Posted in Career Insights

how much do private investigators makeFilms and television romanticize the idea of being a private investigator. They make it seem like a career that is exciting, with gun fights, mob bosses, and beautiful clients flirting constantly with the investigator.

However, if you watched many of these films and shows, you notice that the investigator never seems like a wealthy man. The P.I. in Who Framed Roger Rabbit lived in his office, after all, as do many detectives of film and screen.

The fact is that there are very few detectives who make a lot of money. Depending on the detective, they can also find that much of their income is tied up in their work and work equipment. Because of this, private investigators often don’t seem to make as much as, say, police officers and others.

But how much can a private investigator expect to make?

Determining Factors

There are many factors that determine how successful and profitable a private investigator will be. One of the first determining factors is how much experience you have.

These jobs, especially policing jobs, teach many of the basics of investigation. People who do not have knowledge concerning investigation generally will not be as desirable or paid as well. Of course, employers will also take into account related skills and knowledge, as well as experience in similar roles in the past.

For example, if they’re looking for a private investigator to comb through banking records, a background in accounting is more important than a history as a police officer.

One can also expect that the amount of money they’ll make will be different based on where they live. A private investigator who works in the middle of nowhere, Montana, will not make nearly as much as a private investigator doing the same work in a big city like New York City.


Pay for private investigators can vary wildly depending on the factors above. However, even an entry-level position can pay enough to make it worthwhile for the employee, and there are numerous chances for advancement in the field.

The median pay range for private investigators is in the $49,000-$50,000 a year range, or somewhere between 23 and 24 dollars per hour of work.

Entry-level positions can begin as low as 30,000 a year, and for a lucky few, wages can reach into the six-figure range. However, such high wages are not common, and many investigators who make such figures either own their own businesses or work directly for well-established law firms.

If you’d like to become a private investigator, and hope that you can someday become one who earns in the six-figure range, you will need to continuously invest in yourself through education.


And if you want to begin your career with more than an entry-level paycheck, you’ll need to have some understanding of the job before you apply.

That means that you will want to invest in an education before ever applying.

You could attend a local college, perhaps seeking a degree in Criminology or Criminal Justice, if you were looking to get a head start. You could instead attend a short course or even take one online via a school like Stratford Career Institute.

Online courses in particular can help provide basic knowledge needed for the job, and with a bit of work you could find yourself in a new, exciting, and important career, one with job security and decent pay.

Interested in learning more about becoming a private investigator? Download our guide to Private Investigator Training below!

Guide to Private Investigator Training

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