I receive hundreds of emails every day and many of them come from aspiring private investigators who ask “How do I become a private investigator?”
Becoming a private investigator entails several steps that largely depend upon in which state you plan on working. You have two options; you either work for a licensed private investigations agency or you go to work for yourself and obtain your own PI company license. Either way, you there are two considerations you must address at some point:
The first consideration is licensing; all but only a handful of states require a state-issued license to be a private investigator. 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 sizable professional liability insurance policy with “errors and omissions” coverage. To make matters just a little more confusing, there are some cities that require private investigators to either register or obtain a municipal license in states that do not otherwise require them. You can find a state by state listing of private investigator licensing laws and requirements here: State-by-State Private Investigator Licensing Requirements
Private Investigator Training
A second consideration is TRAINING. As a previous manager of an established and well respected detective agency I received resumes all of the time; the first thing I would look for before considering a candidate is to ask the question, “How has this person invested in themselves before asking me to invest in them?” Private investigation specific training is the most important investment you can make in yourself! Since most new PIs don’t have the ability or are not ready to start up their own investigations company they will most likely be looking for employment with an established agency- and that’s OK. I cannot understate the need to find a mentor in this business; someone experienced to show you the ropes and teach you the basics as well as the subtle intricacies of conducting an investigation. I recommend that everyone work for an agency and get some real on the job training before going solo.
If your goal is to eventually own your private investigations agency, no problem… every state that requires experience also has a program in place to see that new investigators have access to eventually obtaining their own license. Again, every state is a little bit different but thousands of successful private investigators are working today and tens of thousands have come before us; we all had to get started someplace… you can too.
Also, consider your own background and employment related experience carefully; some of it may apply. I have known loss prevention agents, security guards (in specific roles), accountants, firemen, bail bondsmen, alarm installers, teachers, and even a librarian use their previous employment experiences to apply for their own agency license; that of course will depend upon the state licensing agency though.
Lastly, becoming a private investigator is a very exciting career opportunity. You should get comfortable with research and learn to identify the multitude of sources of information for not only the laws in your state affecting the private investigation industry, but legislation that also concerns the private investigator. Find a mentor; learn everything you can, hone on research skills, communication skills, and marketing.