How to Become a Private Investigator
The blueprint for how to become a private investigator varies from one U.S. state to the next, but there is a general path you follow if you want to become a private detective in America. Like on television, PI’s do jobs for a grab bag of clients. Unlike in pop culture depictions of private investigators, the life of a P.I. is not always a glamorous one fraught with dangers from femme fatales and mobsters.
Most of the time, professional private investigators works for attorneys, insurance companies and corporations, digging up information to use in court or legal cases. Many licensed detectives make their living off of suspicious husbands and wives, who want their spouse followed or investigated, to see if they are having an extramarital affair. Seldom is a modern PI asked to find mysterious antiques and solve murders.
Services a private detective might be involved in include criminal liability cases, civil liability cases, insurance claims, insurance fraud, child protection cases, child custody battles, missing persons cases and even premarital screening. Like many of the classic detective stories, cases involving infidelity are common. In the Information Age, though, corporations are hiring private investigators for a whole field of technology based jobs, which we’ll get to later.
Private Investigator Training
Keep in mind there are no formal education requirements for private detectives, but many job requirements for hired investigators (working for investigation firms) require postsecondary degrees. Research private detective training schools like the Global School of Investigation. Take criminal justice courses through online universities like Kaplan University or LexixNexis, or get course training through a live learning environment.
Some states require private detective licenses and some don’t. Call your local police department to learn whether a license is required to be a private investigator in your state, which you should check the status of whenever you decide to become a private investigator. At the moment I’m writing, only Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming do not require a private investigator license.
If you want to be a detective in the other 45 U.S. states, you need to acquire a private investigation license.
Private Investigator Skills
There are many skills that apply to being a private investigator. You want to know how to write reports for clients, how to take fingerprints, how to take samples of evidence and how to use firearms safely.
Writing reports is a key part of your job, because this is how you inform customers and corporations of what you learned. Performing credit card checks is also important. Searching online when investigating is also another essential skill for a 21st century private investigator.
Types of Private Investigators
The private investigation field is one increasingly dependent on technology and gadgets. Most detectives are going to need to be proficient in using GPS systems, video camera, photography equipment, cell phones and binoculars. But there is a type of licensed detective that needs expertise in modern surveillance and counter-surveillance technology. Some detective hire themselves out to big corporations to perform bug and concealed camera sweeps.
There are other types of privation detective jobs you might not have considered this field performing. Here’s a list of other investigative possibilities.
Corporate Investigator – These men and women investigate workplace drug use and perform expense account audits. They make certain corporate employees aren’t stealing merchandise, information and other assets from their employer. They might investigate fraudulent billing of the corporation from suppliers.
This kind of private investigator may well go the Donnie Brasco route, spending months pretending to be an average corporate employee, hoping to root out misconduct.
Financial Investigator – These detectives profile both companies and individuals for a corporation which has considered entering into a major financial transaction with them. These investigators are often CPAs (certified public accountants) who investigate bankers, CEOs and corporations.
In other instances, financial investigators investigate a company’s or person’s assets, to make sure their client recovers damages from a court case.
Legal Investigator – These detectives collect information in helping attorneys prepare for criminal defense cases. They might serve legal documents and subpoenas, as well as interview law enforcement and potential witnesses. The legal investigator might find local witnesses to a criminal case, or otherwise gather evidence in a case.
In this case, the detective might be asked to do everything from take photographs to testify in court.
Becoming a Private Investigator
When deciding whether to become a private investigator, you want to understand whether you are both qualified and suited for the job. Detectives should be willing to work irregular hours, while using logic, patience and people skills to obtain the evidence they need.
A private detective must be able to work in solitude and maintain persistence in a case. A detective has to be assertive and aggressive in the right circumstances, collecting information through interviews, while also maintain maturity and professionalism. A licensed or unlicensed private detective must know the laws in the jurisdiction they are working, at all times.
When studying how to become a private investigator, remember that you’ll need to take an examination for a license in 90% of the states, while you may have to post a bond to be licensed, as well. Finally, keep in mind that if you have ever been convicted of a felony, you won’t be able to get a license as a private detective.
- How to Become a Private Investigator
- Becoming a Licensed Private Investigator
- How to Become a Private Eye
- How to Become a Spy
- What is a Hidden Camera?