As you consider a career as a private investigator in your state, the pathway to getting hired is pretty straightforward.
You can avoid certification exams and licensing for years after earning a private investigator certificate.
Learn what is involved with becoming a private investigator and the cost of getting a PI certificate.
Then, decide if having a private investigator certificate is the right goal for your career in the legal field.
7 Steps to Becoming a Private Investigator
You need a private investigator certificate to be a private investigator (PI) who can work professionally.
If you have a certificate, you are more eligible for employment.
You can start working and earning the hours needed to be a licensed private investigator.
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Most states require a minimum of so many work hours to be eligible.
On your way to being a private investigator working on your first case, there are a few other areas to cover.
Here are the steps you need to take to begin a career as a PI in any US state:
- Train in an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program that specializes in private investigations.
- Choose a reputable ABA-approved school that offers certification classes for private investigators.
- Complete a course to earn a private investigator certificate.
- Pursue an entry-level job for private investigators, such as surveillance investigators or security guards.
- Work in the field in a related job as a private investigator for three years on average or 1,500 hours of coursework.
- Seek licensure with the state government in your state, such as the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services or Washington State Department of Licensing.
- Pay the application fee and submit the paperwork to receive a license as a private investigator.
When you have your PI license, you can open your shop or freelance as a private investigator doing more types of assignments.
A license indicates you have earned a work history relative to private investigating.
This proves you are capable of being a PI and can provide more services to customers.
Private Investigator Training Programs and Schools
Private investigation offers many pathways to train for professional paid jobs.
You can go to school online with 100 percent internet-based, remote courses.
Traditional college courses and degrees also major and minor in private investigation.
Learn how to be a PI and get a degree, diploma, or certificate from one of these top-rated US schools for private investigators:
- California State University – Bakersfield
- University of Texas at Austin
- California State University – Long Beach
- ECPI University
- Keiser University
- Saint Leo University
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Strayer University
- Syracuse University
- University of Chicago
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Phoenix
These schools prepare you for a lifelong career as a private investigator.
Most of these schools have degree programs to train students to be a PI.
However, many US colleges also have certificate programs in the professional continuing education department.
What Do You Do With a Private Investigator Certificate?
A private investigator degree will prepare you for working in several law-related areas.
While you can get a job as a security guard or private investigator doing surveillance, you can pursue other entry-level careers.
With this certificate, you can also work toward other jobs related to private investigating.
Here are some of the jobs that you can take on immediately when you have earned a private investigator certificate:
- Security and surveillance
- Personal freelance PI
- Public defense investigator
- Civil rights advocate
- Health fraud investigator
- Infrastructure security
- Fire investigator
- School safety advisor
When you have a professional certificate as a private investigator, any of these jobs can be available to you.
You will have the skills and assets needed to work as a PI in many fields.
How Long Do I Need to Take to Earn a Private Investigator Certificate?
A certificate as a private investigator takes a year or less for most programs.
With online training, you may be able to train in six to nine months if you already have a background in law.
Traditional in-person courses will take anywhere from 12 to 24 months, especially if you attend a college or university.
These schools may also require an associate’s degree to be eligible for a private investigator certificate.
As a result, you will need to spend 18 to 24 months in college earning an associate’s degree.
This is followed by another year at minimum for a PI certificate.
What Can Private Investigators Do With This Certificate?
You can work in several areas as a private investigator with a certificate.
A certificate shows you have some education in private investigations.
You may also be required to pursue additional training or a degree as a PI later.
However, you can work as a private investigator once you have a certificate.
Your job will be entry-level, and a PI’s pay will be lowered.
That is why most private investigators typically attend school for a four-year bachelor’s degree in a related field.
A bachelor’s degree is what employers want to see most and often require as a minimum for education for a job.
What is Private Investigation and Should I Work In This Field?
A private investigator is an individual who works in the legal system to help hold up the law.
By supporting public citizens, as well as law enforcement and legal teams in court, PIs provide substantial and critical evidence for legal cases.
You can get a job as a private investigator quite quickly with just a certificate or a degree in this field.
However, you do not have to have a license or get certified to be a private investigator, reducing the entry barrier.
Most law enforcement-related jobs require a four-year degree and advanced education.
With a private investigator education, you only need to spend a year to get a certificate.
From there, you are ready for employment and can start earning an income.
Once you have worked successfully as a PI in the field for several years, you can seek a license as a PI.
Is It Worth It to Get a Private Investigator Certificate?
The total cost for a private investigator certificate is between $999 and $10,000.
The price ranges from online programs like the school of Penn and Foster, costing $999, to colleges with tuition and enrollment fees that cost a minimum of $5,000 yearly.
Most of these courses are online for a certificate program and can be completed for a minimum of $999.
Therefore, based on the number of entry-level private investigator jobs on the market and how much you can advance your career, you should find the PI certificate worth it.