Background Investirgator Job Requirements & Training

Research the path to becoming a background investigator. Familiarize yourself with the training and licensing requirements you'll need to meet as well as the median salary for background investigators.

Career Information At a Glance

Background investigators conduct personal background checks for the purpose of determining employment suitability. Deductive reasoning and attention to detail are two very important skills needed to succeed in this profession. Check out the following table for more details.

Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Key Skills Inquisitiveness, resourcefulness, patience, and decision-making skills
Training Required Moderate-term on-the-job training
Licensure/Certification Vary by state
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 11%* (for all private detectives and investigators)
Median Salary (2018) $50,090* (for all private detectives and investigators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Background Investigator?

Background investigators are responsible for obtaining and reporting factual information that determines an individual's security clearance and suitability for a particular job position. Investigators are required to obtain information ranging from pre-employment checks to information about an individual's character, financial status, or personal history. Their daily tasks include performing record searches at various institutions such as law enforcement agencies and educational institutions, conducting face to face interviews, and compiling all data into clear and concise reports.

What are the Basic Entry Requirements?

There is no official educational requirement to become a background investigator. Earning a high school diploma or equivalent can qualify you for entry-level work as a background investigator. However, some employers may prefer an investigator with a bachelor's degree, preferably related to criminal justice and law enforcement.

Many job positions also require investigators to possess experience in conducting background checks or in a related occupation. Although the required previous work experience highly varies depending on the job position and educational qualifications of the investigator, it is usually less than 5 years.

What are the Training Requirements?

Almost all employers provide moderate on-the-job training or require their investigators to complete a certified training course. On-the-job training may last a few weeks or several months depending on the knowledge of the investigator. The training usually includes both classroom and field training. Investigators often perform field training with a mentor or with experienced professionals.

Do I need to be Licensed or Certified?

Most states require private investigators to be registered with the State and possess a license. The licensing requirements vary from one state to another but almost all of them require the investigators to pass a background check conducted by the FBI and the respective state department. Certifications are optional and may be essential for career advancement as they demonstrate competence.

What are the Job Prospects and Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for all private detectives and investigators is estimated to grow 11% between 2016 and 2026 which is faster than average. BLS also estimates continued employment of background investigators as online investigations are not as thorough. They earned an average annual salary in 2018 of $50,090. In the same year, electric power generation, transmission and distribution; computer systems design and related services; and scheduled air transportation were the top paying industries for this occupation. There is expected to be strong competition for jobs among investigators.

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