Private Detective and Investigator Salary

This career has been glorified on TV series, movies, and books. Most people fantasize with a career on this field; however, it takes a certain personality type to be able to handle the demands of this type of job. Some of these demands are irregular and long working hours, facing difficult situations requiring the ability to think and act fast, dangerous environments or assignments, and the required knowledge of investigation techniques and the ability to deal with different types of people. These are just a few requirements, but there is much more to this career.

Salary Overview

The salary of a private detective and investigator depends on the type of employment and setting. It ranges from the low $20s to the highest $70s and beyond, depending on the type of clientele, as some private detectives work by themselves. However, statistics show that the median salary for this occupation is around $41,760.*

*According to the BLS,

Job Description and Outlook

The nature of this job is so wide that a private investigator may need to do what is necessary to obtain the information that he/she needs to solve a case. The primary function is to collect information and analyze it. A private investigator will work with the government agencies, police, private businesses and corporations, private clients, and lawyers, to obtain information. The information will be of any type such as legal, personal, financial … as long as it is needed to solve a case. Surveillance is also another task of private detectives. The information is gathered through many ways such as interviews, surveillance equipment, the use of many technological devices, calls, computer searches, and other methods. These days, with the advances of technology, a private investigator must have knowledge of many necessary gadgets and equipment required to perform a job better.

The settings where a private detective works vary and there are many branches of the career such as computer forensic investigators who specialized in computer related crimes, financial investigators, legal investigators, corporate investigators, store detectives, and hotel detectives. Each specialization have different tasks, but overall the day of a private detective may start at the office and end up in completely different settings, depending on the investigation, and where the need to gather information takes him/her.

Most investigators like to work alone, but sometimes they might work in teams depending on the employment setting and the type of information needed to be gathered, as well as the surveillance type required. Although this career may put an individual in dangerous settings, the main objective is to obtain information, and not to apprehend criminals or enforce the law; mostly it is of an investigative nature.

Training and Education Requirements

These days, the career is more demanding in the sense that knowledge of gadgets and technology used in settings to be able to investigate an assignment is necessary. This is a high-tech world, and an investigator must be able to keep up with it in order to gather information. Most investigators will have college education, either an associate or bachelor’s degree in related fields such as criminal justice, police science, computer science, accounting, law, and business administration. Many detectives working for corporations will need a bachelor’s degree in business and other related fields. Education depends on the specialization. However, most detectives will need to have some knowledge of new technology for investigation. A computer forensic investigator must be able to keep learning as new computer technology continues to be created, since this technology is changing at a fast pace. For this branch, there is a continued training as they must be able to learn all new software, systems, and new methods of preventing computer fraud …

Other skills are needed to be able to perform this job. Interrogation skills, good communication skills, personality traits such as persistence, assertiveness, and clear thinking are also necessary. In addition, a candidate must be able to handle confrontation and change, as well as dealing with an array of different types of personalities.


A private investigator must be licensed in most states. The requirements are different for each state, and there are a few states that do not require licensing. Some states will require some degree of combined education and experience and be over 18 years old to be licensed. Others requirements include a background check, no criminal record, and passing a two-hour written examination. For armed detectives, there are other requirements as well. Rules and requirements vary by state.

Professional Associations

If a private investigator specializes in a field he/she may receive other certifications. There are certifications such as Certified Legal Investigator by the National Association of Legal Investigators, or the Professional Certified Investigator certification offered by ASIS International. Each has its own requirements to be able to qualify for the certification.

This career is expected to continue to increase in demand and overall the outlook is good. Candidates with college degrees will have a better chance of employment. As technology evolves, computer forensic investigators will continue to be on demand.*

*According to the BLS,

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