Detectives share with you in elaborate detail step-by-step
procedures in this complete private investigator training course and show
you exactly . . . "How to Become a Private Investigator and How to Conduct
Private Investigator Career Advice
From the Experts
Private Investigators Career
Q.. Would I make a good private investigator?
Basically the field of private investigation is so vast and diverse,
from the very high tech like computer fraud, to highly oriented
people skills, like interviewing witnesses, that there is a need
for virtually all types of skills and people. Probably the most
necessary attribute is the deepest desire to get at the truth.
An almost dog like tenacity, hence, the symbol of the hound dog
with the magnifying glass used so often in private investigation.
So, if you like to follow every thread, dig out every clue and
solve puzzles then you would be a good investigator. The one other
thing that was common among all of our investigators was the deep
desire to help people and fulfill their clients needs. These two
things together made for not only a good investigate but a highly
Q. What does the job of a professional investigators involve?
Professional Investigators employ techniques such as public record
searches for background checks and pre-employment screening. Investigators
interview people to gain information, gather evidence and verify
facts about individuals, events or companies. They may provide
assistance in civil liability and personal injury cases, insurance
claims and fraud, child custody cases, premarital screening and
martial infidelity. Some Private Investigative firms offer executive
and celebrity protection and some serve court papers.
Many people are of the opinion that most PI's are former police
officers or government law enforcement agents. The fact is, the
majority of Professional Investigators have little or no training
or experience in those fields. Almost anyone, man or woman,
no matter his or her age, background or experience (with the exception
of convicted felons, of course), can become a Professional Investigator.
Q. What training will I need to become a private investigator?
While there are no academic requirements for this field, a two-year
associate‚Äôs program or a four-year bachelor's program in a criminal
justice-related area is helpful to an aspiring Private Investigator.
Most Private Investigation firms offer a variety of services requiring
their Investigators to have a broad base of knowledge in
Many Private Investigator schools offer classes in specialized
subjects such as insurance and criminal investigations. These
subjects are also offered by community collages. Seminars designed
to enhance investigative skills and specialties are conducted
by state and national private investigative associations. Enlightened
Investigators expand their knowledge base with courses and seminars
throughout their career.
The best training is on-the-job-training under an experienced
investigator. The trick is convincing the Private Investigative
firm that you know enough to make it worth their while to hire
you. Get started with a good well-rounded course that addresses
the most common types of investigations, such as "Secrets of Top
Private Eyes." More information available from the
Department of Labor
Q Are internships required for Private Investigators?
Many states require Professional Investigators to serve an apprenticeship
or internship with an established, licensed PI or with an investigative
firm. Several Professional Investigator schools exist that offer
entry-level schooling and training that may or may not enhance
on-the-job training and the time-given acquisition of basic skills.
Q. What should I do to get started on a career as a Private Investigator?
"Someone who wants
to get started in this field, yes, go for it! It's not
a shadowing profession. It's not Sam Spade, it's a good, energetic,
interesting and productive way of contributing and making
a living. You're doing the first thing you should do, right
now - which is research." - Linnea Sinclair, Private Investigator
Q. Is a police background essential?
"A lot of people think
you need to have some kind of law enforcement background
to be a Private Investigator. Not true at all. Our
business is comprised of people who are streetwise and
able to go out and get the information. You've got to
be a go-getter. Nothing to do with police work, or police
techniques. Being a PI is gaining information and knowledge.
We go to a lot of seminars and read a lot of articles.
But, when it comes to 'formal' schooling, there's no formal.
I think even if you went to the John Jay School of Criminal
Justice they could not get you ready for doing investigations."
- Peter Crummy, Private Investigator and Instructor
Q. What if I have no special training?
"Having a background
as a truck driver can be very sensible experience for
the investigative business. Say you're doing an
undercover job for a trucking firm. The man's been
a trucker: that could be very essential. A man comes
to me and he says, 'I've worked 20 different jobs in my
life.' I ask him to tell me about each and every
job he's ever worked - what he did for a living. That
man is going to be vital to me if I need to put him on
the job. I might need someone to pose as a real estate
agent. We employ pretexts all day long in the investigative
business." - Bob Brown Private Investigator and Instructor
Q. What is the history of women in the investigative
"In the early 70's there were very few
female private investigators. I know of only one. I did
not hire women then because I just did not think they
would make good investigators. It was 1976 before I hired
the first woman investigator, a woman who really proved
herself and proved to me that women make excellent investigators.
