Private investigators are tasked with the responsibility of investigating crimes that have occurred. In many cases, private investigators work for insurance companies to help determine if a claim is valid or not. They also may be hired by lawyers defending their clients in court cases, and they may be employed at corporations to investigate employee theft claims. Private investigators often specialize in certain types of investigations, such as infidelity or background checks on potential employees.
The private investigator career path can be broken down into three parts: per-employment screening, surveillance and investigation services, and litigation support services. The most common type of job for a private investigator is an investigative assistant who works primarily in per-employment screenings; these jobs typically do not require any licensing or education beyond high school diplomas. This blog post provides more information about careers within the private investigator industry.
1. What Is a Private Investigator?
A private investigator is an individual who performs investigations for clients. Investigations usually consist of research, interviewing witnesses and suspects, surveillance, searching public records in both paper copy and online, among others. The information obtained through the investigation is then presented to the client in a written report. A private investigator may also attend court hearings or interact with law enforcement to provide information on their findings. Some investigators are licensed or registered to carry firearms; others are not.
A private investigator (PI) is a person who conducts investigations on behalf of others, either for personal reasons or to comply with the law. A private investigator may work for individuals, corporations, insurance companies, attorneys, or other professional clients. Anyone can be a PI, from an ex-police officer to a store detective. In certain cases, you don’t even need a license to conduct business as one.
2. What Are the Responsibilities of a Private Investigator?
As a private investigator, your responsibilities are going to depend on the type of investigation you’re conducting for your client. Investigations can be as simple as tailing somebody in order to find out where they go and who they see in their free time or as complex as a white-collar criminal case involving financial fraud or embezzlement.
A private investigator is responsible for investigations that involve preparing a report of their findings, documenting evidence, and effectively communicating their results to the client. The scope of an investigation may vary from conducting surveillance on a suspect, interviewing witnesses, or following up on information given by a client regarding a case.
3. Who Should Have a Private Investigator?
Anyone can hire a private investigator; however, they are usually used by businesses, individuals, and attorneys. Lawyers may need an investigator to do background checks on people or uncover information that might be useful during the trial. Individuals who think their spouse is cheating on them may hire an investigator to watch him or her and take pictures of them with another person. Businesses may use an investigator to uncover information about a supplier or competitor and then present that in court if necessary.
Anyone who needs to gather information but does not wish to put themselves in harm’s way should consider hiring a private investigator. A private investigator can also be useful in business cases when a conflict of interest is involved, such as cheating spouses, infidelity within the workplace, or claims involving insurance fraud.
4. How Do I Become a Private Investigator?
To become a private investigator, you’ll need to earn at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice, although some jurisdictions require that you complete law enforcement training. You may also need to take courses in business management and strategic planning for your investigations. You can then enter into internships and other positions to gain experience so that you can take the licensing exam. After passing the licensing exam, you should consider joining a professional organization such as ASIS International or ISC2, where you’ll have access to training courses and seminars for your profession.
5. What Type of Training Do You Need to Become a Private Investigator?
To become a private investigator, you must have training in either law enforcement or investigative techniques. Some jurisdictions require that you have a license to work as a PI, but not all do. The level of training required will vary by state, and employers may accept official training certificates from accredited institutions as well as those from non-accredited institutions.
The length of training required will vary depending on the requirements for licensure and whether you’re just starting out in a profession or want to change professions within the private investigation sector. The first step is usually an associate’s degree and then moving on to other education such as a Bachelor‘s degree that will allow you to take the licensing exam.
Getting a degree in criminal justice may be an easier way to go and will mean you don’t have to do as much coursework in other areas such as private investigation or extensive background checks on people and corporations. From there, you’ll need to get involved with internships programs and apprentice positions within law enforcement and private investigation agencies.
6. What Type of Salary Can I Expect as a Private Investigator?
The average salary for a private investigator is around $40,000, but this can depend on where you work and how big your city is. The cost of living also varies depending on the location; it’s more expensive to live in Los Angeles than in Boise, Idaho.
As with any career, the potential for advancement is good if you have a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in either of these fields, your starting salary will likely be higher than those who don’t have degrees. The more experience you gain as an investigator, the more opportunities for advancement you may have.
