How do you become a private investigator?


Quick Answer

Private investigators typically need at least a high school diploma, several years of law enforcement work experience and a state license. Many private investigators have two-year or four-year degrees in criminal justice or political science prior to gaining professional work experience in law enforcement.

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Full Answer

Though no specific time line is common, aspiring investigators must learn the ropes of conducting legal and effective investigations through hands-on work experience. Military experience and federal intelligence jobs are alternatives to law enforcement work experience. PIs are often former police detectives who transition into private investigation during their mid or late careers.

Most states require that a person get licensed to work as a private investigator. However, the specific requirements vary significantly by state. Therefore, an aspiring PI needs to research the licensing requirements of their state. To carry a gun on the job, additional licenses are often required.

People who want to specialize in certain sectors, such as computer forensics, insurance, finance and corporate investigations, often need additional work experience in the appropriate industry. People with backgrounds in accounting or finance often fit well into corporate investigation roles, for instance. Someone who specializes in computer forensics often needs additional computer-related degrees or work experience.

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