ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Steps to Becoming a Private Detective

Updated on December 23, 2011

The real life of a private detective is much different than is usually portrayed on your favorite crime drama. Still, becoming a private detective or investigator can be an exciting and lucrative job field where experience counts for much more than an academic education. It is best suited for people with some type of law enforcement or criminal investigations background. These career fields provide the on-the-job training and practical knowledge that a private detective would need to be successful. But there are other jobs, such as an insurance claims adjuster, or even military intelligence officers that utilize many of the same skills as private investigators. Any type of position that requires canvassing, questioning, or researching public records could potentially develop the skills necessary for a career as a private investigator.

For those interested in becoming private detectives, but lack the experience, there are private detective schools and courses available in most states and online. You’ll learn techniques for things like skip-tracing, surveillance and report writing which are critical skills for an investigator. Penn Foster career Schools has an excellent online private investigator course for as little as $798 which can give you a good foundation to start building on. Check the link at the end of this article for more information.

How to Become a Private Detective
How to Become a Private Detective

Personal Attributes of a Private Detective

There are several traits that Private detectives should possess to be effective in their work. They need to be mature, professional, intelligent, level-headed self-starters. Much of the work of a private investigator is done alone and requires the proper diligence and work ethic to be completed. The ability to prioritize and organize is also important because the successful investigator will undoubtedly be working with more than one client at a time.

Social and technical skills are also critical for becoming a private investigator. Investigators spend a great deal of time talking with clients, witnesses, suspects and attorneys and asking questions. Being a genuine “people person” can make the job much easier and lead to more helpful business contacts or clients. A good working knowledge of electronic surveillance tools like video and audio recorders, as well as photography equipment are also essential for a productive investigator.

What Do Private Detectives Do?

Private detectives perform a wide variety of jobs for their clients. Generally, these tasks can be broken down to investigations of people, businesses, accidents, incidents and crimes. Investigators are hired for such activities as serving subpoenas, interviewing witnesses, conducting inspections, surveillance of people or places, or even evaluate law enforcement actions related to a case.

Insurance fraud is a common area where investigators are hired, which is why claims adjusters could potentially be good investigators in this niche. Divorce attorneys also use private investigators regularly during divorce proceedings to investigate matters relating to alimony or child custody rights. Businesses hire PI’s when they have issues with things like false workman’s compensation claims, employee theft, background checks and drug problems. A huge reason individuals secure the services of a private detective is to locate a missing person. This could range from being a long lost family member to a defendant in a civil suit who still owes the plaintiff money.

The investigations business is not a typical 9-to-5 job. In order to accomplish his duties, a PI will conduct numerous in-depth interviews and spend countless hours researching hundreds of public, private and online records for important information regarding a particular case. An investigator may be required to spend long hours alone conducting surveillance, waiting for the opportunity to catch and preserve important evidence that will be beneficial to the client. All of these actions require detailed reports and accurate record-keeping which consume a large amount of the detective’s time.

How to Break Into the Private Investigation Business

Many large private investigation agencies consider some type of degree in criminal justice or psychology to be an advantage, but most regard a law enforcement, security or military experience as good fit due to familiarity and proper mind-set. Those type of backgrounds instill the attributes that detective agencies are looking for in their investigators. Some agencies will even foot the cost to send a new hire to a nearby private detective school or course if they can demonstrate the right qualities for doing investigative work.

The best way to get into the private investigation field is to research the licensing requirements for the state you want to work in and try to land a job or internship with one of the larger investigation companies to gain experience. While learning the ropes, you could begin accruing the necessary skills and equipment to start your own business as a private detective. You’ll need things like a top-notch video and still picture camera, computer, audio recording devices, night vision devices, and communications equipment. These tools can become expensive are better bought over time.

Most states have a regulatory agency that oversees licensing of private investigators. Obtaining a private investigator license may require passing an exam designed to demonstrate proficiency and may also include annual renewal or in-service training. Currently there are five states that don’t require private investigators to have a license. Those states are Colorado, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota and Wyoming. These states may, however, require a private detective to obtain a business license. Contrary to popular belief, most states limit a private investigator’s carrying of concealed firearms to the same provisions as any other ordinary citizen of the state.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • sean kinn profile image

      sean kinn 

      7 years ago from Key West and Budapest

      Got it. Thank you.

    • GAbaptist profile imageAUTHOR

      GAbaptist 

      7 years ago from Alaska

      Hi Sean,

      From my research and understanding, Each state has different background, education and experience requirements that may vary from simply attending a state-approved training course to pre-licensing education, exams, years of work experience and obtaining a professional liability insurance policy with “errors and omissions” coverage. To make it even more confusing, there are some cities that require private investigators to obtain a municipal license in states that do not otherwise require them, such as Alaska. I know that in Texas, there are experience and education requirements to get a "company" license, but not necessarily an individual license.

    • sean kinn profile image

      sean kinn 

      7 years ago from Key West and Budapest

      Just a question, and I'm not an expert on Private Detectives, although I may get a license someday: I read once that to become one in some states, there are a specific and very large number of on-the-job hours required before you can get a license. I'm wondering how that works. Do you have to do an apprenticeship with someone who is already licensed? Thanks in advance. :-) SK

    • GAbaptist profile imageAUTHOR

      GAbaptist 

      7 years ago from Alaska

      Thanks rorymullen! Being former military and law enforcement, I have considered getting a private investigators license myself, but I am having more fun writing!

    • rorymullen profile image

      rorymullen 

      7 years ago from Maine

      I have always wondered how to become a detective. Nicely worded and I will be showing many more people as well. Id follow you but put the wrong e-mail address down .

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)