How do I Become a Private Investigator?

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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2018
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There have been many famous private investigators in the history of the Western world. Sherlock Holmes, the Pinkertons, and Thomas Magnum, PI have all contributed to the popularity of this field. It isn't difficult to become a private investigator, if you meet proper requirements and have good marketing skills.

Private investigating is usually a second career. Before entering the field, most private investigators, or PIs, were police officers, in the military, working in government auditing or investigating positions, or working in an intelligence job. Some private investigators also may have worked as a private or public security guard. These jobs all help build the skills necessary to become a private investigator. PIs must be persistent, assertive, and not afraid of confrontation. They must also be able to think on their feet.

In most states, no formal training is necessary to become a private investigator, although it is recommended. Private investigators, especially those who are just starting in the field without related experience, should have, at the least, taken courses in criminal investigation and law. Some states require that private investigators receive a degree and special training before starting. A few states, those with much stricter requirements, may even require a certain number of years of experience in a similar field before being able to be licensed. Most states do require licensing before you become a private investigator.


After completing any training or educational requirements, the next step is to find work. When just starting out, if you don’t have prior experience in a similar role, it may be a good idea to try to find a job under another private investigator. Training under an experienced professional will give you a chance to see the job from the inside. This is a great way to learn as much as you can, not only about how to become a private investigator, but also how to run a successful business. During this time, you should also be researching and reading as much as you can about the field.

After learning as much as you can from another professional, it may be time for you to start your own private investigating firm. Set up an office, either rented or in your own home. Join state and national PI organizations, and look for any trade journals that may be available. Market yourself in local business associations, and hand out business cards. Let people know who you are, and what you do.

After receiving your first assignment, be sure to do a very thorough job and aim for customer satisfaction. Upon the completion of the assignment, thank the customer, and ask for a referral letter to be used as a recommendation for future customers. Keep building on your success, and don’t stop marketing yourself even after building a successful practice.



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Post 1

I was hurt by my ex husband, who was having an affair right under my nose and he was violent for the 30 years we were married and should be in jail. For those reasons and others I would recommend any woman who can to become smart and do your own investigation or find someone who is not afraid to do it for you.

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