The life of a private investigator is unpredictable. While some cases involve computer research and gathering information from public records, most investigators conduct investigations in the field performing surveillance, interviewing witnesses, and information gathering to assist client’s in achieving a goal.  A typical client may be an individual, an insurance company or an attorney.  If you have a love for uncovering the truth and are thinking of getting into private investigation, you need this how-to guide to help get you there.  From training, license certification and state requirements to  understanding how to conduct an investigation; our guide on how to become a private investigator will provide you with the tools to take the next step.


The Market for Private Investigator

If you’re interested in learning how to become a private investigator; you may want to first learn more about this career and what kind of opportunities are available in the profession. The job outlook for private investigation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is positive. The field is growing nationwide and there should be thousands of new positions available for qualified candidates over the next several years. Private Investigations is growing as fast as average job growth.


Another reason to feel positive about opportunities for private investigators is that statistics show more than half of all people employed in crime related jobs are working in the private sector.  There is a large demand for Investigators, eighty-eight percent of private investigators are employed in the private sector.  Opportunities include criminal defense, insurance subrogation, white collar crime, background employment investigations, infidelity and much more.


What Private Investigators Earn

With private investigations a growing field, skilled and trained professionals are becoming more in demand and their salaries reflect that. If you were hoping to get into an industry that could provide a better salary, you won’t be disappointed as a private investigator. These professionals earn a median salary of $48,190 per year, and the top ten percent of earners make nearly $100,000 per year. In Florida, the average earnings are competitive with the rest of the country at $47,450 per year for the average private detective. While these numbers are averages, there are opportunities for private investigators  to make more. With more training, certification, and experience, you can command higher rates.


The Job of a Private Detective

One-fourth of all private detectives are self-employed. They have their own businesses and take on clients of their own choosing. The other 75 percent of private detectives largely work in private industries, employed by security firms, identity protection services, law firms, financial institutions, retail businesses, and also may work for individuals.


Some of the tasks that a private detective may do on a daily or regular basis include a mixture of documentation, report writing, computer research, investigations, surveillance and various operations in the field to include but not limited to:


  • Conducting interviews and obtaining witness statements from people to gather information.
  • Investigate consumer fraud, fraudulent cashier’s checks and online dating profiles.
  • Gather evidence to assist in a criminal defense for an innocent person.
  • Verify employment applications and provided data for background checks.
  • Conduct research through public records and court records.
  • Work online to investigate computer crimes and identity theft.
  • Conduct surveillance operations.
  • Conduct criminal background checks.
  • Collect information and evidence that will be presented in court.
  • Locate missing persons.
  • Asset Locates
  • Child custody/Child support
  • Infidelity
  • Undercover Investigations
  • Workplace Investigations


Is There a Difference Between a Private Detective and a Private Investigator?

There really is no difference between a private detective and a private investigator. Most people and institutions use the terms interchangeably to mean the same thing and to refer to the same kind of professional. Licensing bodies in different states may use one or the other name. Some states may license you as a private detective and others as a private investigator, but it means the same thing. The term investigator may sometimes be chosen in favor of eliminating any confusion between the two different jobs of a private detective and a police detective.


The Benefits of a Career as a Private Detective

There are many reasons why you may choose to become a private detective, and there are many benefits you will experience when getting into this line of work. It is important though, to realize that the job is not as action packed or exciting as movies and television would have you believe. It takes patience during the times of sitting and waiting and the ability to move and adapt quickly when circumstances change.


One of the main benefits of working as a private investigator is the ability to work independently. Most professionals work for themselves; taking on as many or as few clients as they choose.  This provides you the ability to be your own boss and to choose how, where, when, and for whom you work.  This career requires you to utilize common sense, think quickly on your feet and problem solve.


The best part of the private sector is the intangible benefit and satisfaction you receive when you have solved a client’s problem and truly helped them.  You can’t measure it but that will make you feel really good about what you do on a daily basis.


The Education and Certification Requirements for a Private Investigator

As you research how to become a private investigator, you may be trying to determine if you need to get a degree or how to become certified to do this work. In Florida, you have to have a class “C” private investigator license, a degree is not a requirement.


In Florida to obtain a Class “C” Private Investigators License you must have at least two years of experience in law enforcement, asset management, investigations, criminal justice or related experience.  A two or four year college degree in the field of Criminal Justice or Private Investigations counts towards one year of experience.  The other year of experience can be obtained concurrently working as a class “CC” Intern while completing your degree.  A state examination is also required for licensure.


While you don’t technically need a post-secondary education to work as a private investigator, it is a useful way to gain the knowledge you need to be proficient at your career.  It will assist you in successfully passing the licensing exam and to meeting the qualifications for licensing.  Having an education is also something that employers will look for that may give you an edge in getting hired.  An associate degree in private investigation, which takes about two years to complete, is a great way to get the education you need to become a private investigator.


The Traits of a Successful Private Investigator

With the right training and hard work, you can become a private investigator to be successful in your career, enjoy it and thrive in it; you need to have certain characteristics.  Some you may have naturally and others you may have to work at developing:


  • Investigators spend a lot of time waiting during surveillances, but they also spend hours researching prior.
  • You need to work hard in any career to be proficient, but with private investigations it requires diligence and stubborn persistence to gather the information needed.
  • Attention to detail. Whether it involves searching online or interviewing people, private investigators are looking for clues and without attention to detail they can be easily overlooked.

Problem solving. The circumstances of every case are different and can change quickly and drastically; the ability to think on your feet and come up with unique and ingenious solutions to all types of situations.

Confidentiality. Private Investigators handle sensitive information and must respect the power that comes with having personal knowledge about their clients.


How to Become a Private Detective

As you look into this fascinating career, the information here should help you make a better decision about whether or not it is right for you. If the answer is yes, It all starts with the right education and training. A degree in criminal justice or private investigation will help you get your foot in the door. If you’re ready to take that first step, check out the check out the private investigation services degree we offer. As an associate degree program it will only take you two years or less to complete and it will set you off on the path to becoming a successful private investigator.