#17: 7 Ways to Build Experience and Land a Private Investigator Job


Landing a job with a private investigation company can be challenging especially if you have little to no experience in the field. Depending on the size private investigation agency you are applying for and the specific focus of that agency, the qualifications may vary as to what the company is looking for. I have had plenty of experience with hiring and being hired in P.I. field and I wanted to share what companies are looking for and what you can do to land a job as a private investigator.

BUILD UP YOUR EXPERIENCE

There are not many companies in the private investigation industry that are willing to train their new employees from scratch. 10 years ago the economy was good and companies had money to spend on training and developing new employees. Large insurance fraud investigation companies would fly out employees to be trained at a central location for a week. This process was expensive especially if turnover was high. Companies have changed their hiring model significantly. Why train someone from scratch when there are plenty of good, experienced investigators looking for work?

Below are the things you can do to beef up your experience and get noticed by private investigation companies.

Volunteer to be an intern with a local private investigation agencyBuilding a Better Resume

By becoming an intern part or full time, you will quickly learn how to search for information, edit surveillance videos, conduct phone pretexts, and become familiar with that agency’s processes. You can work along veteran investigators and pick their brain as much as you want. Working as an intern gives a company a chance to figure out what kind of person you are, and what kind of employee you might be.  This is your chance to make a great impression. Many times companies will hire interns after the internship has been completed. I have personally known of individuals getting hired by a competing company immediately after finishing their internship at an agency.

Vocational Training

There are many vocational schools providing classes in the private investigation industry. Though I have not had any personal experience with theses schools, this may be a low cost investment that provides more insight into the industry. I would pick your school carefully. Search for others that have taken the program to determine whether it helped them in their career path.

Work in a similar industry

Before my first job as a private investigator I was in the U.S. Army and a Loss Prevention Agent. These two occupations are what helped my land my first job as a private investigator. The company that hired me had great success hiring Loss Prevention Agents and transferring those skills to the private investigation industry. When I did my first interview and ride along I already understood some of the lingo which made the interviewer more at ease when making his decision.

Take online courses

There are plenty of private investigators that have developed courses online. I would suggest seeking out others that have participated in the course work before committing your time and money. I can’t personally recommend any courses as I have not participated in them.

Get a Degree

You really can’t go wrong by getting your college education. I personally would recommend getting your AA in Criminal Justice and a BA in something that complements it. I first received my degree in Criminal Justice to learn about the justice system. I also wanted to be marketable to more businesses in case the private investigation career didn’t work out.  I am two classes and a little over two months away from getting my BA in Business Management. What I have found is that I have learned quite a bit that applies to running my own business which has helped me greatly. And who knows, if I decide to change careers in the future, I will have my degree to help me get there.

If you don’t think you have the time, you should consider online classes that complement your schedule.  Do your class work at night or whenever.

 

Join Private Investigator Association

Private Investigation Association If you are looking meet others in the industry, joining a private investigator association will help you make connections. Many associations request that you be licensed before joining but many allow for those interested in the occupation to come to meetings and seminars. Sometimes you just have to know someone to get your foot in the door with a company.  Association members in my experience have been more than helpful in sharing information and their experiences.

HAVE YOUR OWN EQUIPMENT

The days of companies providing you with equipment are just about gone. Maintaining the equipment that investigators use is just too much cost for a company to maintain. With that being said, you need to invest in yourself if you are serious about working as a private investigator. Below is the basic equipment that companies typically require you have available to you.

  • A video camera with removable memory (Memory Card). – Similar to what I am using (Affiliate link to Amazon)

  • Lap Top Computer – What I use (Affiliate link to Amazon)

  • Tri Pod/Mono Pod

  • Cell Phone (smart phone preferred)

  • A suitable surveillance vehicle

  • Digital recorder – Similar to what I use (Affiliate link to Amazon)

  • Device to remove video from your camera and place it on your computer (example: Dazzle).

    IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE AS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR

    Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to move up in the  company you work for, I have some simple advice.  Continue learning.  Furthering your education or obtaining certifications in this line of work can only strengthen your authority in the industry.  Don’t become complacent.
    Continue to stay in contact with others in your occupation (managers, coworkers, past clients).  You never know how the connection you make may  help you in the future.    I continue to stay in touch with coworkers that I have trusted from the past and it has helped me more than you know.
    I hope this article helps you land your next job.  Feel free to contact me through the contact page or through my new Facebook page.    Be safe out there.

52 comments

  1. I am currently a surveillance investigator for approximately 3 years specializing in insurance fraud. I am looking to move up to a new position or possibly a better paid job from my experience, but i am unaware of what i can do and how to go about it. I have a 4 year degree as well. Any thing would be helpful

    • Hi Joe I am a HR recruiter for a private investigation company and we currently hiring PI’s in multiple states. If you are interested in applying for the position you can forward me your resume.

      • hello dear ,
        I just graduated from criminal justice and currently unable to get a job ,because I don’t have any experience. can you help me find a recruiter in Houston ,TX or perhaps you can find me something.thank you so much

      • Hello, I been looking for private investigator to work under. I receive my degree in 2011.I had no luck so far in my field. Ms. Tina

      • Jessica,
        If you’re still recruiting outside companies please contact me melspe@yahoo.com
        melinda spence
        my husband and I run our company from Dayton Ohio

        Thanks!

      • Hi Jessica,
        I am a trained PI but have yet to step on my first role. I also hold a BSc in Business Information Systems plus a diploma and a higher diploma in Business Administration. I have experience in other fields except investigation. I will be grateful should you be able to help me get my first PI role.

        Thank you,
        Daniel

      • Hi Jessica, I am a License privet investigator from Louisiana and i am looking for work. I don’t have a lot of experience as a investigator but I am work for several investigators as a Journeyman. SO for I have done 12 jobs. I work 27 years for the Department Of Correction in the prison system and I have performed a lot of investigation there. I would like to apply for a job with your company. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you.

      • lisa pastran binger

        i have been waiting for 2 years for clemency to send the ok ,,they have already said i was excepted and needed to be sent over to be oked ,,im so confused about the wait ,i have had 2 companies wanting me to mentor and work full time here in miami anf hollywood fla,,,yes i had bad past for a few years as a young lady with the wrong guy ,.today i have become mother of two daughters in 20s and going to college them selves ,,i am married to a US marine and i am eager to become licensed and move up ,,,i am now certified ,,i know i am going to be an asset to a company ,,i am book smart and street wise ,i have law enforcement in my immediate family from miami beach to pompano to orlando ,,i am a good looking lady whom can act very well when needed ,,ive gone on approx.. 5 missions for insurance surveillance with a friend pi,,whom has guided me and really needs a lady to help her company,,its taking way too long for clemency to get bak to me ,i guess due to me also asking for a gun permit .which takes alittle longer when i have been convicted of a stupid childish act 28 years ago ,,,please help me out with any ideas ,,im wiling to even work as assistant to licensed pi,,or work the phones ,to get even more knowledge ,,iam very motivated and willing to work in any other possition till i get this authorised letter from tallahassee ,,i will again call tomorrow morning and see what the status is now,,,its been 3 months since last update ,,,i am very possitive lady and and keep privacy very serious thank you so very much ,,LISA BINGER PASTRAN 954-513-0346 coral springs fla

  2. robert kingsley

    The best way is to work for a LEA first. The PI Industry is one of the lowest paying jobs in the country and as more people enter the field it is getting worse. The only way to make money in this field is by having your own agency and even then, as the saying goes, 10 percent of the private investigators have 90 percent of the business. Nowadays, license d PI’s are a dime a dozen. Competition is fierce and usually, whoever has the lowest price gets the business. Even if you want to transition from private investigator to some other field there is really nothing there to transition too. If you want to investigate for a living, it is best to join a LEA, put in your time, get your pension, then get your PI license or even work for an agency and really will not matter what the pay is, since you will have your pension to fall back on. You will also have a lot of contacts from your LE career to help you get the better assignments, government contracts, etc.

    • I have heard the same thing many times. Become law enforcement officer and then become a private investigator. I myself was told the same thing. The idea of a pension is great while you become a private investigator. Not everyone wants to be a police officer however. If you are a police officer already then great. Get your pension and become a private investigator. But the idea of someone not being able to transition to anything after becoming a private investigator is silly. Anyone can take their skills and transition into the corporate world or even become an internal investigator. Many can do what i did and get a degree in something while working as a private investigator.

      You think being a private investigator has fierce competition, law enforcement is no easier to get into especially now. Over the past two years I have seen cities go bankrupt and hiring freezes take hold. Just now are they starting to hire. I have been through the entire process and was offered a position at the academy so I am well aware of the competition to get in.

      I have made a living for nearly 10 years in this industry making a livable wage. And the P.I. industry is not one of the lowest paying jobs. That is a very silly statement to make.

      • Private Investigations used to be a respected profession. With all of the fly by night schools that are training new PIs they are now seen as trashy “bottom feeders”. There are so many unlicensed individuals out there that you can not make an honest living. So how can establish an honest business?

        • I don’t know that I agree with your assessment of the the private investigation occupation. There are many accredited schools and many courses that can be purchased that are of high quality. What are “bottom feeders?” As for unlicensed individuals I don’t come across many accounts of them in Washington state. And if they are unlicensed I can imagine the type of work they are taking is not the type of assignments that are going to be going to court. There is more than enough documentation floating around about how to hire a private investigator and what to look for. People need to do their due diligence before hiring anyone to do work.

  3. robert kingsley

    And pigs fly…. If you are hearing it many times, maybe their is some truth to it.

    And what is a livable wage? Tell the truth sir!! Fact v. Fiction… Working for a PI company, you will be paid 15.00 to 25.00 an hour on the high end, with a substandard mileage allotment, while burning up your own personal vehicle. Most companies only pay site time, which means you are expected to travel on your own time, to assignments, which may be an hour or more away from where you are based, without being paid for that time. Most companies do not pay report time, so all of your administrative work will be done on your own dime. In most instances, you will be paid on a 1099 form, being responsible for your own withholding tax, FICA while having no workers comp, unemployment or disability coverage. And this is standard for the PI industry of what you will be paid working for a PI company and the work will at best be sporadic.

    When I look at the help wanted ads for Pi, I see the same companies consistently hiring. In my area, it is the same 4 companies constantly looking for help. No one is that busy sir! At best, these companies offer sporadic work and most of these companies have a high speed revolving door at their entrance and that in itself speaks volumes for what this industry has to offer. Encouraging anyone who is career orientated to even consider this occupation as a viable career path is just plain irresponsible.

    After having spent more than 10 years in this dreadful business, I encourage people to stay away from it and would never encourage any young adult to consider looking towards this occupation for anything more than a part time job, or as something to do until something better comes along.
    And as far as having your own agency is concerned, it is a constant hustle of having to deal with demanding clients that want to pay you next to nothing for your services, make you wait forever for your money and expect constant freebies. And that is the reality.

    As far as police officers are concerned, I guess it depends where you are located. I am in New York and police officers here make close to 100G a year. And when they go to work, there may be competition but there isn’t some low baller there offering to do the job 1/2 of what the price should be and and offering free services in the process. And I don’t know one cop here that has ever been laid off. Most retire after 21 years of service with 6 digit pensions. You will be hard pressed to find any PI company that even offers a medical plan, much less a retirement plan

    As far as transitioning is concerned you just one my argument for me, since you earned a degree in something else and left the field after 10 years. Better to write about it than do it? If PI is so great, why leave the field to do something else? Maybe you are selling a course in PI and duping the unsuspected high pool of unemployed, into buying your course?

    • Almost everything you have said is completely accurate. The salary and work load is something I talk about in my podcast and in my articles (if you would have read any of them). Starting at $15 and topping off at a little over $20 unless you are in upper management. Most big box insurance investigation companies offer health insurance although it isn’t worth taking in my opinion. Using your own vehicle, mileage that covers a little more then gas and oil changes. Some companies offer gas cards and a little for wear and tear on your vehicle. All accurate.

      Since when is 40 to 50k a year not a livable wage?

      And if you knew anything about this blog or the 30 plus videos I have made or the 20 podcast episodes, you would know that I remain in the industry, received my Bachelors in business and AA in criminal justice and provide advice to those considering this industry.

      My advice is to learn a bit about my blog and what I do here before passing judgement sir.

      And if I ever sell a course it will be a good one, don’t worry.

      • Hi Andrew

        My name is Robert M. and I am located in Los Angeles California, I am new and my background is security and retail work for ten years, I am trying to obtain my PI license but I cant find a school or an agency to start this venture. where do you think I can start?
        Any input is greatly appreciated.

        Thank you
        Robert M.

    • Wow. I got my degree in private investigator, security. Good post I learn a lot reading your post

  4. I want to be a PI. I have lived off of 20-21000 a year and know that this is a lot worse than double that salary. I will have my BSBA in Sept. this year and am pursuing a Masters in Criminal Justice so I can be a good PI. After being in the service,restaurant,bar, hotel industry since I was 17 now I’m 28; I can read people like a book. I know when people lie, are on drugs, I am intuitive to body language in attitudes, language, I can tell an abusive spouse/ parent. I have seen it all. I am seeking to become a PI to FIND the work. I want to bring justice to anyone and everyone that I can because I myself am a victim to the horrible happenstances that sometimes occurs in life. I don’t care about the money. I just want to right the. Wrongs of life. One case at a time.

    • I admire your passion. Sometimes this line of work isn’t as simple as making the wrongs of life right. I wish you much luck in your career path. I hope this website, podcast, and the videos helps you get started.

      • Andrew, I believe you and know that you are steering me in the right path. I am applying with Blue Moon Investigations tomorrow am (today) and am super excited. I know the experience and knowledge needs to increase on my part and I have a lot to learn. I am passionate about life and helping people. When I needed help no one was there for me and I want to be there for someone who needs help. I will keep you updated as I pursue this career path. Also spoke with a. man who advised me to get certified through the DPS. Its a slow start ad a long haul but if anyone can do this its me.

  5. I agree with you that if you want to grab a job very quickly then you should have the perfect qualification or certification. But the next thing is you should have some basic skill within you for working as a detective or private investigator like to have the perfect eye for grasping the correct situation of crime.

    • It doesn’t hurt to have a knack for this industry there is no perfect eye and much of those skills for investigator are learned. You are not born with investigative knowledge.

  6. I stumbled across this thread and have to applaud the forum owner. He is trying very hard to explain the cold hard facts of life as they relate to being a Private Investigator – and he’s doing an admirable job.

    Here is the short, simple direction to becoming a Private Investigator: first, you become an Investigator, THEN you become a Private Investigator. You can’t do it backwards and you’ll look like a fool trying.

    For those of you who fancy yourselves too important or too special to be a cop, join the FBI or other Federal Law Enforcement ranks. Even the IRS has Investigator jobs.

    The author accomplished something that isn’t rarely done; it’s unlikely to happen again so, don’t get your hopes up. If you REALLY want to become a Private Investigator and you have zero experience or training, consider purchasing an existing Agency from a retiring PI. You’ll get an operating business AND a built-in mentor to help you along.

    Just my $0.02

    • Going to have to disagree with you. Anyone can do what I am doing. There are just as many private investigators that were never in law enforcement as their are that do. Police, FBI, IRS, all have to get their information the same way as everyone else once they are no longer employed with the aforementioned agencies. Law enforcement is not a prerequisite of being a private investigator (unless there is a law requiring so).

  7. Hello,
    I will be graduating on Nov 2, 2013 from University of Phoenix with my Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice Administration and I am currently looking for employment to be a private investigator which is my passion. I am unable to find a job because I don’t have the experience. Can you please help me find a internship or a recruiter in Hemet California or Los Angeles California. Hope to hear from you and perhaps you can help me. I know people say its not much money in PI but I don’t want to be in it for the money. It’s truly a passion and believe my my calling. Thank you so much in advance. Natalie Morris

  8. I’m new to building websites and I was wanting to
    know if having your blog title relevant to your articles
    and other content really that important? I see your title,
    “7 Ways to Build Experience and Land a Private Investigator Job | Private Investigator Advice ” does appear to be spot on with what your blog is
    about however, I prefer to keep my title less content descriptive and
    based more around site branding. Would you think this is a good idea or bad idea?

    Any kind of assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    • Being less content descriptive is a bad idea in my opinion. The title and content within your article is what tells Google what you are writing about. The title reinforces what the article says. If you search “ways to build experience to be a private investigator”, I would bet that my article ranks as relevant to that search term. And that search term is quite common. Search commonly asked questions and see where others rank based off their title.

  9. I am 11 years old. When I grow up I realllllllyyyy want to be a private detective but everyone says I need to do well in law and need to have to have had some sort of career like a police officer… I don’t know what to do please help!!!!!

    • I am really glad you found this site and I hope if you read everything, watch the videos and listen to the podcast you will know if this is the right job for you. First and foremost you need to be a good student in school right now. This is the foundation for anything you choose to do later in life. Secondly, you need to go to college. The study of law isn’t a must but I recommend it. Getting your AA degree in criminal justice would be a good start. If you choose to go further in your education you may consider getting your Bachelors degree in something else other than criminal justice or law. This way you will have a diverse education. I personally recommend a business degree as a private investigator will likely start their own business at some point.

      I hope this helps ya.

      Andrew

  10. I was reading over some of the comments. I graduate I got my PI degree in 2011in Ohio. And I can’t find anything in my field. I have been looking since 2011 an stIll lookIng now.No luck. I have apply for 20 PI suveillance positions.

    • Hi Tina. I know it can be difficult. I am not familiar with a P.I. Degree but what else have you done to make yourself more marketable? And as for applying, you are saying you only applied 20 times in 3 years? Let me know.

      Andrew

      • Yes I have apply for jobs in the private investigation an have even apply to do any job training an internship as well. I’m still applying for PI jobs in ohio an out of town. No luck. And I have even call to see if any PI are hiring in there company.

  11. Martha Nkele Mgiba

    I am residing at soshanguve block tt around pretoria,i am a 34 years old lady,i have a diploma in  policing,my measure subjects are private investigation,policing & management leadership,i have graduated by the year 2002,since then i didn’t get any job relevant to my studies i am getting the job which are not relevant to my studies and i like to be a future private investigator,with due respect can u please offer me a training or internship concerning private investigation so that i can be able to get a job as a private investigator in future.

  12. Hi,

    I completed my private detective courses before one year and I have given many private detective interviews in Germany but I am failing. Now I don’t know what I do? If you have any solutions or private detective interview questions, then share with me here. Thank you in advance.

  13. l am extremely interested in becoming a PI. I have no experience or degree and dont really know how to get started. I would like to find a mentor but dont know where to look or how to approach the situation with no experience at all. If you could help with some tips or people to talk to that would be great.

    Thank You

  14. Hi Andrew,

    I’ve been in the retail world in the state of Florida for over ten years in Loss Prevention. I have an extensive background Investigation /Interrogation as Asset Protection Manager for several prestigious companies. Here is my question, can I use my experience to apply for a Private investigator? I heard from several sources that I can’t apply because of either sponsorship or the 40 hour class requirement. I’ve been also told that I must have a AA degree to be considered for this career.

    • Hi Henry

      I personally don’t know if Loss Prevention counts towards experience. I would contact the department of Licensing in Florida to find out directly from them. There are different levels of licensing in Florida and truthfully I don’t know the difference at the moment between a CC license and a C other than you need 2 years experience to get the C license. http://www.fali.org/?page=CCCRequirements

  15. Hi, I was wondering does anyone know where I can find a company or person who does paid or unpaid internships in Virginia? I’m currently taking online classes for Associates in Criminal Justice. I’ve been looking but can’t seem to find anything.

    Thanks,
    Shawniece Barrett

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