Private Investigator Careers

Private investigators provide a variety of investigative services for clients with legal, personal and financial issues.

This job requires a wide variety of assignments to be completed throughout a career, based on the needs of various clients. Private investigation can involve exciting and dangerous assignments. However, other assignments involve long periods of time spent completing surveillance or research.

To establish a private investigator career, many years of experience and training are required. The nature of this career is suitable for individuals with specific personalities and interests. Overall, working as a private investigator has the potential to create financial stability and an interesting employment situation to workers.

Requirements for Private Investigator Careers

The credentials that are required to practice private investigation are generally based on previous experience and valid licensure. Employment companies and individual clients determine the requirements for a private investigator to be hired. Because investigators work on a client-to-client basis, they may have to meet additional requirements to be employed by potential employers.

Education Requirements

Although a post-secondary education is not required to become a private investigator, having a two- or four-year degree is beneficial when applying for jobs. A criminal justice certification is especially relevant to this career field. However, an applicant with criminal justice experience outside of academia is also considered for employment. Former employment as a police officer or military member is also attractive to potential employers. These jobs involve many similar experiences as a private investigative career.

Many states require private investigators to obtain a license in order to be legally employed in the career field. Depending on the state, the licensing process could include attending a school or a course, testing and/or a background check. Completing the licensing process proves that an applicant is ready and qualified to be a private investigator.

Personality Qualities and Interests

Private investigators with certain qualities, skills and abilities are most suited to the career field. Additionally, these qualities allow an investigator to perform their job at the best possible level and better handle stressful situations.

Exceptional communication skills are necessary in this career area. Interpersonal abilities allow an investigator to properly interpret and evaluate situations and evidence. Writing skills are sometimes required when a professional must quickly solve a problem or communicate via this method.

Rapid decision making skills give investigators the ability to quickly make thoughtful and rational decisions in a variety of situations. Additionally, having a naturally inquisitive and resourceful mind can help investigators complete assignments well. This career also requires a great deal of patience. For example, investigators may spend a long amount of time on surveillance, in silence and/or or waiting for an event to happen.

Individuals with interest in law enforcement, self-defense and investigative work may be a good fit for this career. Private investigators must be courageous in dangerous or scary situations. A desire to uncover the truth and bring about justice will make this career rewarding for investigators.

Work Environment for Private Investigators

Private investigators usually work alone and are often undercover. The ability to adapt and blend in during certain situations is required on a day-to-day basis. These professionals must also adhere to established rules of evidence while completing an assignment.

This career may require workers to travel to a variety of places, including dangerous areas. In addition, travel using various methods of transportation is sometimes required. Investigators can choose to remain local. However, others could be hired to travel throughout the country or even the world to complete an assignment.

Private investigators may work full time or part time. Investigative work is often completed during irregular hours, including at night. The schedule of private investigators does not follow the general office job schedule of many other individuals.

While some situations for private investigators are exciting and/or dangerous, a great deal of time is often spent completing research. This may be done in an office setting, usually in the investigator’s home.

Because this profession can be dangerous, workers should understand how to defend themselves in various situations. To provide protection during potentially dangerous situations, a private investigator may be required to obtain a concealed weapons permit. This weapon will be used if the individual encounters a threat while completing an assignment.

Daily Responsibilities for Private Investigator

Private investigators work with a variety of clients and have many different assignments throughout a career. They may be required to gather data through online research, conduct interviews or provide undercover surveillance. These assignments are often intended to uncover hidden facts or data. In other situations, investigators will conduct background checks, provide courtroom testimony, prepare reports or provide security to a client.

Private investigators are also hired to locate missing people who have potentially run away or been kidnapped. Investigators are even contracted to solve crimes that have happened recently or in the past. In some situations, investigators are hired to follow up on cases that have already been closed. In this profession, workers can be paid to obtain confidential information.

The daily responsibilities of an investigator vary based on who is currently employing their services. Typical clients for investigators include consulting firms, private corporations, law firms or individual clients. Investigators may be employed through an agency or self-employed.

Income for Private Investigator Jobs

The income range for private investigators varies widely. Average yearly income is based on a number of factors. These factors include whether an investigator is working full or part time, type of employer, level of expertise and location of an assignment.

Salaries for private investigators range from $25,000 to $75,000 annually. Professionals with a high level of expertise and/or ability to complete difficult assignments are paid higher wages. This career is largely dependent on the individual work put in by an investigator and can be highly lucrative on certain occasions.

If a high-profile client or a wealthy company hires an investigator, the payout is often significant. Maintaining these relationships with clients helps solidify future income sources for workers in the investigative field.

Potential for Growth

Job growth for private investigator careers is expected to increase over time. This rate, at 11%, is faster than the growth rate for many other jobs on the market.

Increased demand in security has created a large market for private investigators. More companies are hiring investigators to complete background checks for employers. Additionally, the demand for specialized investigators has resulted from increased concern over cyber security threats in the modern age.

Investigators who are self-employed can increase their income potential by making connections with new clients. Finding work in higher-paying areas is another way to increase potential for growth as a private investigator.

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