She did a superb job for me and was with me several years."
Since that time, I've hired
many women. In each instance, they have been superior
to male investigators. They can acquire data that men
cannot get. They are less threatening. more and more women
have come into Private investigation business, not only
as investigators, but as owners of agencies." - Nick and
Pat Beltrante, PI's, Instructors, Beltrante & Associates
Q. Are there many opportunities for women investigators?
Since the early 1970s more and more women have come into Professional
Investigation business, not only as Private Investigators,
but as owners of agencies. Women Investigators are now in
big demand because they are less threatening. They can acquire
data that men cannot get. Women are naturally inquisitive
by nature and generally more compassionate. Women look at
a case - especially if it involves child custody or marital
situations - from a different angle then a man. A woman is
also a natural for undercover work.
"Women can do a lot more. We're not intimidating
to people. I would open my door to a women as opposed
to a man. People will spill their guts to a women when
they won't give a man the time of day. We're sweet and
nice and we're not out to hurt anyone. - Pat Beltrante
PI - Beltrante & Associates
Q. Are there advantages for women investigators?
"Women are naturally inquisitive. By
nature we're more detail oriented. Woman are generally
more compassionate. Women look at a case - especially
if it involves child custody or marital situations - from
a different angle then a man. A woman is also a natural
for undercover work. People tell me all the time - and
I take it as a compliment - 'You don't look like a Private
Investigator.' I like that." - Liz Crummey, Private
Investigator - Crummey Investigations, Inc.
How much income can a Professional Investigator make?
Private Investigators enjoy well-paying and worthwhile careers.
Experienced Private Investigators can earn up to $100,000
a year while deriving satisfaction from helping people and
working on cases. Earn up to $52,000 per year! Self-employed
Private Investigators charge rates between $50 and $150
Department of Labor states the median annual wages of
salaried private detectives and Investigators were $41,760
in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,870
and $59,060. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,500,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,640. Wages
of private detectives and Investigators vary greatly
by employer, specialty, and geographic area.
Private investigative agencies bill clients $40 to $150 per
hour for their time. The average hourly rate across the nation
is about $50 to $55 per hour. Those who charge less than $40
per hour usually live in non-affluent areas. Those who charge
more than $55 to $65 an hour usually either have a good specialty
and/or are located in an affluent part of the country. Most
who bill $100 an hour or more have advanced degrees or a strong
links to some specialty market.
Most of the fifty states have a licensing law for private
investigation. In the states where there is no state licensing
law, the local jurisdictions like counties or cities sometimes
require a license.
All you need to be licensed as a private investigator is to
be 18 years of age, of sound mind and with a clean criminal
record. (In some states you may also need to intern with a
private investigative firm and/or pass a course or exam.)
State Licensing Information. At the time, these state
require no state private investigators license, There maybe
however city and/or state business licenses. (Check
your state to be sure): Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho,
Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Dakota
Most states require PI's to be licensed. Some states have
no licensing requirements whatsoever. Requirements vary widely.
Ask your state department of professional regulation for up-to-date
information. Some counties and cities also require special
licensing. You should visit occupational licensing departments,
which are usually located in courthouses. See
State Licensing Information for Private Investigators
"Every state is different.
Go to your local law library and obtain a copy of the
statute that regulates agencies. Call the Division of
Licensing in your state capital and ask them what chapter
pertains to investigative agencies." - Mike Askew, Private
Investigator and Instructor
Q. Each state has a different set of rules governing the licensing
of Private Investigators. What are Virginia's requirements,
"I teach a sixty-hour course
and about twenty hours of that course involves the study
of rules and regulations for PI's in Virginia. We have
rules and regulations governing PI's because the state
wants to make sure if a person goes out and practices
the investigative profession, he or she is fully aware
of responsibilities. The remaining forty hours of the
course are devoted to such things as surveillance. The
students actually go out on field exercises and do surveillance.
