How to Become a Private Investigator

Private investigators are individuals who research into a person or company’s background to get information about personal, financial, and legal matters. They conduct interviews, gather evidence, and write reports on their findings. They occasionally assist lawyers and police officers with criminal cases. In addition, private investigators utilize different kinds of technology, like surveillance equipment and computers. They can be self-employed or work for different kinds of businesses and companies.

Minimum Qualifications

At a minimum, private investigators should be highly organized and adept at conducting research. They should be proficient communicators and should be able to solve problems quickly and efficiently. The most successful private investigators are knowledgeable about technology and have an interest in learning about others. Finally, private investigators should be skillful at writing reports on their research and findings.

Education & Training

It is typical for private investigators to have some college education. The best online degree for private investigators is a criminal justice degree, although psychology, criminology, and law enforcement are other appropriate degrees for private investigators. Potential private investigators should take classes that teach them how to interact with clients and manage detailed research projects. If students are interested in concentrating on a particular branch of investigation ó like financial or corporate private investigation ó they should consider taking classes in business, economics, and finance.

Some work experience is generally required before a candidate can qualify for a private investigator position. The best experience for prospective private investigators is law enforcement or correction officer experience. In some states, private investigators must be licensed, especially if dealing with confidential information.

Career Statistics

The field of private investigation is growing faster than the average, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, with growth projected at 21% by 2020. The hiring process will vary based on the employer and state requirements, however candidates can expect to undergo background checks and interviewing. The BLS reports that private detectives earn an average of $42,870 annually, with the top 10% earning around $75,970 yearly and the bottom 10% earning around $25,760 yearly. Exact salary figures will depend upon experience, employer, location, and education.

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