How to become a Private Detective

A private detective work as investigators within the private sector. They help people by investigating facts, and information about personal matters, financial matters, and even legal matters. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the median wage form a private detective for 2010 was $42,870 annually or about $20.61 hourly. As a career, this job has a faster than average growth rate.

Educational requirements vary from job-to-job, but there are no specific degrees required. Some may be an entry level position, while others may be exactly what you make of them – since the profession is squarely based on your abilities. As an example, entry level Private Detectives have some college education, and but most have a bachelors degree, according to the BLS.

College Education that may be Helpful
Some College
1 to 5 years
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degrees in Criminal Justice, computer forensics, and even political science can be very helpful to an aspiring Private Detective.

  • Criminal Justice
  • Computer Information
  • Communications
  • Psychology
  • Logic and Critical Thinking
  • Others inclue: English, Math, & Rhetoric

The type of firm that hires you will often dictate what type of education you need. Specialization can be an advantage in fields like Insurance, Business, Accounting, or Financial investigations. Specifically, Forensics is an area that almost always requires a bachelors degree.

How To Become A Private Detective

The first step is to see if your state requires that private detectives have a state issued license. If you are a private detective that must carry a weapon, then you will need to apply for a concealed weapon permit.

In addition to education, employers often look at work experience as a gauge of qualification. There are certification courses that specific industries prefer. For example, the National Association of Legal Investigators is a specific certification for Legal Investigations.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that an entry level private detective needs some college, but no degree to become employed in this field many companies are looking for tangible experience or education.

Qualities Looked For in Private Detectives:

  • High levels of communication. Not only is communication very important it is critical. A good private detective must know how to speak well. They must be able to write well. Part of what they do is collect data. Knowing a foreign language is very helpful. Knowing how to keep records both on paper and electronically is very important.
  • Upstanding characteristics. Honesty is a major characteristic that is looked at in private detectives. Learning how to be unbiased is also important. Ethical conduct and handling of sensitive, personal data is a must. Classes like ethics are a good place to start.
  • Analytical & problem solving skills. Logic is very helpful as is critical thinking. Private detectives must be able to find errors in logic, stories, and alibis. In the field you may not have access to all the tools that you might otherwise have access to, so you must rely on your brain. Critical Thinking and Logic classes can help improve analytical skills.
  • Knowledge of the law. A firm understanding of law enforcement methodology is a very important characteristics of a private detective. Criminal Justice courses, while not mandatory, do provide a paper trail that shows understanding. Fundamentals of Criminal Law, Community Resources in Corrections, Criminal Investigation, Criminal procedure and Evidence are all examples of Criminal Justice classes that might be helpful to your Private Investigator career.

The Occupation Outlook Handbook lists Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers, Claim Adjusters, Appraisers, and Examiners as careers that have a similar background to Private Detectives. More advanced careers that were also similar were forensic accountants and auditors, police and detectives, and financial analysts.

Being a Private Detective can be a rewarding career, especially for those people who like to solve puzzles, ask questions, and are driven to find out the truth.  Consider becoming a Private Detective by ensuring you have the right experience, skills and education.

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