Private investigators seem to have one of the most fashionable and interesting jobs ever depicted on the big or small screen.
While the reality of being a private investigator may not be quite so glamorous and exciting as it looks in fictionalized accounts, it is still a profitable, and necessary, job.
Becoming a private investigator means that you will be able to likely earn a decent living. After all, private investigators, who do not necessarily have to have college degrees, make a decent wage and do so while carrying out an enjoyable job that does not keep them chained behind a desk.
So, if you decide that you have an interest in becoming a private investigator, how do you go about accomplishing that goal? Well, the process is fairly simple, although it may change depending on where you live and work.
Here is how to become a PI, also known as a private investigator.
Understand The Local Private Investigator Requirements
The first big task to becoming a private investigator is to understand the local requirements. Some cities, states, etc. require that you have certain education under your belt. Others require that you work under a licensed Private Investigator for a certain amount of time.
Understanding what you might need to enter the profession can vary, but is important. This can range from almost no requirements to requiring classes from the local police academy in order to do things like perform surveillance or legally carry a handgun.
Understand Local Laws
While you’re learning about local requirements, it’s in your best interest to spend some time learning about the local laws and how they will impact your line of work.
For example, what are regulations concerning video surveillance?
Understanding the local laws is also very important regarding evidence collection and understanding what evidence is admissible in court.
Decide What Kind of PI You Want To Be
When it comes to private investigation, you have choices:
- Do you want to work surveillance jobs, helping to catch unfaithful spouses, workers compensation hoaxers, or help to find missing persons?
- Are you interested in trial work, working with law firms to acquire information and present it to juries?
- Do you want to work to recover deleted emails and files on computers, hoping to find evidence that a suspect thought they deleted?
- Do you want to investigate accounting crimes, like embezzlement and fraud?
There are many ways to help your community as a private investigator. Figuring out the one best suited to your particular set of skills (which you may or may not honed over many years) is a good way to make sure your work is profitable.
Receive PI Training
This is not necessarily something you will have to do, but if there are gaps in your knowledge, training is a good idea.
If you’re hired by a private investigations firm, they will likely tell you what you need to learn. If you decide to start your own firm, you should spend as much time receiving training as you can.
Gaining a solid understanding of all the fundamentals involved in this line of work could give you the competitive edge when searching for work. It shows potential employers/clients that you have done your research and are knowledgeable in the field.
Get a Private Investigator License (Where Required)
In states that require a license to be a private investigator, it is in your best interest to earn one as soon as you can. You may be able to work as a PI for a company run by a licensed PI without having your own license, but if you want to be able to find other work, or to be able to run your own PI business, you will have to get your own license.
Understanding Both Legal and Ethical Considerations
Private investigators often walk a tightrope, having to do things that may be unethical to some, but that should not be illegal. If you become a private investigator, you are NOT above the law. Quite the opposite; the things you do may often receive extreme scrutiny.
You must seek to understand how to do your job, but do it without breaking laws. This means understanding laws as they now exist, but also keeping an eye on the PI laws as they change.
A life as a private detective can be interesting and profitable. However, it is important that you understand what the job will entail before setting off on a life as a PI.
How To Become A Private Investigator With No Experience
If you want to know how to become a PI but have no previous experience, you can still work at a private investigative firm. However, getting a job could be difficult. Thankfully, most private investigation firms will hire a small number of workers with no previous experience. For these entry level positions, all you need to get a job is a high school diploma.
Depending on where you live, you might not be able to become a fully licensed PI until you take classes, earn a degree, or pass a local licensing exam.
If you want to strengthen your job application for work in a PI office, you can take coursework at a police academy or community college, work as a private security guard, or become a bodyguard. Furthermore any previous experience with surveillance of any kind will make you a more desirable candidate for work at a PI firm. All of these workplaces are good ways to gain preliminary experience PI firms look for when considering applicants. This previous experience is what will set your application ahead of other candidates.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Private Investigator?
When considering a job as a PI, applicants often wonder, how long does it take to become a private investigator?
Typically it can take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years to become a fully licensed PI. Taking PI coursework does not necessarily equate to having a higher education degree.
Some of the various requirements to become a PI can include:
- An apprenticeship program,
- Required number of hours in the field, and
- A licensing test.
Your location will determine the rules for how to become a PI in that area. Luckily, in some areas, you will be able to complete a few of these requirements simultaneously.
Day to Day Work as a Private Investigator
Once you become a private investigator, no two days on the job are the same. Some days are used for surveillance while others are spent researching for cases you are assigned. As a PI, you are mainly investigating court cases, so you need to know the laws in your area regarding evidence collection. The more you know about law enforcement, the better you will be at your job as a PI.
Do You Need a Degree to Become a PI?
You do not necessarily need a degree to become a PI.
However, you will greatly improve your job prospects by having a degree in fields like criminal justice, behavioral science, or criminal analysis.
Generally, any field of study related to the criminal process will aid you in becoming a PI. You can also get a job as a PI by completing a training or certification course. Often, PI firms will pay for their employee’s training to keep everyone up to date on current best practices.
Enroll in a Private Investigator Class Today
There are courses online and at some local schools that will help better equip you to start such a career. There are also online courses, such as those as Stratford Career Institute offers, that can help you to prepare for an interesting new career.
It may not be the life of a Dick Tracy or the hardboiled detectives of old, but PI’s provide a very real and necessary service.
Check out our online private investigator course today!
Interested in learning more about becoming a private investigator? Download our guide to Private Investigator Training below!
Private Investigator Courses
A course in Private Investigation can go a long way in helping you understand the field. Learn more today!