7. What Skills Are Necessary to Be a Private Investigator?
Some of the skills needed to become a private investigator include:
Excellent verbal and written communication skills- PIs need to clearly communicate with a variety of people, from the person they’re interviewing to the courts, when presenting their evidence.
Good listening skills- Investigators need to be able to listen well and ask relevant questions when necessary. They also need good observational skills in order to note details about a person or place that can help them make sense of their investigation.
Detail-oriented and thorough- PIs need to be able to note all the relevant details of a case, such as dates and times, names, and places. They must also have excellent memory recall in order to present their findings accurately at a later time.
Computer literacy- Technology is an important resource for PIs, so they need to be comfortable using computers, smartphones, and other devices in their investigations.
PIs need to be able to think critically and also have excellent interpersonal skills. They should understand human behavior, motivations, and interactions in order to become successful in their field. In addition, they must possess strong observation skills and be great listeners.
8. What Skills Are Unnecessary or Less Important for a Private Investigator?
Some of the skills that aren’t necessary or are less important for PIs include:
A strong background in law- While it’s helpful to have the legal knowledge, you can get by without it if you have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Good physical condition- Investigators are often out in the field, conducting surveillance on people and places. They need to have good eyesight but don’t necessarily need to be in good physical shape since they aren’t actively engaging in confrontations with criminals.
9. What Type of Certifications Are Required to Be a Private Investigator?
Depending on your state, you may need to have some sort of certification(s) in order to practice. For example, while some states don’t require any certification for new private investigators, others do. And some states only allow current law enforcement officers to become PIs.
In terms of education, many states require that you hold a high school diploma or GED. Depending on the state, a bachelor’s degree may be required for certification and/or licensing, but this varies from one to another.
Licensing requirements also vary by state; in some cases, you’ll need to apply for a private investigator license, while in other states, you can work as an apprentice until you have enough experience to apply for a license. In addition, different states require applicants to go through a background check and, in some cases, submit to drug testing.
10. Is Being a Private Investigator Difficult?
Yes. Becoming a private investigator is challenging because it is very competitive, especially in large cities where there are. It is also challenging because you will need to pass a background check and drug test in order to be certified. Being an effective investigator takes time, so it’s important not to get discouraged when you feel like your investigation isn’t leading anywhere or that you’re making little progress.
11. What Type of Work Environment Do Private Investigators Have?
While some PIs work for themselves or at very small companies, most work for larger agencies. You can expect to divide your time between the office and the field as a PI, conducting investigations that require surveillance or undercover work.
Private investigators usually have flexible schedules in order to accommodate their work hours, which often include daytime, nighttime, and weekend hours. It is important for PIs to work well under pressure, especially when they are conducting surveillance or trying to catch a criminal in the act. They should also be good at multitasking since they will need to talk on the phone or listen via radio communication while also keeping their eye on the suspect and recording all the details of their investigation.
12. What Are the Average Starting Salaries for Private Detectives?
It depends on where you live and whether you work for yourself o work for an agency. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for PI’s is $38,940 per year or $18.24 per hour. The lowest 10 percent of PIs make $19,850 or less annually, and those in the top 10 percent earn more than $66,430 yearly on average. PI’s who work for the federal government makes more than $51,220 on average, while those employed by state governments can expect to earn an average of $38,790 per year.
13. What Types of Cases Do Private Investigators Investigate?
A wide range of cases is investigated by PIs, including:
Workers’ compensation fraud- This involves cases where people who are injured on the job and receive workers’ compensation benefits cheat or defraud insurance companies. It’s not uncommon for co-workers to be involved in these sorts of schemes because they can provide information about their colleague’s injuries and other details which will help support a fraudulent claim. Insurance investigators work to uncover cases of workers’ compensation fraud.
Child custody investigations- During a divorce or child custody battle, it may be necessary to conduct an investigation of the spouse seeking custody in order to determine what type of environment they provide for their children. Private investigators can often uncover information about one’s criminal background, financial situation, and personal life, which will be used as evidence during the trial. These types of investigations can help a person gain custody of their children.
Employee theft investigations- When a business suspects that an employee is stealing from them, it’s important to have evidence in order to protect themselves against potential legal action down the road. A private investigator will gather information about the theft and present it to their client so they can determine whether or not they want to take legal action.
