Are you thinking about starting a career as a bail bondsman but are not quite sure what it takes, how long and involved the process is, or perhaps how much it will cost you? You are not alone, and although this may feel daunting, this detailed article will answer these questions (and more) and leave you feeling much more confident about the steps needed to become a bondsman. With that in mind, lets jump right in.
Step 1 - Check Local State Regulations and Requirements
Why is this very important? At the time of writing, there are eight states that do not allow private bail bondsmen (or have very strict policies), namely Washington, D.C, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maine, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Oregon. Additionally, each state has different prerequisites (such as age, criminal history, etc.) that might prevent you from pursuing your dream career as a bondsman, so always do your research first.
How to do your research: The good news is that it is actually pretty easy to find out what you need to become a bail bondsman. Simply visit your local state's department of Insurance (or criminal justice) website to either read up on it or to get in touch with someone who can answer your questions. If you cannot find it, just Google "bondsman requirements + your state" to find a portal like this one for Virginia or this one for North Carolina.
Step 2 - Clearly Define Your Bail Bondsman Career Goals
If you will look for employment: While there is always room to adjust your career goals in the bail bondsman space, it is worth deciding if you want to immediately look for a job once you have your license or if you want to start an agency due to the additional cost involved. While the choice is up to you, if you are new to the bail bonds industry, it might be worth getting some experience before starting out on your own.
If you want to start an agency: If you would prefer to start your own bail bonds company from the start, there are a number of additional steps you need to complete, such as registering your business, becoming tax compliant, obtaining a suitable surety, renting office space, etc. To keep this guide focused on becoming just a bondsman, we have a separate article on this process that you can read for more information (linked above).
Step 3 - Attend Bondsman Training and Pass Examination
Is bondsman education necessary? In some states, it is compulsory to attend a bail bondsman course even if you have sufficient knowledge or even experience in the bail industry to pass the exam. Although this can cost around $500, I personally recommend that you opt to do the bondsman training regardless, as the content will prove valuable both for acing the exam and laying a good foundation for your career.
Examination overview and the cost: The exam is usually held at a qualified testing center (such as Pearson Vue). You can expect up to 100 multiple choice questions, a 1-2 hour time limit, and a passing score of 70%. The cost for this bondsman exam is between $40 to $80 and you may have to wait a full year between retries. Here is an example overview of what you can expect if you were taking the examination in North Carolina.
This has been written to help people across the U.S understand what it takes to become a bondsman and although I have linked to a few examples, it is intentionally not state specific. As a result, it is necessary to use ranges for prices, etc. and to point out that it might be a bit different depending on where you live. If there is sufficient demand, I may consider writing a guide for each state, but please remember that state specific information can easily be found as per step #1.
Step 4 - Apply And Pay For Your Bondsman License
How to get a bondsman license? Once you have passed your exam, you can start the process of obtaining a bail bondsman licensure for your state. This process varies depending on where you live, but generally you will need to submit an application form (usually a digital one found on the state's insurance or criminal justice website), your test scores, and in some cases, evidence that a surety will back your work as a bondsman.
How much does a state license cost? You can expect to pay anything from around $50 to $700 (you can review this chart for estimated pricing), and note that it usually needs to be renewed every few years. When the renewal period arrives, you may also be required to attend additional classes (usually around 6 hours) to qualify for renewal. Provided there are no delays, your bondsman license should arrive via post in around 2-3 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions From Our Readers
Is being a bail bondsman profitable? This really depends on whether you are employed or if you run your own agency. In the latter scenario, you get to set your commission, and although you will have more responsibility, your earning potential is much higher than working as a bondsman for another company. If you are looking at ballpark figures, you can expect to earn around $50 000 to $80 000+ p/a depending on your experience.
What can stop me being a bondsman? In addition to state restrictions, you may not be able to become a bondsman if you have a criminal history (at least a recent one), are under 18 years old, are an illegal resident, don't hold a high school diploma (or equivalent) or fail to pass your bondsman exam (you may need to wait one year). Honestly, though, it is not too hard to achieve this career goal compared to other jobs in the financial sector.
Quick Summary And Concluding Thoughts
The first step in starting a career as a bail bondsman is to make sure that your state allows private bonding, and if they do, to visit your state's criminal justice or department of insurance website to find out the specific requirements. This article aims to provide general steps, but in your state the process could be a bit different (e.g. your classes, exams, and licensing process could all be bundled into one).
Once you have defined your business goals (as this will affect the total cost), attend a bondsman school for your education (even if it is not compulsory, I highly recommend it), pass your examinations at a designated testing center (like Pearson Vue), and then submit your license application along with your scores, payment, etc. If all goes well, your license will arrive after 2-3 weeks.
If you have decided to start your own bail agency, we recommend that you use a reliable bail bonds software instead of relying on things like spreadsheets or a combination of other tools to manage bonds, collect payments, send notifications and various other tasks. You can sign up by clicking here, and if you have any questions about it, please feel free to contact us directly and we will help.