Criminal Justice School Info

How to Become a Private Investigator

A Private Investigator (PI), also known as a private detective is someone who conducts investigations on behalf of private citizens or businesses. The use of the term private simply means that the investigating is not done on behalf of the government or any typical law enforcement agency. Private investigators must be licensed to practice and they pursue a variety of roles. For example, some are hired by insurance companies to investigate claims that are deemed suspicious or to find proof of adultery for divorce cases. Private investigators are usually involved in some kind of surveillance activity or fact finding mission in order to gather evidence, sometimes involving white collar crimes and fraud. In some cases, PI's will be involved in the delivery of subpoenas and summons to court or they may be involved in confirming someone's place of employment.


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Becoming a PI for those with and without prior law enforcement experience

PI Mom Private Investigator conducting surveillance

Those who have prior experience doing investigative work in a law enforcement agency, the military, or a private firm will find the road to employment as a PI less challenging, but this can be said for virtually all professions.

This by no means indicates that those who have no previous law enforcement or investigative experience cannot break into the field of private investigating. Most individuals who have no previous experience must put together a plan that integrates formal education with on the job training opportunities such as an internship. The most common education pursued by those interested in becoming PI's is a criminal justice degree or a degree in criminal investigations. To learn more about criminal justice degrees click here.

Becoming a Licensed Private Investigator

There are currently only five states that do not require that you become licensed to operate as a private investigator. Many cities now also require that you obtain a license. If in doubt, check with your state agency and get clarification on what licenses will be required of you. You may also need to take an exam in order to obtain your license in some states. The exam covers basic topics such as legal considerations, surveillance dos and don'ts and general topics in private investigating. States that do not require licensing at this time are:


Do I need liability Insurance to become a PI?

Some states will require that you obtain liability insurance or bonds prior to issuing your license. The amount of coverage you will need varies from state to state, so you will need to inquire with your state agency on the particulars. The insurance is intended to cover liabilities such as: violations of privacy rights, defamation of character, death, bodily damage, property damage, libel, and slander.

PI Moms - The Latest Phenomenon in Private Investigation Careers

Forget dropping off the kids at school only to come home to house work or grocery shopping. Private Investigation firms are beginning to seek out female PI's, who have proven to be more effective for investigative and undercover work than their male counterparts. From surveillance, fact checking, sting operations, or computer forensics work, there are several roles to be filled in investigative work. Learn all about how to become a PI Mom, about the types of jobs you may do, the training as well as the training and education required to be a PI Mom.