What Is the Average Salary of a Private Investigator?

If you are interested in becoming a private investigator, you will likely want to know how much you can expect to earn. Read on to learn about factors that can affect your salary, as well as the job prospects. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Salary Overview

The national average salary of private detectives and investigators was $44,570 in May 2014, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those in the bottom 10% of workers made $27,000 or less, while those in the top 10% made $85,560 or higher. Several factors play a part in how much a private investigator earns. Some of these factors include your level of experience, your location and the industry in which you work.

Important Facts About Private Investigators

On-the-Job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Entry-level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Licensure Available; requirements vary depending on the state
Work Environment Investigations, guard, and armored car services; finance and insurance; government; legal services

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary by Experience

According to 2015 data from PayScale.com, private detectives and investigators with 0-5 years of experience earned around $41,000 per year on average. Those with 5-10 years of experience earned higher salaries of around $52,000. With 10-20 years of experience, salaries increased to about $55,000 per year. With over 20 years of experience, expect to earn about $73,000 per year.

Salary by Location

Where a private investigator works affects how much he or she earns. Someone in the Los Angeles area has a mean wage of $58,190, while someone in Philadelphia, however, has a mean wage of $55,100, according to May 2014 BLS figures. States with the highest mean wages for private detectives and investigators in May 2014 included Nebraska ($66,800), New Jersey ($63,520), Alabama ($59,640), Washington ($59,220), and Hawaii ($58,030).

Salary by Industry

The BLS reported that the investigation and security services industry had the highest employment level of private detectives and investigators in May 2014, and the annual mean wage in this industry was $53,910. The management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry had the second highest employment level and a mean wage of $55,430. Employment levels were much smaller in the local and state governments, with annual mean wages at $53,930 and $46,130, respectively.

Salary by Type of Employment

Whether a private investigator works independently or for a private investigation agency has an impact on his or her salary. Many agencies pay private investigators an average percentage of billable hours based on the hourly rate charged per client, according to HG.org Legal Resources. Private investigators typically charge anywhere from $13.85-$54.15 per hour, according to PayScale. Self-employed investigators keep 100% of what they charge, though they are responsible for more administrative duties, such as record keeping.

Job Outlook

The BLS expects private detective and investigator employment growth to be average, at a rate of 11% over the 2012-2022 decade. Competition is expected for jobs, and it may be easier for entry-level professionals to find work in detective agencies.

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