Are you observant, curious and resourceful? If yes, you may have just the right qualities to become a private investigator! A private investigator investigates all types of situations for clients/customers. As a researcher, you can work using the Internet and the phone, in the field or from an office. If all of this interests you, here is how to become a private investigator.
A private investigator, aka a private eye or a private detective, is a person who is hired to help undertake investigations for individuals or groups. Some work for attorneys in civil cases, while others work for insurance companies checking out claims which appear fraudulent or suspicious. In the past, private investigators were usually assigned to investigate and collect evidence of adultery or other illegal conduct within marriages and provide proof for a divorce, but the no-fault rule has reduced these kinds of cases. But PIs continue to receive assignments which are marital dispute-related, only the focus has shifted to child custody and money matters!
Private investigators need to be licensed and follow local laws in procuring and carrying firearms. Most PIs are former federal agents, ex-police officers, or spies; while others may have been in the military or paramilitary forces, or have gained experience working as security guards and bodyguards.
Some private investigators are required to work undercover and prepare detailed notes to testify in court on their observations for their clients. This type of surveillance work requires irregular work hours and great care to remain within the scope of law in order to avoid criminal charges.
Private investigators are also engaged in process serving, subpoenas and other legal documents, personal delivery of summons to parties in legal cases. Other may work in the corporate world, where they are known as corporate investigators, focusing on corporate matters such as protection of copyright, IP and trade secrets, anti-fraud work, carrying out due diligence, anti-piracy and computer forensics work, etc.
Today, private investigators are more popularly referred to as Licensed Private Investigators (LPIs) or Professional Investigators. Private investigators do not live a life of adventure and intrigue as you see in the movies or read about in books! Most jobs involve a lot of routine paperwork and spending a lot of time at your desk.
How much does a PI earn?
The median annual earnings for private investigators or detectives employed by agencies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $33, 750 in May 2006 while the top 10% earned more than $64, 380.
Education and Training
A minimum of high school or college degree is required. Specific education comes handy depending on the area of expertise that the investigator concentrates in. Private investigators specializing in forensic accounting will need an accounting background, else a CPA certificate. Those working in business investigations will need an undergraduate business degree such as an MBA. Other courses pertaining to investigation and criminal science are helpful.
All in all, private investigators are trained by working with an experienced investigator and down the line; you may be carrying on that tradition yourself!