How To Become A Private Investigator

If you want to become a private investigator then this page is going to teach you how. The first thing that you have to realize is that most of the professionals in this field have a military or law enforcement background. This means that in order to have the best chance of getting a job as a private investigator you must have a degree in either business, political science or criminal justice.

Most private investigators work for attorneys, businesses or specific clients. A private investigator is charged with the task of gathering information for their clients, locating someone who is missing or doing background checks for court cases.

It is important that you have all of these skills if you are planning on becoming a private investigator. If you are not prepared for long irregular hours then you may not be cut out for this particular job. You can also kiss your chances to become a private investigator goodbye if your have ever been convicted of a felony.

What Kind Of Skills Do I Need?

In order to be a good PI you are going to need a certain skill set. You need to be able to be mature about situations and you also must keep your cool. You must be able to take good notes and spot things that a normal person would not. If you are a self employed PI then you should be prepared to work alone.

If you are very interested in becoming a private investigator but you lack the skills above you could always enroll in a detective school. There you will be taught the skills that a private investigator will need to be successful. However, just because you do well in detective school doesn’t guarantee that you will receive a job as a PI. It would probably be to your benefit to obtain a degree in criminal justice, political science or business.

 Some Job Facts to Consider:

  • About one fifth of all private investigators are self-employed.
  • Most private eyes have some post secondary education and past related experience.
  • Work hours are often irregular (long days, nights)
  • Work can be dangerous and you are still bound by regular law. You need to know the law well to protect yourself.

How Much Do Private Investigators Make?

In the United States the hourly rates for a PI stand between $20-$200 an hour. It all depends on the type of case that a PI is given. If it is a low risk case then the hourly rate will be lower. However, if the case could potentially be dangerous then the hourly rate will be higher. We have a section on private investigator salary for all the factors that go into what a P.I. might earn in a year.

Do I Need a Private Investigator License?

Whether you legally need a license to become a PI depends on where you are working out of. Geographically speaking! For example, in the United States, most (42) states require a license. Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, and Wyoming are currently the only states that do not require a license. For more information on becoming licensed, you need to contact your local city or state reps. You can find a list of contacts here.

More Private Investigator Resources 

  • P.I. Books – Learn tips and tricks from the pros!
  • P.I. Interview – A real P.I. answers questions and the result is very interesting.
  • PI Magazine – Magazine and website dedicated to the profession of PI’s.
  • PI Licensing info in the United States (more here)
  • Bureau of Labor Information on Private Investigators – Lots of good information from the U.S. government!

Go back to our section on PI’s.

One Response to How To Become A Private Investigator

  1. Nice article, I agree with most, although I think if you don’t have the qualities needed in an investigator, going to a college or school will not help you get them. You can’t teach someone to be charming or think on their feet

    Another important quality is that to make a call, when you are following someone in a car and you lose them aruond a corner you need to think VERY quickly and make a call sooner rather than later. If you make the wrong one 40% of the time its ok, because if you stop to think once a pursuit is underway then you will not stay on their tail 100% of the time

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