Private Investigator

Old television shows such as Magnum PI, Miami Vice and Remington Steele have highlighted the profession of private investigator (PI) or private detective, but the truth is that most PIs don’t wear trench coats or spend their days spying on cheating spouses. For the most part, individuals, attorneys, insurance companies and businesses retain private investigators to work on their behalf.

Are you interested in becoming a private investigator? If so, learn about the education, career steps and experience requirements needed to achieve a successful profession as a private investigator or private detective.

Degrees for Private Investigators

While many PIs have a criminal justice degree or background in law enforcement, there are no formal education requirements to become a private investigator. Each state has different background, education and experience regarding training courses, pre-licensing education, exams and years of required work experience. PI magazine, the leading periodical for the profession, provides a directory of links to licensing requirements by state.

Private Investigator Job Description

According to the Council for International Investigators, private investigators come in a variety of specialties. Fraud examiners, surveillance specialists, criminologists, computer experts, skip tracers, genealogists, covert photographers, accident investigators and process servers are only a handful of the talents offered by private investigators. And while some PIs work in large investigation agencies, others choose to be self-employed.

Duties include gathering information for clients, locating missing persons, conducting surveillance and running background investigations for court cases.

When considering a job as a private investigator or private detective, keep in mind that the job entails:

  • Irregular working hours
  • Heavy travel
  • Courtroom testimony
  • Writing and communication skills
  • People skills
  • Good judgment

Private Investigator Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment options of private detectives and investigators are expected to grow 18 percent over the 2006 to 2016 decade. The BLS reports the median annual earnings of salaried private detectives and investigators to be approximately $33,750. Earnings of private detectives and investigators vary greatly by employer, specialty and geographic area. Approximately 30 percent of private investigators are self-employed.

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