The work of a private detective, also called a Private Investigator (PI), typically involves conducting professional investigations into businesses, organizations or private citizens. They may also work with an attorney or client to produce important evidence in a civil or criminal case. Private investigators also lend their skills to cases of suspicious insurance claims made against insurance providers. Marital arrangements often call for an investigation into the extramarital relations of a promiscuous spouse and the private detective community’s bread and butter comes from handling these cases of “socially unexceptionable behavior” with discretion and efficacy.
Private detectives also apply their skills to conducting exhaustive background checks, skip tracing and the location of missing persons. Different detective’s agencies will have different specialties and specific services. For example, some are more proficient in skip tracing and others in insurance fraud investigations. Others provide bug detections services and the location and disposal of all electronic surveillance commonly used in corporate espionage and eavesdropping. Then others provide bodyguard and security detail, computer forensics and many more services then can be listed here.
A private detective is seldom restricted to the regular working hours due to the fact that their activities often require them to conduct surveillance and conduct investigations that would not be possible during working hours. Weekends, holidays, evenings and the early morning are the busiest times in the private detective’s line of work.
Most Private Detectives will spend their time away from their homes and offices carrying out various tasks and conducting surveillance and investigations. The rest of the time involves writing reports, making phone calls and conducting computer searches. Other investigators may own their own agencies and employ their investigative team of detectives and these detectives may spend all their time in the office. There are some lines of work in private detecting that will require the detective to be armed, especially when providing body guard services or corporate security. Those that do carry firearms of any type must be licensed by the proper authorities. This is rarely a necessity as the work is more about investigation and information collection as opposed to the apprehension of criminals or law enforcement.
Most states require that private detectives to be licensed. Many of the private detective are former police officers or retired military personnel, but great private detectives can come from any line of work. The laws and regulations that preside over the Private Detective’s line of work are different from state to state.
A private investigator often has to work long hours and keep very detailed records of their work, which often requires staying alert and attentive for long periods of time in the field conducting surveillance, for example.
Many private detectives have college or university level studies in criminal investigations and also commit to an ongoing program of study that will boost their performance in their particular branch of private detection. Furthermore, they often have other skills gathered from their previous line of work that allows them an advantage in their career as a private detective.
While the most common professions that are precursors to the private detective’s career are military investigators, law enforcement officials, government agents and the like, often they come the realms of financial expertise, commercial credit, investigative journalism, law and insurance. Private investigators with a specialty background like this typically apply their acquired skills into a detective’s specialty and can be considered experts in their field.
A solid background in a professional such as criminal justice, forensics or criminal science are always a boost to those seriously considering a job as a private detective or a private investigator. Most corporate investigators will be required to have at least a college degree and for some detective specialties a bachelor degree will suffice, but these will need to be in a business-related field.
Many private investigators begin with a degree in business administration or a business law degree, others are CPAs. If a private investigator is selected for corporate detection, they will typically be given further training in special practices specific to the corporation where they will be employed. This may include an introduction to the management structure, various finance related topics and other specific practices.
Private investigators looking for positions like this can expect a severe background check as part of the screening process.