How Do You Become A Private Investigator
Many people probably have flirted with the idea of becoming a private investigator at one time or another, especially since the profession has been romanticized in so many television shows and movies. While there’s a lot more involved with making a career out of the private investigation, it can still be a relatively straightforward process, if you follow the known sequence of steps, and fulfill all the requirements necessary. Below, you’ll find all the information you need to become a PI so that if you are truly interested in such a career, you’ll know what’s involved and how to go about it.
Decide on a specialty
I’m sure Pinkerton would agree that there are many different kinds of investigation which you could become involved with as a professional, and only one or two of them are what you would see on television. Of course, it is still possible for you to simply open up your own agency and handle almost any case that comes to you, but that could put you in the position of having a little exposure to a lot of case types, with no real expertise in any of them.
Here are some of the areas of specialization which you might want to choose as your own area of expertise:
- brand protection
- personal family investigations
- genealogy, probate, and estate
- manufacturing and industrial theft
- corporate crisis management
- workplace drug trafficking
- cyber extortion and bribery
- child custody investigations
- marital investigations
- art and jewelry theft
- fraud and forgery investigations
- workers compensation fraud
- lost and unclaimed assets
- litigation support
- attorney legal support
You could also work in the field as a contract investigator (such as AGS Investigations) for one or more companies on an as-needed basis, for instance doing background investigations or corporate investigations on demand. The area of specialty that you choose is very important, partly because it’s what you’re going to commit your career energies to, and because it will determine the kind of education and experience you’ll need, in order to become a professional in that field.
Training and education
In the past, the minimum requirement for becoming a PI was to have a high school diploma, but in many states across the country, that standard has risen to become a college degree. The reason for this is simply to broaden the academic background of an investigative professional and to ensure that well-qualified individuals enter the field.
While an Associate’s Degree may be sufficient in some areas, the vast majority of openings for a PI now require a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, usually in a field like Criminal Justice, Accounting, Forensics, or Business Management. Other degrees may be applicable, depending on the specific branch of investigating that you wish to enter.
Acquire field experience
There are few occupations that place greater emphasis on actual field experience than this one. In fact, many people who enter the investigation business do so after having worked hands-on in other related fields such as Forensics, and then make lateral moves into the investigative arena. It’s very common for instance, that corporate investigators have backgrounds in Accounting and other business fields before actually taking the plunge into a formal investigative discipline.
Before becoming a detective, it happens quite frequently that some individuals work in law enforcement, military capacities, or even as legal professionals. All this notwithstanding, it is still possible for people to enter the investigative field by simply plunging right into the profession after their academic requirements have been met.
In some cases, the best way to become involved in the profession is to secure an internship with someone already in the field. This will allow you to get a foot in the door, and it also can tell you whether or not you appreciate that particular branch of investigations, or whether you would prefer to try a somewhat different specialty. How to become a private investigator with no experience? It’s possible if you take the necessary steps. The experience will come.
For many years, there were not too many requirements for becoming a P.I. in any of the states in this country. Those days are now long gone, and the trend now is for legal requirements to be much more stringent, in the interest of protecting clients and of working within the legal framework of each jurisdiction. While some states do not require licensing for PI’s, they are in a minority, and it really does open up the door to unprofessional work being done, since there are no real repercussions to it.
The majority of states now require some kind of on-the-job training or internships, so as to ensure that proper methods are observed and practiced, and so that a set of ethics and values can be absorbed and put into practice as a professional. Becoming bonded is another good idea in this same vein because it can recommend you to a customer since it carries a built-in safeguard of performance and of compliance with state requirements.
If you have a surety bond as an investigator, it means that if you were to fail to comply with legal requirements or to fall drastically short of customer expectations, a customer would have recourse to make a claim against that bond for compensation. While this may seem like a detriment to you as a PI, it’s actually to your advantage to become bonded, because it will allow you to compete with other PI’s who are likewise bonded. When clients have a choice of working with a bonded or a non-bonded professional, they will almost always choose the bonded professional, because of the built-in security it affords them. Check out our dedicated PI surety bond page.
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Certifications may not be a hard requirement for becoming a private investigator, such as the McLaughlin Investigative Group, but there are many cases where it would definitely be to your advantage to become certified. The more certifications you have, the better it will recommend you to potential clients, and the more professional it will make you appear. Depending on what your chosen specialty is, that is probably the first certification you should endeavor to secure because it will demonstrate to potential clients that you have an unusual depth of knowledge and understanding in that selective area.
For example, a certified fraud investigator will usually have a much better chance of being hired to investigate certain types of fraud, than would a generic PI who has no specific specialties. Most certification courses are relatively inexpensive, costing less than $2,000, and can be completed in just several weeks, which makes them well worth the time and the money.
It’s also a good recommendation to be involved with professional associations in the business because that can keep you apprised of any trends or developments in the industry which may help you with your investigations. Being involved with professional associations also demonstrates to potential clients that you are actively engaged with trying to better yourself all the time and that you abide by the principles which govern any of those associations.
How to become a private investigator with no experience? Call our office, and we can help you get pointed in the right direction, as well as help you get a PI bond.