How To Become A Private Investigator

A private investigator interviews individuals to obtain the necessary information, looking through records to get clues and undertaking background information. In today’s digital age when information about individuals can be obtained with just a few clicks, the computer will be one of the primary sources of information. You will be using various online data sources to get telephone numbers and even a person’s records of previous brushes with the law.

A lot of information can also be gleaned through what a person shares in his social media account. You will also be making calls to employers to verify a person’s employment and income information.

Conducting surveillance operations is an important strategy that you will have to employ when looking into any case. You will be watching the person you are tracking from a position where you are not going to be noticed, typically observing them from their home, office or as they go about their day-to-day tasks. You use video cameras, GPS tracking and binoculars in order to monitor these individuals. If necessary, you may even have to go undercover to get more information.

If you have an extensive background in computers, you can also investigate computer crimes. You may recover deleted files, documents and emails. You may also help present this kind of evidence in court as well.

As a private investigator, you need to be inquisitive. You have to be interested in finding answers and searching for the truth. You also need to be patient during your search. Surveillance can take days without yielding anything so staying patient and alert will be integral. You also need to be resourceful to succeed in this career. You may have to improvise when conducting surveillance operations or when trying to obtain much-needed information. You also need to be quick on your feet and make prompt decisions when needed. Furthermore, you also need to have excellent communication and listening skills since you want to get the precise details from your client as to what kind of information they want you to capture on camera when they will ask you to do work for them.

Why Become A Private Investigator

A job as a private investigator is not for everybody. However, it is a very fulfilling profession if you crave for adventure and solving mysteries. If you want to work alone, this job will allow you to do just that most of the time. It also provides you with the chance to work outdoors. It is also an ideal job if you like to do investigative work but don’t like to draw attention to yourself inasmuch as private investigators need to do their job in a stealthy and discreet manner. The outlook is also good for private investigators in the coming years.

Private Investigator Work Environment

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that 37 percent of private investigators and investigators were hired in the investigation, guard and armored car services industry while others worked in finance and insurance firms, the government and in legal services. Depending on their assignment, their work may involve spending a lot of time in the office doing research and calling up possible sources of information. They may also conduct interviews with possible sources, go undercover or do surveillance work to gather the information they need.

The work can be dangerous as it could involve confrontation. In most cases, however, private investigators don’t have to use weapons because they are merely out to get information and not apprehend someone. When doing surveillance work, they may have to stay in their vehicles for long periods at a time. Their work hours are irregular since they often have to do fieldwork. The work can also extend during evenings, holidays and weekends.

Private Investigator Salary

The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that private investigators and investigators received a mean annual wage of $53,890. In 2012, the agency reported that private investigators and investigators working in the finance and insurance services industries received the highest pay at $55,660. Those in legal services got $47,080 while those employed by government agencies received $46,690. Private investigators and investigators hired by firms in the investigation, guard and armored car services industry were paid $43,640 annually.

Average Private Investigator Annual Salary


The average annual salary for private investigators is $55,080 a year. Salaries start at $28,780 a year and go up to $86,730 a year.

Average Private Investigator Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a private investigator is $26.48. Hourly wages are between $13.84 and $41.70 an hour.

Stats were based out of 30,980 employed private investigators in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Private Investigators

Top Paying Cities For Private Investigators

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Private Investigator Career Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the job outlook for private investigators and investigators to be as fast as the average for all job types. From 2012 to 2022, the agency said the employment rate for this occupation is going to grow 11 percent. Thus, from the 30,000 hired in 2012, the number will increase to 33,300 in 2022.

The demand will come from the need of people to tighten their security as well as to guard against online crimes like identity theft. Scams perpetrated on the web and acts to defraud financial and insurance firms will create jobs for private investigators and investigators. Companies that conduct background checks of prospective clients and workers also continue to drive demand.

Private Investigator Degree

Previous work experience in the field of law enforcement and not education is often the most important qualification for the job. The minimum requirement is a high school diploma although there are jobs that require a college degree. Many private investigators hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in police science, criminal justice or related field.

Those who would like to work with the financial services industry need to have a background in accounting, business or finance. The company that hires the private investigator often provides the needed training so that they essentially learn on the job. However, most of them already have a background on gathering information because they have previously worked with law enforcement agencies or the military.

Most states require private investigators and investigators to hold a license. The requirements vary by state so it’s best to ask the state agency concerned. Moreover, they can also opt to obtain certification from professional organizations to show that they are competent at what they do and can advance in their careers.

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