Private investigators and detectives gather information and uncover facts about personal, financial, or legal matters for individuals or businesses. Many services are offered within this field such as investigating infidelity, tracing identity theft or insurance fraud, preforming background checks for employers, and offering assistance in criminal and civil cases. Much of a private detective and investigator’s time is spent on the computer gathering and uncovering information that may be stored in databases and e-mails. Another large chunk of time is spent using surveillance techniques that include interviewing people, making telephone calls, going undercover, or conducting physical observation of an individual or business.
Points to Consider
Most private investigators and detectives can expect to work long and irregular hours. Early morning, evening, weekend, and holiday work is common.
Much time may be spent away from the office such as when a private investigator and detective is gathering information or conducting surveillance.
Most private investigators or detectives do not carry fire arms, but may need to do so for some services.
The work can be dangerous in nature, but among private investigators and detectives there is a relatively low incident of non-fatal work-related injuries.
About 21% of all private investigators and detectives are self-employed.
There can be great competition within this field. For instance, experienced military or police officers who retire early often decide to pursue private investigator and detective work.
Computer Forensic Investigators specialize in recovering, analyzing, and presenting data from computers for use as evidence in investigations.
Legal Investigators assist in locating witnesses, serving legal documents, interviewing witnesses, and gathering and reviewing evidence for criminal and civil cases. They often work for law firms or lawyers.
Corporate Investigators conduct internal and external investigations for corporations. They may investigate internally as to whether employees are stealing assets or using drugs. External investigations would include investigating and exposing fraudulent billing by a supplier. Undercover work is common in this field as a Corporate Investigator may spend a great deal of time posing as an employee to uncover suspected activity.
Financial Investigators are often certified public accountants (CPAs), and work to uncover financial profiles of individuals or companies that deal with large transactions.
Store Detectives/Loss Prevention Agents These investigators are responsible for controlling loss and protecting assets within retail stores by teaching prevention and inspecting the practices of the store, and apprehending anyone who may steal merchandise. Like Corporate Investigators, they may investigate internally and externally.
Private Investigator / Detective Job Requirements
Most states require a private investigator or detective to be licensed - with the exception of Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Wyoming. There are additional licensing requirements for detectives and investigators that carry handguns. Most private investigators and detectives have some college education and previous experience in investigative work. Knowledge of federal, state, and local legislation is a must. For instance, private investigators and detectives must be mindful of how they collect evidence so that it can be used in court.
Technical skills in computers are a necessity, as is knowledge with other technology like photography, video, cell phones, and GPS. A private investigator or detective must be assertive, quick thinking, have good acting skills, and not be afraid of confrontation.
Private Investigator / Detective Education
For most private investigator and detective jobs, there is no formal education requirement, but most practicing private investigators and detectives have post secondary degrees and/or experience in areas related to Criminal Justice. A bachelor degree, a master’s degree, law degree or becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) may be a necessity if you’re interested in becoming a Corporate Investigator, or a Computer Forensics Investigator. Certification is possible through professional organizations like the National Association of Legal Investigators, or ASIS International, and continued education for a private investigator and detective is important due to the ever changing world of technology.
Private Investigator / Detective Salary
Wages vary greatly by specialty, location, and employer, but the median range is anywhere from $30,870 to $76,640.
Private Investigator / Detective Video
Famous Private Detectives and Investigators
Charles Fredrick Field - A retiree from the Scotland Yard who isbest known as the basis for Inspector Bucket in the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House.
Allan Pinkerton - Foiled a plot to assassinate the president-elect Abraham Lincoln.
W. David Rabern - He is a board certified protection professional, personal protection specialist, certified fraud specialist, and a certified homeland security specialist. His skills have become known as an industry standard.
Sherlock Holmes - A fictional character created by Sir Athur Conan Doyle
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