7 Best Online Private Investigator Programs

If you have always dreamed of uncovering secrets, solving mysteries, or helping civil and criminal clients discover the truth behind an investigation – an exciting career as a private investigator may be just the right career for you!

Private Investigator

In the dynamic and mysterious world of America’s private investigators, the path to career success starts with getting the proper education.

The online private investigator programs listed below offer prospective students a gateway into the profession they can enter from the comfort of home.

What Private Investigators Do?

The role of a private investigator requires a variety of skills, including patience, attention to detail, and due diligence.

Following are a few examples of duties private detectives carry out during the course of their investigations:

  1. Surveillance
  2. Background Checks
  3. Investigate Insurance Fraud Claims
  4. Gather Evidence for Civil and Criminal Investigations
  5. Interview Witnesses to Uncover Key Details
  6. Research and Critical Analysis
  7. Serve Legal Documents
  8. Testify in Court
  9. Adhere to US Legal and Ethical Standards

Some states require private investigators and detectives to have a certification or license before they can legally carry out the duties above.

Check with your local PI licensing or certification board for compliance.

Specialized Investigations for Private Investigators

New investigators interested in a specialty can take courses that teach them the practical and fundamental skills to conduct investigations in the following areas.

  • Financial Fraud
  • Cybersecurity
  • Intellectual Property
  • Corporate Investigations

Where Do Private Investigators Work?

Freelance private investigators work in a variety of settings and independently. Investigators who work for others find work in one of the following agencies.

  1. Private Investigation Agencies
  2. Law Firms
  3. Insurance Companies
  4. Corporations
  5. Government Agencies

Best Online Private Investigator Programs

The best online private investigator programs are provided by some of America’s most reputable schools.

Web-based programs teach new students the fundamental and practical investigation skills they need to succeed as entry-level PIs.

Many of the web-based private investigator programs offer ongoing student support, opportunities for attending live sessions, and targeted coursework for students who live in states where PIs require state certification or licensure.

This list contains examples of the best entry-level private eye programs that offer specialized training programs for students who want to work in either a civil or criminal investigative capacity.

Earn your accredited, affordable private investigation career diploma online with Penn Foster!

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1 Ashworth College

About the Program

Ashworth College in Norcross, Georgia, has an Online Private Investigator Diploma option, which students can complete in as little as four months.

Their self-paced program teaches potential investigators fundamental and practical skills required to work as an entry-level PI conducting a wide variety of specialized investigations for insurance companies, law enforcement, and individual clients.

The course materials for this online private investigator program include textbooks, study guides, and ongoing academic support.

Students are awarded a Private Investigator Diploma upon completion of all required coursework.

Program participants are allowed up to twelve months to complete this online diploma program for PI’s.

Courses Offered

  • Introduction to Private Investigation
  • The Law, Forensic, and Retail Domestic Investigations
  • Investigative Specialties and Firearm Usage
  • Techniques for Obtaining Information
  • Private Investigation Orientation

Award: Career Diploma in Private Investigation

Program Costs: $799.00-1200.00

*This program offers a tuition savings plan and an alumni discount.

Contact Information

  • Address: 5051 Peachtree Corners Circle, Suite 200, Norcross, Georgia - 30092
  • Phone: 800-957-5412
  • Website: Visit School Website

2 Penn Foster - Online Private Investigator Training

About the Program

Penn-Foster offers private investigator training in an online format that prepares students for lucrative careers as investigators working in America’s corporate offices, insurance companies, and legal offices.

Their online PI courses teach students a variety of skills, including surveillance techniques, homeland security, US laws, the Justice System, and evidence collection techniques.

Most students can complete this self-paced online private investigator training within six months.

Penn-Foster also offers a fast-track option that students can complete in two months.

Courses Offered

  • Legal Principles and Requirements
  • Homeland Security
  • Locating People and Performing Background Investigations
  • Corporate Espionage
  • Court-Related Issues for Private Investigation

Program Costs: $999.00 – $1100.00

*This program offers monthly payment plans.

Contact Information

  • Address: 925 Oak Street, Scranton, Pennsylvania - 18515
  • Phone: 1-800-427-6200
  • Website: Visit School Website

3 The National Investigative Training Academy - NITA

About the Program

The NITA provides state-approved online education for some US states. They also offer basic training and continuing education programs for aspiring and active private investigators.

Their online private investigator training options include one to forty hours of self-paced web-based courses.

NITA’s state pre-licensing program meets the requirements for prospective investigators in states like California, Georgia, and Illinois.

This online private investigator program does not meet licensing requirements for residents of some US states, so it is essential to check your state licensing requirements against the program requirements before committing to an online PI training program.

