What Is Involved In Private Investigator Training?

Once you have made the important decision to be trained as a “Private Investigator”, it will not be a purely academic undertaking, however, the “academic aspect” is highly desirable and strongly recommended, and, in certain jurisdictions, possibly required to a limited extent.

But the reality exists that the primary “training” will come by working for (and with) another “seasoned Investigator” in order to gain valuable knowledge by “doing and following”. One (1) of the results of this approach goes to realistically and practically showing you whether or not you in fact truly have the “knack” for investigative work.

At some point, and, most assuredly “early on”, you must further your “self-analysis” to realistically determine… “why do you want to become a Private Investigator?” Different people decide to follow a career in “Private Investigation” for different reasons. Perhaps you have been entranced by what you have seen on television or in the movies.

Possibly you are departing a career in law enforcement and are “weighing all of your options”. Or, maybe you are simply seeking a complete career change and think that a career in the “Private Investigation industry” would be ideal for you.

Whatever your motivation, Private Investigation is a highly interesting career that requires a multiplicity of skills that most people never get the opportunity to realize or utilize. Although, the industry is not nearly as exciting and intriguing as television and the movies would suggest, it is in fact a career that fosters pride and a wealth of opportunities provided you are willing to “do what it takes” to reach that goal.

Additionally, you will have a higher opportunity of success if you are able to combine your desire to become a Private Investigator with some of your existing talents, your background and experience, and, an eventual decision to specialize.

Whatever the respective requirements of your particular State or Province, suffice it to say that it will take you on average two (2) to three (3) years of active “hands-on” apprenticeship before you are prepared to take the Licensing Exam (which is required in virtually every jurisdiction).

Make certain however, prior to “commencing your career”, that you thoroughly check with the appropriate Governmental Authorities in your respective jurisdiction in order to make absolutely certain as to their particular academic and/or apprenticeship requirements, et al.

As we previously touched upon (but requiring further clarification here because of its importance), many students inquire as to whether or not they should, from the very onset of their studies and training, focus heavily upon becoming a certain “type” of Private Investigator.

At the point you first enter the business, it is strongly advised that you do NOT attempt to ascertain or heavily focus upon any specific “type” or specialty-area of investigation, but instead take a “generalist” approach during your training and apprenticeship.

It will naturally occur, during that process, by mere “evolution”, that you will develop certain likes, dislikes, interests and self-knowledge of any special “talent” in order to lead you properly to your “best-case” career. It is advisable however to become fully aware of the possible areas of specialization, and, begin to establish those interests and “leanings” early on.

Always remember, in the “Private Investigation industry” or otherwise… once you find what it is you “like to do”, and, you find that you “do it well”, assuredly move in that direction… the clientele, reputation, credibility and economic rewards will follow in natural fashion because of your (collective) positive attitude, self-confidence, high principles and gained expertise.

Concurrently, as you proceed through your private investigator training and “apprenticeship”, you will learn how to investigate many different forms of assignments and cases, and, will be exposed to many, varied investigative techniques, technological equipment and “hands-on” skills utilized by today’s professionals.

This process will inherently provide you the opportunity to ascertain your true “professional likes and dislikes”, as well as to objectively self-assess your strengths, weakness, talents and skills. Your private investigator training period then will be highly influential in your eventual decision as to what “field” or “specialty” you will follow… be it in a corporate environment, legal venue, within an insurance company, an investigative agency, or, independently.

While not a pre-requisite as a “mandatory condition” to becoming a Private Investigator, many who select the Private Investigation venue for a career will have a background in law enforcement, insurance, military or government investigation, or, even the intelligence community. Similarly, many Private Investigators are retired civilian or military police officers with specialized training in criminal and civil investigative techniques.

As such, some States / Provinces either require (or are initiating) training protocols that mandate specific education, a criminal background check and the successful completion of a written exam, et al. Again… check with YOUR respective jurisdiction at the onset of your efforts in order to avoid unnecessary “future issues”!

During the course of his / her duties, a Private Investigator may face confrontational circumstances and situations, so he / she must be both assertive and a quick thinker. Similarly, the duties of a Private Investigator will assuredly require interrogation and interviewing, thus good communication skills are necessary.

Other Investigators perform background or pre-employment checks, investigate computer crimes including piracy, e-mail harassment and identity theft, all of which requiring superior “detail-orientation” skills.

