There are about 15,500 bail agents (bail bondsmen) in the United States, according to the Professional Bail Agents of the United States. These numbers help highlight the career potential for those interested in becoming a bounty hunter.
The bounty hunting profession has evolved into a recognized and valued occupation that serves a key function in the U.S. judicial process. The regulatory environment and scope of authority varies considerably from state to state according to licensure, certification, education and training requirements.
Bounty Hunter and Bail Bondsman Salaries By State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Salaries for bounty hunters are as varied as the profession itself, with some bounty hunters making well into the six figures and others simply doing freelance work to collect bounties as a second source of income. There are a number of factors that determine a bounty hunter’s salary and earning potential within the bail bonds industry:
Size and Saturation of the Market
A market’s size and the number of bounty hunters working in any one jurisdiction will be a factor in determining the amount of money that can be made in the bounty hunting business. As such, many individuals seeking careers in bounty hunting may be best served by asking local bail bond agencies about the current demand for qualified bounty hunters. Also, because many states license bounty hunters through their Department of Insurance, it may be beneficial to inquire as to the number of licensed or registered bounty hunters currently authorized to work in a given jurisdiction.
Contacts in the Industry
The ability to earn a solid salary as a bounty hunter is often directly related to the professional relationships the bounty hunter has developed with local bail bond companies and bondsmen. The majority of bail bond companies do not pay their bounty hunters a salary; instead, they earn a percentage of the bond, which is usually between 10 and 20 percent.
Most bail bond companies hire bounty hunters through referrals, so it is important to develop solid relationships with local bail bond companies to get the kind of steady work that comes from having a good reputation. A common way to break into the bounty hunting business is to serve as an apprentice with an established bail bondsmen in the area. The National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents supports apprenticeships and helps new bounty hunters connect with seasoned professionals in the business.
Bounty hunters are rarely paid the same. In other words, established bounty hunters are usually able to demand a larger percentage of the bond than newer bounty hunters. It is quite common for bounty hunters to negotiate the percentage of the bond. The ability to negotiate a higher rate is largely tied to a bounty hunter’s experience and reputation for success.
It goes without saying that on larger bonds where lots of money is at state, bail bondsmen will typically contact bounty hunters in the area with well-established records of successful apprehensions without incident. In contrast, less experienced bounty hunters are more likely to be offered jobs with smaller bonds.
Credentials are an important part of the bounty hunting profession. Those with comprehensive resumes highlighting experience in law enforcement, specialized training in everything from constitutional law to apprehension and handcuffing techniques are the ones most sought after in the field.
Retired police officers, private investigators, and military service members with relevant experience often have a distinct advantage over those who do not.
Bounty Hunter Salary Expectations
Although there are no official statistics on bounty hunter salaries in the United States given the nature of the payment arrangements, industry publications show that the average commission rate for bounty hunters is between 10 and 20 percent of the bond. For example, if the bond is $10,000, a bounty hunter can expect to receive anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 from the bail bondsman for locating and apprehending the fugitive.
According to a recent job posting by a large bail bond company in Las Vegas, new bounty hunters are paid at a rate of three percent of fugitive bonds after completing 200 hours of unpaid training, although the posting also states that other pay incentives are available, as well.
Team leaders for the same company – defined as bounty hunters with at least three years of street law enforcement experience and police certification – are paid at a rate of eight to 15 percent of the fugitive’s bond.