Courses Offered

  • Ethics and How to Work as an Ethical Investigator
  • How to Conduct a Successful Interview
  • Report Writing and Field notes
  • Courtroom Preparation and Testimony
  • PERC Licensing
  • Use of Force for the Private Investigator
  • Forensics – The Five Disciplines of Evidence
  • Background Investigation Guidelines and Procedures

Program Costs: $99.00+

*This program offers payment plans through PayPal and Affirm.

Contact Information

  • Address: 1100 W Lake Mary Boulevard, Lake Mary, Florida - 32746
  • Phone: 800-730-6482
  • Website: Visit School Website

4 Police Science Institute

About the Program

The Police Science Institute is among the most highly rated private investigator training programs online.

They offer a comprehensive web-based training program taught by experienced PI’s and Investigative Specialists.

The Investigative and Police Sciences program teaches students the fundamentals of conducting criminal and civil private investigation duties for individuals, businesses, governments, and other organizations.

Students who successfully complete the Police Science Institutes Online Private Investigation Program will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement.

Courses Offered

  • The History of Investigating
  • Law of Evidence
  • Planning an Investigation
  • Missing Persons Investigations
  • Insurance Fraud Investigations
  • Background Investigations
  • Matrimonial Investigations

Program Costs: $995.00 plus materials and fees.

Contact Information

  • Address: 5133 North Gates Avenue, #102, Fresno, California - 93722
  • Phone: 833-539-5395
  • Website: Visit School Website

5 University of Washington

About the Program

The University of Washington’s Professional and Continuing Education Department delivers an online eight-month private investigator training program.

Their certificate program consists of three foundational courses for understanding how the US courts and Criminal Justice System works for investigators, civil and criminal case investigation techniques, and specialized investigative techniques that prepare students to begin entry-level private investigator careers.

This program also prepares local area students to sit for Washington state certification as a private investigator upon completion.

Students who complete this program are awarded a Certificate in Private Investigation.

Courses Offered

  • The Business of Private Investigation
  • Washington Certified Private Investigator Exam Preparation
  • Criminal Investigation and The Law
  • Civil Investigation and The Law

Program Costs: $3,867.00

Contact Information

  • Address: 4311 11th Avenue, Seattle, Washington - 9
  • Phone: 800-506-1325
  • Website: Visit School Website

6 Detective Training Institute

About the Program

The Detective Training Institute provides online learning options for students wanting to become private investigators or enhance their PI skills within three to six months.

Students who enroll with DTI learn critical investigation skills needed to conduct background checks and access private investigator databases to locate subjects by license plate, using phone numbers, and through other means in real-life field assignments.

Their program trains students to complete their work as private detectives with or without a private investigator license.

Courses Offered

  • Skip Tracing and Locating Missing Persons
  • Background Investigation and Research
  • Surveillance and Surveillance Technology
  • Business Crimes Investigations
  • Legal Investigations

Program Costs: $799.00 – $957.00

*This program has multiple payment plan options.

Contact Information

7 Stratford Career Institute Online

About the Program

Stratford’s Career Institute has online learning options for aspiring private investigators.

Their web-based private investigator course educates students on the history of US law enforcement and the American Criminal Justice System.

They also teach students fundamental interviewing and investigative techniques they can apply when conducting criminal or civil investigations on behalf of courts, law enforcement, corporations, insurance companies, and individuals.

This comprehensive online program prepares students for various investigation scenarios for fraud, missing persons, backgrounds, and domestic relations.

*Stratford’s program offers an additional tuition discount for students who subscribe to their email list.

Courses Offered

  • The Criminal Justice System
  • Fraud Investigations
  • The Ethics of Being a Private Investigator
  • Case Planning
  • Missing Person Investigations
  • Fraud, Waste, Abuse, and Systemic Weaknesses
  • Large Scale Investigations
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Providing Testimony
  • Summary Reports
  • Closing the Case

Program Costs: $649.00 – $949.00

*This program offers zero-interest payment plans and customizable payment options.

Contact Information

  • Address: 1 Champlain Commons, Unit 3, Saint Albans, Vermont 05478
  • Phone: 800-254-4070
  • Website: Visit School Website

Schools Summary Table

Rank School
#1 Ashworth College
#2 Penn Foster - Online Private Investigator Training
#3 The National Investigative Training Academy - NITA
#4 Police Science Institute
#5 University of Washington
#6 Detective Training Institute
#7 Stratford Career Institute Online

What Courses Are in Online Private Investigator Programs?

Each online private investigator course has its own program and graduation requirements.

The following are examples of the classes found in the programs listed above, with a short description of what PI students are expected to take away from each class.

  • Introduction to Private Investigation – Learn the basics and foundational concepts, including key concepts and investigation methodologies.
  • The Law, Forensic, and Retail Domestic Investigations – Legal aspects of civil and criminal investigations, including forensic techniques, retail and domestic inquiry.
  • Legal Principles and Requirements – Learn the strategies and framework needed to conduct investigations in the United States privately.
  • Homeland Security Investigations – Security measures and techniques for investigations related to protecting the nation.
  • Ethics and How to Work as an Ethical Investigator – Ethical considerations for private investigators, integrity, and professionalism.
  • The History of Investigating – Historical development of investigation techniques for modern investigators.
  • Washington Certified Private Investigator Exam Preparation – Prepare to earn certification credentials with Washington State.
  • Skip Tracing and Locating Missing Persons – Learn to locate missing persons, apprehend fugitives, and find lost loved ones.
  • The Criminal Justice System – Take a deep dive into the United States Criminal Justice System.
  • Fraud Investigations – Learn the principles of investigating fraud for insurance companies, corporations, and governments.

Can You Earn Private Investigator Certification Completely Online?

Diploma and certificate-seeking students can complete the required coursework to work as entry-level private investigators and earn their private investigator certification entirely online.

Prospective students need to note that some states, including Illinois and Georgia, require private investigator licenses, which require additional testing.

They may also require investigators to pass criminal background checks and complete continuing education requirements to maintain their state licenses.

Talk to your program director to learn about your state’s PI licensing and certification requirements before committing to a program.

How Long Does it Take to Earn Private Investigator Certification Online?

The time it takes private investigator students to complete certification courses online varies by the program type and other factors.

Most online students can complete the Private Investigator Diploma, a self-paced program, within six months to two years.

Students taking PI certificate programs can complete the program in about three to twelve months.

Degree-seeking students can expect to spend two to four years earning an Associate or bachelor’s degree in private investigation and other criminal justice-related fields online.

Other factors affecting the certification time frame depend on whether online programs are structured or self-paced.

Self-paced students have more control over their course completion time.

Some programs offer accelerated or extended time frames to complete the required coursework online.

How Much Does an Online Private Investigator Certification Cost?

The list of online private investigator courses above shows that these web-based certificate and diploma programs can cost anywhere from around $99.00 to just under $3,900.00.

Qualified students who are eligible for scholarships, tuition, or financial aid may pay reduced costs.

Many online private investigator programs offer small down payment amounts and monthly payment plans that make it easier for students to complete their online education by breaking down the program’s costs into monthly payments.

Final Thoughts

Now that you understand what it takes to begin your career as a private investigator by taking online courses – are you ready to take the next steps?

If so, reach out to the program director of one of the online PI schools listed above to learn more about their entrance requirements, application fees, upcoming start dates, and materials required for success.

Your future as a private investigator awaits.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

11 Responses to 7 Best Online Private Investigator Programs

  1. Avatar
    Michael Conti #

    As the field of private investigation continues to evolve, these guides keep aspiring investigators informed about the latest techniques, technologies, and legal regulations that impact their work.

  2. Avatar
    Billie Madsen #

    This helps explore the challenges and rewards of the profession, shedding light on the day-to-day responsibilities and ethical considerations.

  3. Avatar
    Emmy Duran #

    This career guide underscores the importance of ethics, discretion, and attention to detail qualities that are crucial for anyone considering a career as a private investigator.

  4. Avatar
    Robin Owen #

    One of the aspects I love about the private investigator profession is the continuous learning. You’ll always honing your skills and adapting to new challenges.

  5. Avatar
    Flora Chen #

    Becoming a private investigator is a fascinating career choice. It offers the chance to work on unique cases and make a real difference in various fields.

  6. Avatar
    Keegan Grant #

    This guide is a great resource for those considering this field. It highlights the diverse skills and knowledge needed to excel in profession.

  7. Avatar
    Peter Keller #

    I’ve been searching for a reputable online PI program for ages! Excited to see this list and finally kickstart my career in investigative work.

  8. Avatar
    Nate Hill #

    I appreciate the thorough breakdown of each program’s features. It really helps narrow down the choices and make an informed decision.

  9. Avatar
    Josh Ramirez #

    The reviews and ratings provided here make it easier to compare and choose the right program.

  10. Avatar
    Jenny Friedman #

    The program at the New York Institute of Art and Design (NYIAD) stands out due to its unique approach to private investigator training. NYIAD offers a detailed curriculum that includes courses on investigative techniques, legal issues, and case management. The program is designed to be highly interactive, with practical assignments and real-world scenarios that prepare students for the realities of the job. Additionally, NYIAD provides career support and resources to help graduates enter the workforce. The combination of a flexible online format and a comprehensive curriculum makes this program an excellent choice for aspiring private investigators.

  11. Avatar
    Anne Dawson #

    I was impressed by the program offered by the University of Washington. Their online certificate in private investigation is designed for both beginners and those looking to advance their careers. The curriculum is extensive, covering topics like surveillance, evidence collection, and investigative ethics. The University of Washington also emphasizes the importance of staying updated with the latest technologies and methods in the field, which is crucial for modern private investigators. The program’s strong academic support and the university’s excellent reputation make it a compelling choice for anyone interested in this career path.

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