What It Takes to Be a P.I.

Everybody’s seen them: the shows that flaunt the enraged spouses when they catch their partners in adulterous acts with the help of a private investigator.

This may make for great entertainment for viewers, but how many people put themselves in the shoes of the detective?

The Scoop

There is a lot more to the private investigator’s job than many may imagine. A private investigator can have clientele on an individual, business, legal, or research basis.

The main objective, of course, is to uncover facts about a case.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11 edition, affirms that these detectives can offer services such as protection, pre-employment verification, background checks, computer crimes, identity thefts, and much more. Investigators are also used in some criminal cases such as the recent Casey Anthony murder trial.

Potential Employment

There are various areas a potential investigator can enter, including computer forensics, legal, corporate, financial, retail, loss prevention, hotel, and state investigations.

According to the BLS, there were about 45,000 private detectives in 2008. Out of those 45,000, about 41 percent are in investigation and security services. The rest were employed mostly through state and local governmentals, legal firms, merchandise stores, insurance agencies, and bank and depository institutions.

Training and Licensing

The BLS states that most investigators have some sort of education and previous experience before licensing. Although some states do not require licensing, most states do.

There are no formal education requirements for most investigators, claims the BLS; however, having a criminal justice or police science background certainly helps.

Licensure changes from state to state, but the requirements are similar. Candidates are at least 18 years old and have a combination of education, experience in the field, and a clean background check.

Some states require a 2-hour written examination covering the laws of the state, and if an investigator carry’s a handgun, he or she must meet additional requirements.

Currently Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming do not require a state license to be a private investigator.

For information on local licensing requirements, contact your State Department of Public Safety, State Division of Licensing, or local or state police headquarters.

Potential investigators can contact their appropriate state’s department to find out whether or not they need to get their license for that state. Licensing and renewal fees will vary depending on the state.

Benefits and Costs

As with all jobs, being a private investigator has its pros and cons. One thing any potential investigator must know is that many private detectives are self-employed. Twenty-one percent are currently self-employed. Because of this, there is a lot of competition for jobs. Another problem with being self-employed is there is no guarantee of set hours, and work can become dangerous depending on the situation.

In 2008, investigators were making an average of just under $42,000 a year. For many investigators, this was their second source of income. The lowest paid detectives were earning around $23,500 a year while the highest paid detectives made more than $76,000.

If you think you have what it takes to be a real-life private eye, learn about criminal justice degrees and get started today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *