#87: Becoming a Private Investigator after Graduating High School. Should you do it?

Raise your hand if you undoubtedly knew what you wanted to do with your life after high school? If you are raising your hand I would ask this; are you in the occupation you thought you would be in?  The likelihood that someone is doing an occupation that they thought they wanted to do just out of high school is slim.  Of course there are exceptions to this but many things happen in life that change the direction our lives go.

If you are reading this and you are in high school or maybe even in college, pay special attention to some of the reasons why pursing a private investigation career should not be your first choice.

Private Investigator Graduation

Occupations Aren’t Always What you Think They Are

Generally speaking many people fantasize about a specific occupation.  They think of the money or the uniqueness of the occupation.  They think of the fame they might have or believe they might live a specific lifestyle they think they want.

I didn’t grow up and say I wanted to do anything in particular.  I did know many intelligent hard working classmates in high school that thought they wanted to a specific occupation.  Later most of these classmates found out their dream job was boring, unfulfilling or just didn’t interest them like they thought it would.  Many of those classmates didn’t realize what they wanted to be until their mid 20’s to early 30’s.  Some still haven’t figured it out.

Young Men and Women Don’t Receive Respect or Provide a Sense of Authority

In many, many situations age, life experience, and appearance play a huge factor in the success of a private investigator.

There were times I have been told my intimidating appearance and demeanor were the reasons why people were cooperative.  This was not intentional but it was their perception of me and can make all the difference in the world when getting results.

A young man or woman will find it more difficult to command the same respect when working in the private investigation industry or any industry for that matter.

You Aren’t Old Enough to Become a Private Investigator

I don’t know the requirements for every state in the United States or every country.  What I do know is that many states require those seeking to become a private investigator to be at least 21 years of age.  This might slow you down when trying to enter this career.

Private Investigators Getting Married

Life Gets in the Way

Things will happen in your life that will change the direction of your career or what you want for you and your family.

With about 1 year left in my Army career I met my wife.  Obviously, when I met my wife I didn’t know she would eventually be my wife.  But the more I knew she was going to be my wife the harder I worked to have more money and a better occupation.  If you have followed me for any amount of time you have heard the stories of working two jobs but you probably didn’t hear about how I was applying like crazy to become a police officer.

Before my wife and I got married I passed all the backgrounds checks and tests for the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and I found myself waiting for the call to go to the academy.

A significant amount of time passed and I went from working two jobs and getting married to becoming a private investigator so I didn’t have to work 2 jobs and never see my wife.

My wife became pregnant and two months before my daughter was to be born the CHP called telling me I was invited to the “live in” academy which was to begin right before my daughter was to be born.  I was pissed that it had taken so long to get this call and my life situation had changed.  I didn’t want to not be present for the birth of my daughter and I didn’t want to leave my young bride and mother alone for months while I attended the academy.

You may think I wasn’t thinking long term and you may be right.  My priorities had changed and I thought about things differently.  I believe everything happens for a reason and to this day I do not regret passing up on the CHP.

With that being said I am sure my wife wishes I had a job with a steady schedule, steady pay and a retirement.  Life got in the way and I had to do what I thought was the right thing to do for my family at that time in my life.

You Need Backup Plans

The last thing I would want to see is a young man or woman corner themselves in an occupation that they feel like they can’t get out of with no chance of a possible backup plan.  Jumping into an occupation like private investigations without any other type of experiences or education will likely make you feel like you have no other options.

This is why I would recommend to those getting out of high school to go to college, learn a trade, continue learning, or even have a side hustle to fall back on.

It’s easy to have blinders on and only to focus on the path in front of you.  What happens if have to change occupations?  You need to have a backup plan and other skills to fall back on.

  • My personal example on things I could always fall back on if I absolutely had to is the following:
  • House Painting:  Did it for about 2 years out of high school
  • Landscaping: Was partners in a landscaping business for about 1 year
  • Blogging: It’s what you are reading
  • Anything requiring a Bachelors Degree: I picked up my degree while working as a private investigator

I wouldn’t of had most of these skills if I would have jumped into the private investigation industry right out of high school.

An Isolated Lifestyle isn’t Great for Your Health

Much of the private investigation lifestyle is a bit lonely.  Sitting in your vehicle for 8 hours a day conducting surveillance and spending hours on the road traveling to each assignment is not good for your all around health.

It’s not good for your mental health or you physical health.

I am a bit of a loner by nature and being alone doesn’t bother me.  This doesn’t mean I seek being alone and when I have to be away from my wife and kids it is torture for me.  If there is anything I wish I could change about what I do it would be going out of town for work.  And I know it is hard on my wife to have to do everything at home when I am away.

As for my physical health I typically eat crap when I am at work.  Of course I could make my lunch every day but frankly more times than not I end up eating fast food or some junk food from a convenience store.  To add to that problem I sit for 10 hours a day which has been very bad for my health.

With that being said a young person can put up with a sedentary lifestyle but as you get older it takes a bit more of a toll on your health.

So should you get into the private investigation industry out of high school?

Well of course you have to make that decision but I would recommend trying other things in your life before choosing this occupation.  Choosing other occupations or an education that may compliment a career as a private investigator in the future would allow you to gain different experience while giving you a leg up on the competition if you ever decide that you are certain you want to become a private investigator.

My short answer to the question is no, don’t become a private investigator right out of high school.


  1. Hey man, this is a great post with several good points. I started as a PI at the age of 19. Georgia’s age requirement was a bit lower that most states. I had gone to a vocational high school where I majored in legal and protective services and had some college under my belt. I met my mentor in 2006 and I guess I impressed him in some way. He took me under his wing and taught me the ropes. I had a hard time being taken seriously at first, because of my age. But, that stopped once people realized that I studied hard, ate, slept, and breathed the job. I took every case that came in that no one wanted. And as a result, I closed some of the companies hardest cases. When dealing with clients, I had to find ways to look and sound older. Usually, I would try and avoid face to face interaction.

    I made the decision to stay in the private sector when I turned 21. And now, I own my own agency. There are so many specialties to go between that when I get burnt out on can one I reinvent myself and learn another. I’ve been able to cover everything from insurance claims to homicides and currently do a high volume of corporate fraud, missing persons, and counter surveillance. If you want it to happen, you make it work.

    • Great Comment Tanner. It’s pretty crazy how young you started. You seemed to have weathered the storm of being young in this industry. Thank you very much for sharing your story Tanner!