Private Investigator: Job Description, Salary, and Licensure
Private detectives and investigators provide services like background checks, investigating cybercrime and finding missing persons. The investigators work with clients, so their job duties vary based on the needs of the people who hire them.
Private detectives and investigators are projected to have a 21% increase in employment from 2010 t0 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This increase may be due to the growing amount of cybercrime, identity theft and similar misdeeds.
Private investigator jobs can be competitive, as many highly qualified candidates enter this field after leaving the military or retiring from law enforcement. The median pay for private investigators as of May 2010 was $42,870. According to the BLS, half of private detectives made more than the median wage and half made less.
Job Skills for Private Investigators and Detectives
Research and computer skills are important for private detectives and investigators. Gathering evidence is a major component of the job, so collecting information is a vital skill for this position. Investigators need to be resourceful and honest in order to get truthful information for the clients or courts. Any evidence that is collected must be done the right way; otherwise it would not be permissible in court.
Communication is an important since private detectives often conduct interviews to get information. They must also make sure to verify facts and keep their reporting detailed and accurate. Private detectives must fully understand the law and make sure that all of their work is done legally.
Stealth is sometimes necessary for private detectives, as they may need to go undercover for an assignment. An inconspicuous vehicle helps investigators keep a low profile while on location. Detectives might also utilize photography equipment, binoculars, and global positioning systems.
Work Environment for Private Detectives and Investigators
The work environment for private investigators changes based on the specific assignment. Generally, investigators work alone, either in offices doing research or while investigating. The hours can vary depending on the client and the assignment. Some surveillance needs to be done outside of typical business hours, so late nights, early mornings, holidays and weekends are all potential work hours in this field.
Private detectives and investigators may have to deal with highly stressful situations on the job. Surveillance also takes patience, as it could take time to accumulate evidence. Investigators and private detectives need to be able to use smart judgment while doing undercover work to ensure their safety.
Education and License Requirements for Investigators and Detectives
Private detectives and investigators are often hired with previous experience in a related field, such as military, law enforcement, paralegals or collections agencies. Training is usually done on the job, though some corporations provide formal training to their investigators. Since technology continues to evolve, training for investigators is ongoing.
Some investigators are hired straight from college, particularly those who studied subjects like criminal justice or police science. Private investigators that work in corporate environments are usually required to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a similar area. Computer forensics investigators also tend to require at least a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s degree is not uncommon.
Additional training and licenses may be needed depending on the specific position and the state of employment. Many states require any investigator that carries a firearm to meet specific requirements or get additional licenses.