For the most part, it is safe to generalize that Private Investigators perform a disproportionate amount of work at irregular hours, such as early mornings, nights, weekends and holidays. However, specialized assignments involving computer searches and phone calls may be performed at an office during normal working hours. And, Investigators perform most of their work duties, especially surveillance and interviewing, alone.

Some Private Investigators are licensed to carry a firearm, although that is not necessary in most cases. In “real life”, most work performed by Private Investigators is no more glamorous or dangerous than a trip to the local Department of Motor Vehicles or Tax Assessor’s Office.

5 Tips For Hiring a Private Investigator

You never know when you will require the services of a Private Investigator. In this article we will provide you with 5 tips for hiring the very best. The ‘P.I.’ as they are sometimes referred to offer multi-functional support for a variety of problems and situations. When most people think about private investigators they think about the many characters they have come to love on television like Jim Rockford from the old series “Rockford Files”, and Tom Selleck in the series, “Magnum P.I.”

Of course there is more to being a private eye than what Hollywood has presented. It takes skilled professionals to perform the job of private detectives. It takes hours of training and an abundance of experience to deliver upon the needs of an investigator in today’s high tech world. The investigator is typically associated with following around a spouse to see if their cheating in a marriage but that is only a small glimpse of the private investigators capabilities. There are so many missions a private investigator can perform so it is vital that you know how to hire one so that you can choose the right one for your situation. Here are those 5 tips for hiring a private investigator:

#1. Make sure the private investigator you are hiring is licensed. Licensing is required in most states (with the exceptions of Colorado, Minnesota and Idaho to name a few) this requirement is for a good reason, to protect the consumer. This stops people from waking up one day and saying” Today, I think I will be a Private Investigator” and jumping into a critical case and jeopardizing the results. Most people will only need a private investigator once in their life and this one time will be the most important.

In the state of Florida for example, one must be an intern for two years, that is two solid years of 40-hour workweeks. That equals about 4000 hours of supervised training. This intern/training program is under the direct supervision of a C licensed private investigator. Thus insuring that a competent, trained private investigator is taking on your case.

#2. Make sure the private investigator agency has insurance or they are bonded. The agency requirements vary from state to state but regardless of the state you are in they usually require their investigation agencies to be insured. A properly insured or bonded agency will insure and protect you in case anything happens. Whether it be negligence, errors or omissions or even damage to one’s property, a properly insured or bonded agency will protect both you the consumer from lawsuits and the agency from liability.

#3. Ask about the agencies/investigators experienced on your type of case. A lot of Private Investigation Agencies specialize in a certain aspect of investigations, while others specialize in many different segments of private Investigations. Make sure the PI you are hiring is well versed the type of investigation you require. Having your case become “Training Day” is likely to have aspects of the case overlooked.

#4. Understand the charges and payment arrangements before you hire the investigator. A private investigation agency should be able to give you a close estimate to the charges that will be involved with your case. Just as with a painter giving an estimate on your house a PI firm should give you an estimate on your case. The painter already knows how long it will take him to paint the house. How does he know? He knows because he has done it before. The same holds true with private investigations. They know that the average spouse cheating case takes about xx days and that a background check takes xx hours to complete.

Once you understand the charges involved you can understand the billing involved. The billing varies greatly with every investigation agency from an upfront retainer, to a fixed hourly rate, to progressive payments. Knowing the payment arrangement upfront will help you determine if this is the right private investigator for your budget or not.

#5. What equipment does the PI have? In today’s ever-changing high tech world, having the latest technology can mean the difference in winning and losing a case. The technology that the private investigator and/or private investigation agency has at there disposal can vary greatly. Are they a low tech, old-fashioned PI that relies on his handy dandy notebook and “street smarts”? Or, is the investigator you are going to hire equipped with the latest laptops with mobile broadband, satellite photography software, and members of large Internet databases? Having the right equipment to do the job is important when your case is on the line.

As you can see there are many, many tips for hiring a PI. The important thing is finding the one that can satisfy your expectations. With so many to choose from it is vital that you follow these tips and put in the research time required to make a comfortable choice. In today’s world the private investigator wears many hats. They can assist attorneys with case investigation, companies with security/information gathering and the individual with an assortment of possible problems. In addition, the investigator can help insurance companies as well. If you have a situation that calls for the services of a private investigator do not hesitate to seek out a professional that will fulfill your expectations. We have provided you with 5 ways to do it right the first time. For more information on hiring a private eye, visit http://www.palmbeachinvestigations.com

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Private Investigator

How do I become a private investigator?

That’s a complicated question with several parts 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.

The second consideration is training. 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 you will most likely be looking for employment with an established agency. As an owner of an established and well respected detective agency I get resumes all of the time; the first thing I 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?”

What if I do not have the minimum experience required by the state to obtain my own company license? How will I ever break into the industry?

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. For example, in Texas where we hold an agency license those who are too new simply go to work for an established company until they have the required number of hours to be able apply for their own license. In Florida (where we also have an agency license) they specifically provide internship licenses. 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.

What type of training should I be looking into?

Any amount of training is great though most PI companies don’t place a whole lot of credibility with the courses from PCDI, Harcourt, and Thompson Direct. You could honestly do much better and at less cost.

Instead, look for academies or training programs that have been created by private investigators. Who knows better about what a new or an aspiring private detective needs to know than an investigator who has been in the field for a considerable amount of time?

Also… look to see that the sponsoring company is active in the industry as well. Are they still providing regular private investigative services to a robust clientele? It’s sad, but many PIs who wash out over a very short period of time in the business look to teaching. In reality, you will learn very little from those who could not make it themselves; success breeds success!

Lastly, I have a little secret I would like to share with you…

Look over the education provider’s entire website and see if you find boastful claims or where the company is bashing other educators. This is a very tight-knit industry and you will find that students who complete training programs from educators that spend time “bad mouthing the competition” have a terrible time getting a break simply because of the animosity created through their educator’s use of negative advertising. I know that seems unfair but it is a reality in this business. This does not mean, however, that you should dismiss the negative press but the first thing an excellent private investigator learns is how to evaluate a claim, identify the source and make a judgment based on additional facts and research. Some statements will have merit while others will not; it’s up to you to make that decision.

What is the difference between a private investigator and a private detective?

Nothing. The terms are used interchangeably but some states choose to use the term “detective” while most use the term “investigator.”

I really just want to help my friends and family to find old friends or people who owe them money. Do I need a PI license?

That’s a great question. Generally speaking, in those states where it is a requirement you will need to obtain a license if you hold yourself out for hire or accept payment from another person or business and participate in or provide the following services:

o Surveillance

o Obtaining or furnish information related to a crime or the identity, habits, business, occupation, knowledge, movement, location, affiliations, associations,transactions, acts, reputation, or character of a person, group or company.

o Securing evidence for use before a court, board, officer, or committee

o Locating or recovering lost or stolen property and unclaimed funds.

o Determining the cause or responsibility for a fire, libel, loss, accident, damage, or injury to a person or to property.

Some states may specifically include such things as service of process, bail enforcement, personal protection and genealogical research under those activities that require a private investigator’s license as well.

Do I have to have a degree in Criminal Justice from a college or university?

No, though some states may accept a degree in Criminal Justice, Administration of Justice or Police Sciences in lieu of the minimum experience requirements. One recent study conducted on behalf of the Virginia Department of Justice concluded that almost 57% of all private investigators do not have a college education.

If I do not have a college education do I have to have a background as a police officer or other law enforcement related profession?

No. Most private investigators do not have a law enforcement background before entering into this industry. It is true that many private investigators may have once had a career in criminal justice but the bottom-line is that private investigation and law enforcement is very different and my experience has been that very few who make the transition from law enforcement are prepared for this type of work, either technically or creatively, on their own. Most of them recognize this and seek industry specific training as well.

What type of person makes a successful private investigator?

This business requires a rare blend of logic and creativity; it’s rare because logical people tend to not be very creative and vice-versa.

I would say that any successful detective must first have the ability to communicate. This means that he or she must have the ability to connect with people of all walks of life, regardless of economic status, ethnicity or education. It also means that the investigator must have the ability to clearly present a simple fact or a complex investigation in writing. The end result of an investigation is the investigative report, which is given to the client upon conclusion of the assignment; this is essentially our work product. If you cannot write reasonably well, your reputation will surely suffer as a result.

Secondly, great investigators have a burning desire to answer any question that is put to them only after a careful and determined effort to identify the facts and circumstances that contribute to a complete and unbiased explanation. We are in the business to provide facts, not opinions; we let our clients draw their own conclusions from our report. Oftentimes in order to get to those facts, we must be relentless in our pursuit of information. This is where logic meets creativity. Dead-ends often only require a different approach!

Lastly, I believe that every investigator should possess a varied set of experiences and knowledge. One characterization of the private detective industry I can make is that by and large we represent a vastness of experience, skills, and trades. One of the most accomplished investigators I have ever met listed “Mom” on her resume. When she decided to become a private investigator she had no appreciable skills that she could put in her resume but through her own experiences she had developed an intuition that was almost never wrong and she could simplify complex problems into there most basic parts. I have personally hired a plumber, building contractor, car salesman, and a host of other seemingly unrelated career types into my own company, CompassPoint Investigations, because they had certain intangibles that made them great in this business!

The bottom line is that anyone can train to become a wildly successful private investigator, just like one can train to become a barber or an attorney, but an aspiring detective has to bring some things to the table that cannot be easily taught: creativity, logic, the ability to communicate and an insatiable curiosity!

I have a criminal conviction in my background from many years ago. Will this affect my ability to become a private eye?

Every state that requires a license to be a PI also requires a background investigation as a part of the licensing process. I believe that a felony conviction will be an automatic disqualification in almost every instance (though I know a felon who has a PI license issued by the city of Columbus, MO.), while misdemeanors may be considered depending upon the crime, its seriousness and the amount of time that has passed since the conviction; again this will vary by state.

Will my military discharge affect my ability to become a private investigator?

In some cases a discharge that is anything but honorable may prevent you from becoming a PI. Just as in the answer to the criminal conviction history above, some states require PI applicants be free from negative military discharge classifications- Bad Conduct Discharge, Less than Honorable or Other Than Honorable service characterizations are grounds for denial of a PI license in several states and jurisdictions.

Perhaps the Florida Division of Licensing put it best: “Private investigators and private investigative agencies serve in positions of trust. Untrained and unlicensed persons or businesses, or persons not of good moral character, are a threat to the public safety and welfare. The private investigative industry is regulated to ensure the interests of the public are adequately served and protected.”

Can I just specialize in a particular type of investigation or will I have to do the surveillances and cheating spouse investigations too?

I absolutely recommend that investigators find their niche and specialize in only a few types of investigations! There are several important reasons for this, which I discuss in my training programs, but it can be summed up this way: when you are the most notable investigator in your region of the country for a specific type of investigation, you will find MANY additional opportunities to make a lot more money than if you advertise yourself as a “jack of all trades.” This has been proven across the country time and time again and is a major topic of discussion in our upcoming private investigation marketing manual.

What types of assignments do private investigators typically take?

Wow, the options are endless and the subject really deserves its own entire section! I have listed the most obvious types of private investigator assignments in an article you can find by going to my Articles Page. I will eventually briefly describe each type of investigation in the next couple of weeks. Continue to check in as we are constantly making additions.

What type of investigation or specialty assignment pays the most?

I don’t know that anyone can answer that question definitively, but I will say that surveillance is typically the most lucrative type of assignment a private investigator can get because it is solid, billable, blocks of time. I am aware that there are particular types of investigations where investigators are making anywhere between $300 and $500 an hour for activities like forensic computer evaluation, security consulting, automobile repossession, and a few others specialties. I personally have made $10,000 in an hour on several occasions in 14 years doing bail fugitive recovery work, those types of paydays are few and far between. Overall I average almost $150 an hour while engaged in bail enforcement, not too bad by most people’s standards, though many investigators just don’t have the stomach for that type of work. It can be extremely dangerous, it is a very competitive field and you get paid only if you can complete the case.

Is private investigation dangerous work?

Obviously, there are some PI jobs that are more dangerous than others like collateral repossession or bounty hunting but, generally speaking, private investigation is not a dangerous job. We all have heard the stories of PIs getting caught while on surveillance by an irate cheating husband or being chased out of a yard at the business end of a shotgun while serving a subpoena. Most episodes of Magnum PI had Tom Selleck dodging bullets, too. Certainly, scary things can and do happen on rare occasions but like all war stories, the ones that seem to get a lot of attention play out more like fiction than reality. Safety is always at the forefront of every trained investigator’s mind.