Missing Persons Investigator: Requirements & Training

If you're interested in doing private detective work, you may want to consider a career as a missing persons investigator. Read on to learn more about the job and its requirements, training and more. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Missing persons investigators work to find people who have gone missing through a variety of means. They may have previous experience in law enforcement or the military. The following table includes some basic information about the job.

Degree Required High school diploma; bachelor's degree recommended
Education Field of Study Criminal justice
Key Skills Research, critical thinking, resourcefulness, communication, problem solving
Licensure/Certification Licensing requirements depend on state. Professional Certified Investigator certification available through ASIS International.
Job Growth (2016-2026) 11% for private detectives and investigators*
Median Salary (2018) $50,090 for private detectives and investigators*

Source: *U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Missing Persons Investigator Do?

Missing persons investigators are hired by individuals, businesses, attorneys, etc., to find runaways, fugitives, loved ones, or others who have gone missing. They conduct interviews and perform surveillance, along with checking the history and background of the person being sought out in order to locate them. Missing persons investigators must make sure they understand state, local and federal laws which may prohibit or limit some of the surveillance they are able to do or properties they need to visit.

What Requirements Are There?

At the very least, a high school diploma is needed to become a missing persons investigator, but a 2- or 4-year degree is more likely. Some work experience is also useful. However, many investigators have experience in law enforcement or the military, and have completed the requirements for those professions prior to a career as a private investigator. Most states require private detectives and investigators to have a license, and while certification is not required, it can make a candidate stand out. One place to obtain this certification is ASIS International, which offers the Professional Certified Investigator certification.

What Training Is Required?

For most private detectives and investigators, on-the-job training is required and can last up to a year. However, this training depends on the firm they are hired by. For example, if hired by a corporation, they may receive additional training that will help their work with the business. Those who are new to the profession may learn from more senior private investigators.

What Skills Are Useful for This Career?

Being a missing persons investigator requires an advanced level of research skills and resourcefulness, particularly because all cases will be different from one another. You'll want to have good communication and especially listening skills because there may be a lot of interaction and interviews with other people. Finally, complex problem solving, creative and critical thinking skills will be especially useful when approaching the completion of a case.

How Much Will I Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for private detectives and investigators in 2018 was $50,090. The workers whose salaries were in the lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,310. Those whose earnings were in the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,200.

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