When you ask anyone to describe a stereotypical private detective, you may receive a response that he is a scruffy, down on his luck ex-cop who is either a recovering alcoholic or someone with a huge gambling debt just waiting for that big case that will bring him a big payday. That is in fact an image that has been painted by movies and television, whereas in reality private detectives, for the most part at least, are trusted individuals employed by large corporations, law firms, and insurance companies, as well as the general public. The private detective plays a very vital role in all of those roles, and as such comes with a very reasonable annual salary.
The one stereotype that Hollywood and other media does get right when it comes to PI’s is the attachment to the law enforcement industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s restricted to those people. Having prior experience in law enforcement is a definite leg up, but that can be matched by receiving solid private detective training. There are literally hundreds of private investigator schools to choose from, and many of those can be done in an online setting, which is ideal for those looking to switch careers. This gives them the ability to continue at their current job, whilst working at their own pace to get their PI training.
Once in school, you will receive quality training in all the areas that are important, as well as some you didn’t believe would be. All the essential skills, such as surveillance tactics, tips on how to effectively interview people, firearms training, and much more will be included in any great course. The one area that people don’t often think of, but is actually essential if you wish to succeed in the field is a strong proficiency in writing. A great deal of your job will be spent take notes and writing reports, and if your writing skills are weak, then there is a chance that you will have problems moving forward.
Becoming a private detective in this day and age means having a solid knowledge in modern technology, which means you will have to have some level of computer skills. Much of the investigative work is done online now, and if you can’t locate the power button on a laptop, then chances are you will have some difficulty navigating the Lexis-Nexis search resource. It’s not all binoculars and high powered cameras anymore, and any training you receive should have a definite focus on the equipment used by today’s PI’s.
The final step in becoming a private detective is to become licensed, and that is also something that should be talked about in your course. If not, then you should be able to find out how to do so by talking to someone at your local police station, or at a local PI office. Both will be more than happy to help you find out how to get licensed in your state, and once that is done, you are free to start investigating.
Note that detective and investigator are basically interchangeable!
For more on the topic, please check out:
- Become a Private Investigator
- Interview with a Private Detective
- What Makes a Good Detective
- Private Detective Training
- Private Detective Books
- Private Detective – Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Government