Private Investigator School
Choosing the right private investigator school and degree is important when considering a career in private investigating. You will want to be sure to pursue a degree that will provide a foundation for the more practical aspects of the job. There are no strict rules for the degree level to pursue; however, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most PI's have had some formal education in criminal justice. Some schools now offer certificate programs specifically designed for those seeking careers in private investigations. We'll help you do some of the research by reviewing requirements from some private investigating firms around the country for degree, experience, and other requirements that will sufficiently prepare you to apply and secure positions. For those pursuing self employment as a PI, you will still need strong credentials and full licensing in most states in order to attract clients and consistent work.
Private Investigator Degree
Most private investigation firms require a minimum of a certificate, associates degreee, criminal investigations or criminal justice degree. If you already have a degree in a subject that is unrelated, you may want to consider supplementing your education with a criminal justice associates degree or private investigation certificate. Certificates and associates degrees can be obtained in general criminal justice, criminal investigations, and law enforcement. A flexible way to meet this requirement is to complete an online criminal justice degree, which can be completed at your own pace in many cases.
Supplementing your Private Investigator School with an Internship and Practical Skills:
In addition to traditional education, it is helpful to have other skills or training in some of the practical aspects of performing the job of a PI. Having some of these skills will make you a more competitive job candidate:
- Firearm Training (not required, but can be attractive for some positions)
- Exposure to Surveillance Systems
- First Aid - AED certification
- Self Defense or Martial Arts Training
- Computer & Internet Proficiency
Private Investigator Internships
For those with no prior law enforcement or investigative experience, an internship is an indispensable way to break into the field. Many of the PI firms offering internships will hire their more promising students upon completion of their degree and prerequisite training. To find internships, you can first turn to an advisor within the criminal justice department of the school you will be attending. You can also simply search for PI firms in your area and contact them directly for internship opportunities.
Private Investigation School Courses
Criminal justice degrees cover several aspects of criminal behavior and investigation and many schools offer a program track or series of additional elective courses specifically designed for PI work. These courses cover topics such as surveillance techniques, interrogation, computer database investigations, insurance fraud investigation, and subpoena serving. The following are a list of the typical courses offered in these programs:
- Private Investigation History
- Investigation Methods & Processes
- Criminal Security & Technology
- Interrogating & Interviewing Techniques
- Criminalistics Overview
- Insurance Fraud Investigation
- Executive Protection Fundamentals
- Surveillance Methods
- Undercover Methods
- Child Custody Case Methods
- Information Sources
- Infidelity & Domestic Investigation
- Use of Firearms as PI
Private Investigation Training
Most PI firms put new employees and some interns through an initial training series in order to get acquainted with the methods and skills necessary to perform their jobs in real scenarios. Training programs are usually molded to fit the particular niche or specialization they will be performing. For example, those who will be primarily involved in surveillance and traditional investigation work will be trained on how to locate an individual's residence and place of work as well as how to utilize surveillance equipment. There are many protocols and procedures to be followed in surveillance in order to maintain the integrity of the operation and to minimize the possibility of compromising it.
For those who are investigating insurance fraud, there will be specific activities or actions taken by suspects that would indicate fraud. Private investigators are trained to spot those actions and to attempt to capture them on film or video. There are also several legal considerations that must be taken into account and some types of surveillance footage may not be admissible in a court of law. Other types of PI work such as protective services and background checks will have a completely different focus and the training is tailored to those services. If you know what type of PI work you ultimately want to pursue, be sure to include elective courses in your criminal justice associates degree or bachelors degree.