Whether you are a diehard Columbo fan or really into Tess Tracy who was Dick Tracy’s PI, private investigators have always been popular in US culture.
Sporting a pair of spy-friendly sunglasses and a fedora plus a rain jacket, you can easily fit the profile of a private investigator.
But can you afford to become a real P.I.?
Turns out, most likely.
You do not have to be in law enforcement, as you do to be a detective, to work as a private investigator.
What is a Private Investigator?
A private investigator is an employed professional investigating information for private citizens or entities.
Unlike a police detective, a private investigator can be hired by anyone to find missing people or information.
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Insurance companies use private investigators to follow up on potential fraud claims.
Businesses hire private investigators to look into scams or allegations against their company.
A private investigator works independently and often under freelance contracts with clients.
Private investigators cannot give warrants or make arrests.
Also, as a P.I., your job is not to solve criminal cases. Those are the duties of the detectives.
Am I a Good Candidate to Become a Private Investigator?
A primary factor in becoming a good private investigator is having a background in the field.
If you are a former military or have a degree in criminal justice, you already have this background.
Legal jobs, such as paralegal or legal aid, also offer a good start for being a private investigator.
Working in the courtrooms and being involved in criminal cases is important for a P.I.
The related background in law enforcement and legal studies allows you to have an ethical and professional sense of the legal system.
As a private investigator, it will be your responsibility to use your services to uphold the law.
How Much is Private Investigator Training?
Expect to spend anywhere from $400 to $1,100 on private investigator training.
This amount will vary based on whether you attend online or in-person training.
The main goal of training for P.I.s is to learn the skills and information you need to pass a private investigator certification exam and to be licensed.
The certification is required to get licensed and gain employment in most states.
You might also consider going to college as part of your P.I. training.
If you choose to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a private investigator-related field, such as criminal justice, the cost of school will increase substantially.
However, you will have more of the resources you need to ensure you get hired by clients or an employer.
Who Can Be a Private Investigator?
Anyone who is a legal adult can be a private investigator.
You will be expected to pass an FBI background check for licensing, so you also must have a clean personal record.
It would be advisable to be a former law enforcement or military personnel who worked in investigations.
However, a person who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology can also have the right education to train as a private investigator.
Understanding culture and social groups is a big part of the daily job as a P.I.
You have to know the people around you to, first, fit in and be incognito, and second, to understand their behavior.
Once you understand human behaviors, you are a prime candidate for a career as a private investigator.
How Many Months / Years is Private Investigator School?
Typical training for a private investigator takes three to six months.
You may also pursue a degree pathway, which takes two to four years.
How Much Does Private Investigator Certification and Licensing Cost?
The cost for certification as a private investigator varies from $100 to $200.
As for private investigator licensure, the cost is about the same.
Anticipate renewal fees for both P.I. certification and licensing.
What is the Salary for a Private Investigator?
The average income for a private investigator in the US is $50,402 a year.
Earners generally report an income range of $40,800 to $61,000 annually.
Is Becoming a Private Investigator Worth It?
If you are interested in working as a private investigator, the cost of training is minimal compared to the salary.
Also, you do not have to earn a college degree in order to be a P.I.
In fact, there are no prerequisites other than experience and desire to work in this occupation.
There are dangerous aspects of being a private investigator, and your life could be at risk.
While you do not have police backup, you will be able to protect yourself in a professional capacity.
Over the years as a private investigator, you will be able to see and witness many events about humans most people do not.
This can make life more interesting and even increase your longevity.
Plus, the pay is good for a private investigator, slightly more than you would make as a paralegal.