Private investigators research facts and analyze findings pertaining to personal, legal, or financial matters. They serve as background investigators, search for missing persons, and investigate cybercrimes. They may work for individual clients or for businesses or other organizations.
Private investigators perform a significant amount of their research online, where they can obtain personal details about an individual subject. They also conduct interviews over the phone or in person to confirm facts. In order to observe subjects or obtain information, they may go undercover. Typical private investigator duties include:
Verifying personal details, such as employment or income
Collecting evidence and searching records
Conducting surveillance, often undercover
Investigating information theft
Private Investigator Job Education Requirements
Some private investigator positions may require an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in police science or criminal justice. Many positions, however, simply require a high school diploma and work experience in law enforcement or intelligence. Most states also require private investigators to obtain a license.
Much of private investigators' training takes place on the job and can be specific to a particular industry. Insurance investigators learn the intricacies of insurance fraud on the job, and computer forensics experts learn about software and technology on the job and at professional conferences.
Private Investigator Job Market
Through 2022, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 11 percent job growth for private investigators, which is average for all occupations. The projected employment in this field in 2022 is 33,300, which is an increase of 3,300 positions from the prior decade.
Increased security concerns and technological advances will cause specialists in this field to be in greater demand. Since this field attracts both young candidates with little experience and older candidates entering second careers with extensive investigative and law experience, competition is expected to be high for private investigator jobs. The BLS expects entry-level positions to provide the best opportunities for candidates, especially those with strong computer skills.
Private Investigator Job Salary Information
The average annual salary for private investigators is about $46,000, with the lowest 10 percent of salaries under $28,000 and the highest over $79,000 per year. The four top-paying industries for these specialists are finance and insurance, legal services, government, and guard and armored car services. Most private investigators work somewhat irregular hours, due to the need for after-hours surveillance. Work settings may also be unexpected or unusual, as private investigators trail subjects from vehicles and in various environments.