If you enjoy checking information and using logical thinking, this job could be perfect for you. Private investigators carry out secret inquiries for their clients to find out information and check facts.
You’ll need to have excellent observational skills. Honesty and knowledge of the law are very important.
There are currently no set entry requirements to become a private investigator. This is under review and in the future you may need to have completed recognized training before you can operate as a private investigator. Experience in a security-related sector would be useful.
As a private investigator, your enquiry work could range from personal issues, for example divorce, to company issues, like suspected theft.
You would normally do background research, which may involve asking questions and analysing information. Your work may also include:
- fraud investigation (for example, for insurance or accident claims)
- tracing missing people or pets
- handing legal documents to people (process serving)
- investigating commercial piracy (such as copying software illegally)
- background checks on employees.
You would usually work alone and you would often be self-employed.
Working hours and conditions
Your hours of work could be irregular, and could include nights and weekends.
You would work in an office, but you would also spend a lot of time travelling and gathering information.
Salaries will vary and can depend on many factors, for instance whether you are self-employed, working for an organisation, the type of case and the length of the investigation.
There are currently no set entry requirements to become a private investigator. This is under review and in the future you may need to have completed recognised training as a private investigator.
Experience gained from working in an enforcement or investigative role, for example, in the police, armed forces or local authority would be useful. A driving licence is usually essential for this type of work.
If you want to be self-employed, you would need the ability to run your own business, promote your services and have some legal knowledge around information laws and data protection.
Check out the websites of professional bodies for more information about becoming a private investigator.
Training and development
Once working, your training will vary depending on how you are employed. For example:
- if you have a franchise with an investigation company, a range of courses may be available as part of your franchise agreement
- if you are employed by an investigation agency, you will usually receive training on the job from your employer
- if you are self-employed, you would need to organise your own training.
There are training courses and qualifications available that can give you an insight into this career and help you develop your skills. Some are accredited by national awarding bodies, others by the professional bodies themselves.
It is important to check exactly what is being offered when looking for training and to make sure it meets your needs. See the professional bodies in the More information section for more details about the training they offer.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a private investigator, you will need to have:
- good spoken and written communication skills
- excellent observational skills
- strong analytical skills
- self-confidence to present information in court
- basic computer skills
- a knowledge of the law
- honesty and integrity
- the ability to work independently
- a logical approach to your work
- patience and perseverance
- empathy with clients who may be distressed by your findings.