They do photography work and report writing. Several hours
are dedicated to appearing in court." - Nick Beltrante,
Private Investigator and Instructor
Specializing as a Private Investigator
Earning the credentials to do business as a Professional Investigator
can be a very rewarding and fulfilling accomplishment, both
personally and financially. PI's often work alongside law
enforcement officers, attorneys, and business leaders. Private
and public organizations, insurance companies, and banking
institutions call upon PI's to perform important investigative
work, such as surveillance: tailing, stakeouts, videography,
still photography, and audio recording.
Q. What are recent trends in investigation?
"Some of the
most recent trends are in on-line searching, pre-marital
investigations, worker's compensation, and claims for
insurance companies. Locating missing persons, of course,
has always been a mainstay in the private investigative
Financial investigations is a field that needs a large
number of investigators. brokerage firms, banks, lawyers
- even private individuals - require this service. It
could bring big dollars in for the right investigator."-
Nick Beltrante, Private Investigator, Washington DC
"Product liability is one
high-paying investigative specialty. In many instances,
the request is for someone to find a defect in a vehicle
or conveyance - be it a car, motorcycle, or bicycle. We've
handled cases from helmets to mechanical chairs." - Mike
Askew , PI and Instructor
"Computer fraud. There has
been a dramatic increase in this type of investigation,
and someone capable of handling it would certainly be
in a good position to earn many dollars. It's a specialty
area that requires a good knowledge of computers."
- Roger Gibson, PI and Instructor
"What premarital work can
be for anyone is a basic background investigation. Is
this person truly divorced or widowed, as they say they
are? That's probate records, that's civil court records:
divorces. Is this person from where they say they're from?
Have they spent their life there? Call up county records.
Do they own property there? It's public records. Is this
person really in this business? Is he or she really a
CPA?" - Linnea Sinclair, Private Investigator - Instructor
Detection of listening devices and cameras (bug sweeping)
Undercover and covert operations
Corporate espionage and competitive intelligence
Background: conduct, habits, credibility, character
Relationship, marital, and custody investigations
Locating missing heirs and witnesses
Conducting injury or wrongful death investigations
Investigating accidents, fires, damage to property
Locating assets, stolen property
Providing patrol, guard, and bodyguard services
Gathering evidence for civil and criminal proceedings
Serving legal papers
Investigating employee theft, loss prevention, narcotic
& alcohol abuse
The investigative and security industries are big and getting
bigger. Each year new high-tech clients vie for the
services of experienced PI's who understand the diverse technologies
and possess the up-to-the- minute skills required to meet
those particular demands. Following are just a few of the
industries that contract with and hire Professional Investigators.
More than fifty percent (50%) of employees steal from their
employers. Shoplifters abound. Security personnel
and Professional Investigators work undercover to prevent
theft and revenue loss.
Attorneys depend on PI's to investigate many situations.
PI's assist attorneys in cases ranging from relationship and
child custody disputes to corporate espionage to product liability
litigation to wrongful death and personal injury.
PI's earn more from the insurance industry than from any other
single industry. PI's investigate and prove suspicious
and fraudulent claims for insurers, investigate false injury
claims and other fraud, perform background and assets checks.
Some insurance investigators provide skip tracing services:
the more hits, the more lucrative the tracer's earnings.
As computers become more and more a part of our daily lives,
the crooks become wiser in ways to use them to commit crimes.
This area of investigative endeavor promises to pay handsome
rewards to those well-versed in the computer sciences.
A prosperous company hires a high-paid expert to work on a
problem concerning an important component in one of its major
systems. Two years later, that same expert (the expert
that management thought would produce the magic solution from
his hi-tech bag of tricks), has quit the team and departed
for a better life with a major competitor. And he's taken
the company secrets with him.
To prevent this and other costly corporate espionage, firms
hire PI's to weed out spies and wrongdoers. Experience
and knowledge of the inner workings of corporations and businesses
are prerequisite training for this type of assignment.
There are many state and national professional private investigator
associations you might consider joining. By aligning
yourself with these groups, you will benefit from the educational,
networking and business opportunities each affords.
Private Investigators who begin networking from the beginning
of their career enjoy the greatest success. Attend association
meetings and functions: you'll increase your knowledge of
the industry as a whole and broaden your base of contacts.
Private Investigator Associations