What Does a Private Investigator Do?

When you think of private investigators, you may have visions of Sam Spade or Sherlock Holmes rushing down dark alleys in hot pursuit of a shady character. Real-world private investigators, also known as private detectives, actually have very different jobs. Keep reading to learn more about the world of private investigators. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

First and foremost, private investigators must work within the law at all times. Like a police officer, a private investigator can't present evidence that wasn't legally obtained. They also have less authority than police officers. For example, while a police officer might obtain a probable cause warrant to enter someone's home, a private investigator has no such avenue.

You'll find much of your time will be spent at a computer if you become a private investigator. A great deal of information can be found through digital formats and some investigators specialize in data retrieval. Database searches can turn up records of prior arrests, social networking information, criminal convictions, and personal associations. You might find yourself working surveillance in a number of ways. You could go undercover to learn more about a suspect. You might find yourself spending hours in an inconspicuous location waiting to get photographic evidence. Surveillance, however, doesn't include methodologies such as wire-tapping or any other means that would require a legal warrant.

Important Facts About Private Investigators

Required Education High school diploma, or equivalent
On-the-Job Training Typically several years
Key Skills Excellent oral and written communication, decision making, observational, patience, ingenuity
Similar Occupations Accountant, auditor, bill and account collections, claims adjuster, appraiser, examiner, and investigator, police and detectives, security guard, gaming and surveillance officer

Potential Employers

As a private investigator, you may find yourself assisting corporations or legal offices in fact-finding missions. Insurance companies hire private investigators to perform surveillance on someone who is suspected of filing a fraudulent claim. Companies may need a background check done on a prospective employee. You may be called to help with identity theft cases or track the origin of threatening e-mail.

On a smaller scale, you might be hired by an individual who suspects a significant other of infidelity. In missing person cases, the police can only investigate so far before they must redirect their attention to other civil issues, but a private investigator can continue a missing person search where the police left off. On occasion, someone might hire you to investigate a cold case - one that law enforcement agencies have stopped pursuing.

Licensing

As of 2015, 42 states require private investigators to become licensed, according to PI Magazine (www.pimagazine.com). Many states will consider you eligible for a license after you've worked for investigative services companies for some time. You'll need to check with your individual state licensing board for specific requirements.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the median annual salary earned by private detectives and investigators was $44,570 in May 2014. The employment of such professionals is expected to grow by 5% between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Strayer University

    Strayer University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado Christian University

    Colorado Christian University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado Christian University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Keiser University

    Keiser University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Keiser University:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Saint Leo University

    Saint Leo University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Saint Leo University:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • New England College

    New England College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at New England College:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »