According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of private investigators and detectives is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
The demand for continued lawsuits and the increasing desire for investigation into fraud, interpersonal mistrust and other crimes will continue to create a demand for private detectives and investigators. Furthermore, background checks will continue to be a source of work for some investigators, as online investigations are not always sufficient. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 3,000 new jobs over the 10-year period.
The education requirements to become a private investigator vary greatly dependent on the job. Most jobs require a high school diploma and then private investigators will learn through on-the-job training, which can last between several months and a year. However, some jobs may require a 2- or 4-year degree in a related field, such as criminal justice.
Private investigators must typically have previous work experience in a related field, such as law enforcement, the military or federal intelligence. Those in such jobs, who are frequently able to retire after 20 or 25 years of service, may become private detectives or investigators in a second career. Other related fields include claims adjusters, paralegals or process servers.
After a private investigator receives their initial training, they may receive additional training, dependent on the type of firm that hires them. For example, investigators may learn to conduct remote surveillance, reconstruct accident scenes, or investigate insurance fraud. Whereas corporate investigators, hired by large companies, may receive formal training in business practices, management structure, and various finance-related topics.
In nearly all states, private investigators must have a license. The Professional Investigator Magazine has more information as to each states’ licensing requirements. Laws often change and therefore aspiring private investigators should verify the licensing laws related to private investigators with the state and locality in which they want to work.
On top of obtaining a license, private investigators may want to consider obtaining certification. This is not required for employment, but it does demonstrate competence and may help you to advance in your careers. For investigators who want to specialize in negligence or criminal defense investigation, the National Association of Legal Investigators offers the Certified Legal Investigator certification. For other investigators, ASIS International offers the Professional Certified Investigator certification.
Overall, there is strong competition for private investigator jobs as it is a career that attracts many highly qualified people, including relatively young retirees from law enforcement and the military. Those with a bachelor’s degree, related work experience, as well as those with strong interviewing skills and familiarity with computers, may find more job opportunities than others.