure. This job can be pretty stressful not to mention dangerous. You will be dealing with offenders that have dodged out of their bonds and they will likely be none too pleased to be hauled back into the pokey. This is a job where time equals money, so you will never have much down time if you want to bring in money. There can be long hours sitting around trying to sneak up on your fugitive. There will be lots of times when you feel like all you do is hurry up and wait.

  • Job Outlook: C-

The job outlook for a bounty hunter is less than stellar. The income can be pretty inconsistent or pretty great (this is not a plus). There isn’t a guarantee that you will have bounties to cash in on at any given point, so it can be feast or famine type work. The industry is at an all-time high and that makes for an oversaturated, super competitive market. There will be lots of other bounty hunters vying to jump on the same leads that you have and that too may interfere with your cashoola. We can’t help but feel that having a secondary source of income is a really good idea. You know what they always say “CYA…Cover Your Assetts”! You thought we were going to say something else, didn’t you?! If you are looking for a secondary source of income, something in the law enforcement field would be ideal. You’ll already have the majority of the meaty credentials to back you up. That’s just our opinion though and you know what they say about opinions, right?

Sources and Recommended Reading

We like to think of ourselves as pretty smart cookies, but our brains just aren’t big enough to hold all of the information that we have dropped on you during this little “how to”. We love our sources and all of the great tid bits that they provide us. So as usual here they are for your clicking enjoyment!

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