A private detective, also known as a private investigator, works for a private individual or organization. These individuals investigate individuals and organizations that may have committed a crime or a civil offense against the individual or organization for which the detective works. Private detectives stakeout illicit activity locations and conduct undercover investigations to catch individuals or organizations committing a crime or civil offense. They also examine documents, e-mails, financial records, and other records and reports to identify illicit activities. Private detectives examine criminal records and internet records to find individuals or organizations connected to the individual or organization the detective is investigating. In addition, private detectives interview witnesses and other individuals with information about potential suspects and the illicit activities, testify in court, use cameras and other equipment to record illicit activities, and perform many other tasks. Some private detectives specialize in a specific type of investigation, and these detectives may have special titles based on the specific type of investigation that they perform. For example, a private detective who investigates crimes that occur in a store may be known as a loss prevention specialist.
A private detective typically earns between $30,000 and $60,000 a year, but some private detectives may make more or less than this amount depending on the area in which they work. In fact, in some areas a private detective may make as little as $20,000 or as much as $80,000 a year. However, a private detective’s potential earnings depend not only on the geographical area in which the detective works, but also on the detective’s education, experience, employer, and specialty. As a result, a detective with specialized skills, additional education, additional experience, or a contract with a large company or firm may be able to make significantly more than a typical private detective.
Specific requirements you must meet in order to become a private detective vary according to state. Most states require you to be over the age of 18 (21 in some states) and have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) credential. In addition, you must complete a series of criminal justice courses or obtain a degree in criminal justice or a related field. If the job to which you are applying requires a degree, typically it will require a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration, computer forensics, computer science, or criminal justice. However, some employers may require a master’s degree or a law degree). In addition, in order to work as a private detective, you must obtain a private investigator’s license. Finally, you may be required to pass a written examination, obtain a certain amount of experience (typically two to three years of law enforcement experience), or meet other requirements before you begin working in some states.