Missing persons- When a family or friend can’t find someone who is missing, they may need the help of a private investigator in order to discover what happened to them and where they are now. Missing person cases are typically very challenging because they require PIs to use their resources in order to figure out where their target is.
Intellectual property investigations- This type of investigation involves uncovering the illegal use of someone’s intellectual property, which can include items such as trademarks, copyrights, technology, or ideas. Private investigators are hired to track down this information and figure out who is responsible for using it without permission.
Integrity investigations- These cases involve verifying the information which is provided by job applicants during interviews and on their resumes. Private investigators will use the information they’ve gathered about a person’s personal history to determine whether or not it’s accurate. If they find errors, an employer may decide that they don’t want to hire that person after all because it could be a sign of dishonesty.
Drug investigations- Many employers require drug tests for potential hires in order to ensure that they are hiring someone who won’t present a safety hazard on the job. For example, people who hold certain positions within the government may be subject to random drug testing to make sure that they aren’t using illegal substances. If an employee fails or misses these tests, it’s up to a private investigator to investigate the reason behind their drug test failure, which could include on-the-job drug use or substance abuse.
14. What Advice Do You Have for People Interested in Becoming Private Investigators?
If you’re interested in becoming a private detective, it’s important to start building your experience as soon as possible by volunteering or interning with local law enforcement agencies or PIs. Most require you to have a degree. However, several PI agencies will hire you on an apprenticeship basis if you do not yet possess the educational requirements. It’s also good to take courses which can teach you more about investigation techniques and how to get information from people who aren’t willing to give it up.
15. What Legal Constraints Do Private Investigators Face?
Self-regulation is perhaps the biggest reason that PIs are regarded with suspicion. There are no laws to govern how they work, so anyone can claim themselves as a PI and set up shop without any regulatory body watching over them. Even PIs who are registered still have wide latitude about what’s legal and ethical. When they provide evidence in court, for example, it’s considered hearsay under the law because people who aren’t present to swear on their information won’t be allowed to testify.
16. What Are the Best Colleges to Study Criminal Justice?
There are different ways to study criminal justice depending on what type of career you would like for it to lead into. If you wish to become a private investigator, then attending colleges that offer associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice can help give you an edge over other candidates who don’t possess the same level of education. Bachelor’s degree programs are more common than associate degrees among private investigators, but both can help you to qualify for entry-level positions in the field.
Some of the best colleges to study criminal justice include:
- American Intercontinental University
- Fulton-Montgomery Community College
- Champlain College
- College of Southern Nevada
- Benedict College
- The University of Illinois at Springfield
- Northcentral University
17. Online Courses to Study Criminal Justice
Online courses can provide students with the information they need to launch a career in the industry without actually going to the campuses. These programs offer flexible schedules and can be taken from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.
Introduction to Criminal Justice by Udemy
This course is offered by udemy and can be taken from anywhere in the world. It is a basic course that will introduce you to the criminal justice industry and what it entails. There are eight sections of lectures that you can go through at your own pace making this an ideal course for someone who wants to start learning about Criminal Justice without being committed to any set period of time.
Hot Topics in Criminal Justice by Coursera
This program is offered by the Coursera online education platform and is one of many courses that can be taken to help you understand the industry better. This course discusses the major issues in criminal justice today, including terrorism, cybercrime, human rights, etc. The lectures are delivered by experts working in the field, making them much more relatable to students who might be interested in working within this field one day.
International Law In Action: Investigating and Prosecuting International Crimes by Coursera
This course provides students with detailed information on crimes that are of international concern and how they should be handled by law enforcement. The course is six weeks long and can be taken from anywhere with the necessary internet connection.
The Psychology of Criminal Justice by Edx
This course is offered by FedEx and discusses how criminal justice and psychology can go hand in hand during the investigation and prosecution stages of a crime. It is a three-week course that requires you to have a good understanding of Criminal Justice terminology, so it would be wise to take this as an addition or follow-up course to those offered by Udemy or Coursera.
The private investigator career path is a fascinating one that has many benefits. The ability to explore the world and solve mysteries while being your own boss are all perks of this job. However, you should be aware that it can also come with some drawbacks, such as high levels of stress from working long hours on tough cases or putting yourself in dangerous situations. If you’re willing to put in the work for an exciting profession like this, though, we hope these tips will help guide you through what it takes to become a successful PI!