Private Detectives and Investigators
Training, Salary & Job Facts

Private detectives and investigators are criminal justice detectives who work to help those failed by the legal system. Learn how to be a private investigator.

You've seen them on film and read their exploits in pulp novels, but the true job description of private investigators and detectives are not as action-oriented as their fictional counterparts.

But that doesn't mean their work isn't interesting.

Private investigators and detectives work to assist individuals, families, businesses, and members of the legal system (like attorneys) in a number of activities, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Finding Evidence of a Crime
  • Surveillance of a Person or Persons
  • Investigating the Possibility of Infidelity
  • Locating a Missing Person or Persons

While PIs and detectives don't have the legal jurisdiction and additional bureaucratic advantages that police officers have, they are fully licensed criminal justice detective personnel that have the right to carry a firearm (with proper licensing) and access to certain information databases.

In many cases, private investigators and detectives are former members of a police or military force that have retired into the life of private security and detection.

How to Be a Private Investigator

In order to become a private investigator, there are certain hurdles you must clear.

The first thing you have to do is obtain a license. The requirements for earning your private detectives and investigators license vary from state to state. In many cases, you'll be required to take certain college courses, pass a written exam, and perhaps have prior experience working either on the police force or as an apprentice to another private investigator.

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There are some states, however, that will allow you to get your license by merely paying a specific fee. Money may not buy you happiness, but in some parts of the United States, it can apparently buy you badge.

Private Detectives and Investigators Training

As mentioned above, there are some states that require you to have some experience in the private investigation field. Whether you live in one of these areas or not, it is a very good idea for you take this into consideration before you get your license and start your own business.

There are a number of different places you can build experience and training in the world of private detection, including:

  • Insurance Companies
  • Law Firms
  • Established Private Investigators

It's a good idea to contact as many of these places as you can in your early days (or weeks, or months) and see if they might be able to let you tag along and learn something. Akin to an internship, you should not expect to be paid during this apprenticeship period. But in the long run, the knowledge you gain will be priceless.

Private Detectives and Investigators Salary

The salaries of private detectives and investigators vary wildly. Depending on your experience (or lack thereof), state of residence, and case demand, you could be making anywhere from less than $20,000 to over $80,000 annually.

It's common for a private detective to charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 per hour on an investigation.

So, in essence, the yearly incomes of private detectives and investigators is entirely dependent on how well they advertise their businesses, how many people come to them for help, and how many hours they are privately employed.

As with any other job, the better you are at the work you do, the more successful you will be.

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