Private investigators, or PIs, are private citizens with various types of training and experience. Investigators seek, gather, collect, examine and identify evidence in civil and criminal cases for lawyers, insurance companies and spouses for a fee. While it's not as glorious as the TV shows make it out to be, it can still be an exciting career.
Meeting the Requirements
1. Study applicable subjects in college. Presently, there is no specific degree, but there are degree plans that will benefit a career in this field. What's more, education can qualify as training and experience if your area requires licensure.
- A degree in criminal justice will focus on the study of laws that oversee and govern criminal behavior, criminal activity and the application of punishment for such behavior.
- A Bachelor of Science degree concentrates on the fields of chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology with emphasis in the fields of computer science and engineering studies.
-In California, for example, a law degree or four-year police science degree eliminates 2,000 hours of necessary work experience (an associate's degree eliminates 1,000 hours).
2. Keep a clean record. It goes without saying that you need to be a legal adult before you start on your private eye path, but you also need a clean criminal record. When you get hired at your first agency, you'll have to undergo a background check. If you don't pass, you probably won't get hired.
- Felons aren't allowed to carry firearms. While you could be a PI without one (namely a self-employed one), it's a serious determent to your hire ability for legitimate agencies.
3. Check state and federal firearm requirements. A firearm is sometimes carried by a private investigator for safety. There are strict laws governing the issuance of a firearm. People with certain criminal backgrounds or felons are prohibited from carrying weapons.
- Having a license to carry firearms is not the same as having a license to carry a concealed weapon. It depends on where you live, yes -- so research the requirements of your current location. wikiHow has a plethora of information on the topic of gun permits.
- Certain states have "reciprocity" laws, while others do not. That means while you can carry a gun legally in your state, you may or may not be able to carry one in the next one over. Do your research -- if your bordering states don't have reciprocity laws, you may benefit from obtaining an additional permit.
4. Know the job requirements of a PI. Great communication skills are essential. While being a PI can be incredibly exciting, just like with most things it looks a lot more glamorous than it really is. The job, at times, will be incredibly physically and mentally draining. Can you handle it? Private investigator duties may include:
- Providing investigative and surveillance services for the client
- Conducting investigations for violations of state and federal laws
- Participating in raids, searches, manhunts and other operations
- Performing field surveillance to locate assets, places of employment and the status and residence of a suspect
- Preparing, organizing and maintaining records, correspondence and reports for court presentation
- Working closely and interacting with a client to successfully close a case
- Testifying as a witness in trials and hearings as requested by a client
- These are no small feats. Some cases may require working through the night, traveling, and the occasional adrenaline rush. Needless to say, it can be high-stress physically, mentally and inter-personally.
5. Obtain experience in a similar domain. In order to get your license (if you need one) you'll need a few years' experience in a related field. It could be as a sworn law enforcement officer, military police officer, insurance adjuster, employee of a licensed PI or licensed repossessor, arson investigator, or an investigator for the public defender's office, just to name a few. While this isn't 100% necessary, it certainly makes the path to being a PI a lot easier.
- Being a cop could actually work against you. Private eyes have to be silent and stealthy -- cops have a habit of claiming, "HERE I AM" when they arrive on a scene with their flashing lights, sirens, and shiny badges. Many cops who become PIs later in their career find it hard to make the switch from depending on their authority and uniform to depending on silence and stealth.
6. Get a license to investigate. That is, if your area requires one. Currently in the US, Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri and South Dakota are the only states that don't require licensure. The same goes for England and Wales. If your area does require some type of licensing (again, it varies by state or area), contact your local Department of Public Safety for more information.
- Most places require a combination of education and training to obtain licensure (and a clean record, of course). Your state may offer a specific course that you have to take or have a list of schools that are accredited in this domain. You may have to take a written test and take safety classes, too.
- Between classes, permits, and applying for the license, you're looking at forking over a few hundred bucks. See more...
The Koyal Group Private Training Services designs its online and on-site training to your particular needs, providing information you can apply while in training in order to reinforce the efficiency of that information. Our coursework qualifies state standards both for fraud and continuing-education upgrade. Our programs are adaptable and can be presented in various formats to address industry requirements and standards. Please visit and check our course listings.