The life of a private investigator can be as varied as the cases they work. Danger, intrigue, investigation, going undercover, being the bearer of bad or unsettling news. It’s all in a day’s work. Just as private investigating isn’t all fedoras and trench coats, neither is it all about tailing people down dark alleys. There’s research to do, questions to ask and walls to hit.
Many private investigator careers are enhanced by the completion of a training program. This can lead to higher pay and more job opportunities for private investigators. Check out the schools below which offer free information:
So just what is being a private investigator all about?
Private Investigator Job Responsibilities
Private investigators help individuals, attorneys, and businesses by gathering and analyzing intelligence. They make links between clues to discover facts about personal, financial, or legal matters. Private investigators may impart services such as corporate, executive, and celebrity protection; individual background profiles as well as pre-emplyment verification. Computer crimes also fall under the responsibility of private investigators including harassing e-mails, identity theft, and the unlawful procurement of copyrighted materials. They can assist in civil and criminal liability cases, cases of fraud, insurance claims, protection and child custody cases and premarital screening as well as missing-person cases.
A private investigator’s responsibilities can vary depending on the needs of the client. For fraudulent workers’ compensation claims cases, investigators engage in long-term covert observation of the target. If suspect activity is observed that is at odds with the claim, the investigator would document the incident and present it to the client.
Private Investigator Training and Education Requirements
The formal education requirements for private investigating are mostly non-existent, but most do have postsecondary degrees. Classes to take into consideration are criminal justice and police science. Some go into the occupation directly after college graduation, oftentimes with a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in either police science or criminal justice. Any experience in police investigation would not go amiss.
A great deal of the work of a private investigator is learned on the fly while on the job. Rookie investigators normally start by learning how to use multiple databases in order to gather intelligence. The training imparted here relies mostly on the firm. Working at an insurance company teaches the investigator how to spot insurance fraud and working at a firm that specializes in domestic cases can teach hopeful investigators how to perform surveillance. Learning by doing is the normal approach in these cases.
Computer forensics investigators never stop learning; the training in their field is something that is constantly shifting and evolving. They gain knowledge by attending courses and conferences offered by professional associations and software vendors.
Professional Investigator Salary and Wages
The wages of private investigators are determined by specialty, employer, and their geographical area. In May of 2008 the median annual wages of salaried private investigators were $41,760. Between $30,870 and $59,060 was earned by the middle fifty percent. The lowest ten percent earned less than $23,500, and the highest ten percent earned more than $76,640.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Professional Investigator Certifications
Some private investigators have been known to receive certification from professional organizations to demonstrate capability in the field. Take for example the National Association of Legal Investigators. It confers the Certified Legal Investigator designation on licensed investigators who reserve a great deal of their practice to criminal defense investigations or negligence. The applicant is required to have 5 years of investigative experience in order to be designated in addition to meeting the educational requirements and continuing-training prerequisites as well as successfully passing oral and written exams.
ASIS International is a trade organization for the security industry that provides the Professional Certified Investigator certification. In order to qualify the applicant is required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, 5 years of investigations experience (including 2 years overseeing investigations), and they must successfully complete an exam.
A great deal of private detective agencies are small and don’t have very much room for advancement. In most cases there are no concrete ranks or steps, and therefore advancement takes the form of salary increases and assignment status. Many detectives and investigators open firms of their own after securing a few years of experience. Legal and corporate investigators may move on to supervisor or manager of the security or investigations department.
Private Investigator Professional Associations
The National Association of Legal Investigators was created in 1967 for legal investigators actively working in negligence investigations for the plaintiff and/or criminal defense. Such investigators may be employed by law firms, private investigative agencies, or public defenders. Their main focus is to advance and educate the science and art of legal investigation as well as to ensure the utmost standards of professional ethics.
The American Society for Industrial Security, or ASIS, International was founded in 1955 and is an association dedicated to expanding the productivity and effectiveness of security professionals by creating educational materials and programs catered to a vast variety of security, such as the ASIS Annual Seminar and Exhibits, and a number of specific security-related subjects.