Private investigator works for either an organization or for some individual to find dirt or gather information. The work requirements may vary from case to case including surveillance, personal information collection, interviewing people and background checks.
But the main question is what is the criterion to become a licensed private investigator. I did some research to find this out.
So how to become a private investigator? Private investigator license requirements are different in different states. Simply getting a PI certificate online will provide knowhow of legal and methodological training, but for getting a license more experience hours will be required with a PI certificate than a degree.
Educational requirement and certifications for a private investigator
Most investigators have bachelor’s degrees, and some investigators have master’s degrees in business administration, law, or journalism; any training to be a private investigator will help more in their career. Criminal investigators need at least a high school diploma, and few may prefer to hire candidates with a degree in an area like the criminal justice system, forensic science, or a related field. PI specialties depend on their training and degree field e.g. computer forensic investigator, legal investigator, financial investigator, and corporate investigator.
A private investigator must have completed the necessary education to work, which often include a high school degree and at least two years of college.
Many states require licenses. These licenses often require job experience, a background check, and a two-hour written examination. PI may become certified by many entities. The National Association of Legal investigators may validate a PI after five years of experience and the passing written and oral examination.
Private Investigator License Requirements by State
Many states have specific licensing requirements, which include education, experience, application, and renewal procedures. Each state has its legislation regarding the practice of private investigators, private investigative businesses, license requirements, and licensing process vary from state to state.
Generally, a minimum requirement for state license includes being at least 21, possessing a high school diploma or equivalent and have U.S citizenship or residency.
Few states don’t require PI licensing at state levels such as Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, etc.
Every state where licensing laws exist handles the entire process of vetting applicants and issuing credentials.
Training for becoming a Private Investigator
Private investigators can work for law enforcement agencies, private investigation agencies, or be self-employed and can work directly for particular clients. If one is applying for a job in a private investigation agency, then they will be thoroughly interviewed with past credentials.
Training plays a significant role in becoming a successful PI. If one wishes to work for law enforcement agencies, then additional academy training or education will most likely be required. He needs to develop several skills which are:
- An eye for minute details
- Ability to stay organized
- A knack for research
- Knowledge of federal, state and local laws
- Computing skills
During training, a PI gets to know what evidence is, how to structure and document it, surveillance, the client’s perspective, skills VS luck, and circumstance subject identification.
Different works that Private Investigator do
In one word, the private investigator’s job is to investigate the given case. The find the information about financial, legal, and personal matters to find the clues of the ongoing investigations.
The type of works a private investigator do vary according to the situation and the required information. Sometimes private investigators work in the field conducting interviews, doing surveillance, and collecting other evidence, and sometimes they are sitting behind the computer desk and going through documents and files in search of clues.
Private investigators are mainly employed by finance and insurance firms, law firms, corporations, government, or hired by individuals.
What a Private Investigator Earns?
The life and work of private investigators have been immortalized already in countless films, books, plays, and stories of all types. Salaries of a PI vary from state to state. In some states, private investigators make the most money while, in others, they are making the least. The average salary of a PI is influenced by the state’s cost of living, with salary being higher in costly states.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the median pays for the private investigator in $50,510 or $24.28 per hour. These numbers may not be as much as someone might expect but the pay depends on certain factors such as experience level and location. The early level positions start around $16 an hour and experienced private investigators go on to earn as much as $75 per hour.
The location also plays an important role in determining the annual earnings of the private investigator. In states like Washington, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, and Delaware the average annual pay for the private investigator is well over $60,000.
The highest average for a private investigator is recorded in California as $68,570. On the other hand, the states with the lowest average pay for private investigators are Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Florida.
The job of a private investigator differs based on each project or case. There may be times when no work is available between the projects. However, for those who are thinking of taking private investigator as a profession, the good news is, there is an estimated growth of 8% from 2018 to 2028 in this occupation, which is higher than the average growth for all the occupations.
Moreover, on top of the basic pay, highly skilled investigators can earn rewards such as commissions and bonuses.
What Backgrounds Do Private Investigators Have?
Private investigators come from all walks of life. As discussed previously that the background of a private investigator doesn’t matter directly but those life experiences and skills can always be helpful passively. Also, the relevant previous experience can assist in building a better resume.
