Private Investigators


Employment Prospects


Private investigators work full time or as consultants for private investigation and detective agencies. They may also work as independent contractors for law firms, financial institutions, insurance companies, corporations, government agencies, and police departments. There are 33,000 private investigators and detectives employed in the United States, and more than one-third work in the investigation and security services industries. Approximately 6 percent of private investigators are self-employed.

Starting Out

Some investigators get their start as interns in private investigation agencies. There is usually on-the-job training and they advance their knowledge and skills by taking educational programs through professional associations. Recent retirees from jobs in law enforcement or in the military often start a second career as private investigators.

Advancement Prospects

Private investigators who work full-time in investigation agencies may advance to management-level roles, where they may spend less or no time in the field as they supervise the work of other investigators. Many start their own businesses and may advance by increasing their staff and expanding their investigative services by branching out into other specialties. Some enhance their careers by writing articles and books about the field and teaching.

Tips for Entry

Read Professional Investigator Magazine ( to learn more about private investigator work and to find out information about licensing requirements.

Get an internship or part-time job in a private investigation agency to learn more about the job, the clients, and the types of cases that are investigated.

Take criminal justice, government, and police classes while in college; these provide a good background for private investigator work.

Visit the Web sites of professional associations such as ASIS International and the National Association of Legal Investigators to explore the private investigation field.