Bail bondsmen serve important public safety and financial services roles. They provide the funds for bail that allow defendants to be released prior to trial during which time they can prepare a strong defense. Bail professionals also serve as another level of assurance that defendants will appear for their court date. Most bail bonds are financial agreements backed by some form of collateral like real estate; if a defendant fails to appear, a bail company can legally acquire that property. This type of risk is usually compelling enough that almost 97 percent of bail clients appear in court without incident.
While the process to become a bail bondsman is specific to each state, the majority of jurisdictions have a process that generally follows these steps:
|Complete Educational and Training Requirements|
|Pass the State Licensing Exam|
|Apply for a State License|
|Join a Bail Company or Start a New One|
Step 1. Determine Eligibility
The profession of bail bondsman is a challenging one that requires knowledge of finance, contract law and criminal law, so most state licensing boards—which are usually agencies within state departments of insurance–require that bail bondsmen meet certain requirements in order to be licensed. This typically includes:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Complete a pre-licensing course
- Pass the state licensing exam
- Possess sufficient financial resources to meet all surety obligations
- Have the sponsorship of a surety company
Step 2. Complete Educational and Training Requirements
While only a high school diploma is required to become a bail bondsman in most states, many of the most successful bail bondsmen prepare for the challenges of this demanding profession by attending college. Many bail bondsmen possess an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in finance, economics, business administration or law. This type of education is exceedingly helpful in the performance of bail bonding duties as well as preparing to take the bail bondsman licensing exam.
In many states, the bail bond licensing board has instituted a pre-licensing course that specifically prepares candidates to take the licensing exam and complete the licensing process. In most cases, this course provides an introduction to basic bail bond principles, laws and practices, and is the first step in learning how to become a bail bondsman.
Although not every state requires completion of a pre-licensing course to become licensed, it is often a wise investment, as it can help lay an intellectual foundation for a bail bondsman career. Most instructors of these courses have served in the profession and can provide firsthand experience and advice.
Step 3. Pass the State Licensing Exam
In most states, the state licensing exam is a 50 or 60 multiple choice exam that must be completed within an hour’s time. The exam fee is usually between $40 and $100 and the exam is offered through a variety of independent test providers.
It is important to learn the exact requirements to take the exam beforehand; failure to bring a pre-licensing course completion certificate or a credit card to pay for a fingerprint submission can disqualify candidates from taking the exam and result in loss of the exam fee.
Most states allow candidates to take the exam multiple times if they fail.
Step 4. Apply for a State License
The process for obtaining bail bondsman licensure usually involves completion of a procedure similar to the following:
- Submission of an application which can usually be found on the state’s department of insurance website
- Provide the licensing fee in the form of a check, money order or credit card
- Submission of the scores from the state licensing exam
- Documentation of surety company sponsorship
- Submission of a bond for a state mandated amount
The license for a bail bondsman may be in force from one to three years. Most states require that bail bondsman complete a set amount of continuing education hours during the licensure period to qualify for license renewal.
Step 5. Join a Bail Company or Start a New One
Most newly licensed bail bondsmen join an already established bail company in their state to learn about the industry and develop a network of financial partners. Once a modicum of experience has been obtained, bail bondsmen may found their own bail company which usually requires applying for a firm license, submission of a surety bond, and incorporating the business under state law.