Coming back to the background part, the majority of private investigators are ex-law enforcement. Then 2nd comes the lot of bachelor’s degree holders. Former military experience holders come next, followed closely by freelancers. Then lastly there is a small percentage of legal professionals.
So basically, which ever field you’re from, you can come and fit right in.
Requirements of a Private investigator for a law firm
Most people to join law firms as a private investigator are journalists, law graduates, and paralegals as their job responsibility requires critical thinking analysis of problems faced by them and understanding of legal terminologies and its system.
In becoming a private investigator for a law firm, there are no specific criteria for education, certification, or any license (having a PI license can help). One needs to have at least a bachelor’s degree, a strong resume presenting his analyzing skills, complete knowledge of rules of safeguarding evidence, state criminal justice system, and some experience in a private investigation agency, but doesn’t necessarily mean in securing the job.
A person should continue to expand his networking with people as good recommendations also help in the hiring process. In short, people from all fields can join a law firm as long as they possess these exceptional qualities.
Difference between a Private Detective and a Private investigator
The terms private detective and private investigator are often used interchangeably as both terms describe a person from the same profession. Normally the name private detective or private investigator is used based on the location and the title of the licensing or training program available in that area.
To some extent, the names can be differentiated from each other based on the specific duties these professionals perform. Private detectives are often hired to investigate criminal cases and tax-related financial investigations by the government.
A private investigator, on the other hand, investigates civil matters concerning divorce and spousal infidelity, etc. Therefore, the title of a private detective may carry a more heroic character in it for some people. However, the private detectives are actually private investigators unless they are hired for the investigation by the government.
Private Investigators to Be Self-employed?
One option for a career in private investigation is the ability to be own boss. About 20% of private investigators are self-employed, but with the freedom of working for yourself, you need to be aware of details either required or highly useful for your business.
The first and foremost step should be to get an education in a private investigation agency and work as a part of an investigative office to gain experience as it is a valuable asset in the beginning stages of a career.
A PI needs to contact the secretary of state for correct paperwork of registering the business name and the business with the state. A PI also needs to check with the local zoning office to see if a zoning permit is a requirement for an office or a home-based business.
The internet is the new phone book, so a website is a minimal requirement for a self-employed private investigator. A private investigator sets his rate depending on several factors such as:
- charging on an hourly rate, which may vary because of the type and complexity of the task
- a flat fee, regardless of the time it takes.
Three logistical areas that a PI needs to address are license, marketing, and general business considerations.
Is Private investigator legal?
Private investigators are legal practitioners who must gather clues and verify facts for their cases. They are licensed and regulated at the provincial level by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. In addition to a high school diploma, one must be 18 years old or older, have a clean criminal record, and by application to be qualified as a licensed private investigator.
Private investigators professionals collect “dirt” information about legal, financial, and particular cases. They can work across all sectors of their specialty and interest. Some private investigators work with official agencies, lawyers, financial firms such as banks, or even private individuals. Private investigators cannot engage in certain conduct, or else they will be violating the law; for instance, it is illegal for anyone to act a law enforcement officer if he or she is not one. They must have the permission of the owner of the property before entering it.
Some criminal records will be sealed and only accessible to law enforcement officers, court personnel, and other restricted individuals. Private investigators don’t have any power to unseal or access such records.
Can a Private Investigator Make Arrests?
The Job responsibility of a private investigator is to investigate the given case. In most cases, a private investigator is not able to apprehend someone even if they see them committing crimes as they are not police officers. He does have the ability to document the crime accusing as long as he doesn’t break any laws; to do so, he can contact law enforcement to let them know about the crime.
Sometimes he can make a citizen’s arrest if it’s legal in their jurisdiction. Only some states allow this act of private investigator while others forbid it. Information from a private investigator can lead to a person’s arrest.
A citizen’s arrest is not an arrest because the private investigator cannot take the arrested person to jail; he can detain someone until the police arrive and imprison them.
Becoming a Private investigator with no experience
One can become a private investigator with no experience with at least 100 hours of practical private investigator education via online training classes or an in-class training environment.
Fieldwork is necessary for a sense of how to perform investigations. There are many short government licensing courses, but actual practical work condition is a must. He must understand the complexities and learning curves of this industry to become a successful private investigator. PI should also know about:
- Individual challenges experienced in professional life
- Types of clients and corresponding file requirements
- Investigators responsibilities and total work hours
- Physical health requirements and health considerations
- Professional specialization areas