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Private Investigator School: Private Investigator Training, How to Become a Private Investigator

Private investigator school offers formal training in the areas of criminal justice, surveillance, computer forensics, research, and investigation. Learning about espionage tactics and fraud is another area of private investigator training, and although a formal education is not required to enter the field, it is preferable by most employers. Many private investigation companies employ independent private investigators, and experience within the field helps build expertise in addition to basic training. Private investigators are commonly hired to research and investigate disputes, manage personal injury cases, or intercept drug operations.

Job Description and Responsibilities with a Private Investigator License

Attending a private investigator school and training program allows students to gain the hands-on skills and knowledge to become successful in the field. Private investigator licenses qualify an individual to work with a private investigation firm, or work independently as a contractor. A position in private investigation often includes the following job tasks:

  • Searching computer databases, public records, and running credit reports
  • Reviewing transactions
  • Testifying at hearings and court trials
  • Exposing fraudulent claims
  • Writing case reports and summaries
  • Documenting investigations
  • Analyzing information about suspects and crime
  • Monitoring industrial and commercial properties
  • Conducting private investigations on a paid basis
  • Monitoring and reviewing processes, materials, and surroundings
  • Compiling and auditing events, actions, and objects

A private investigator license is required to practice in the majority of States and the District of Columbia. Private investigator licenses are available only after an extensive background check and passing a written examination.

Private Investigation Skills and Types of Projects

Since private investigation involves extensive critical thinking and analysis skills, it is important for a private investigator to acquire formal training whenever possible. Private investigation schools allow students to gain experience, and become proficient in observation, perception, analytical thinking, and research. These are all important attributes within the field.

Private investigation training encourages skills such as:

  • Active listening and attention
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Reading comprehension
  • Strong judgment and decision making
  • Active learning and strong oral comprehension skills
  • Mathematics and application
  • Logic and reasoning
  • Inductive reasoning
  • Strong reaction time
  • Assertiveness

How to Become a Private Investigator

Learning how to become a private investigator will take some time and research, and there are many online training programs available. While a home-study course provides the knowledge and basic training in private investigation, a formal private investigator school can provide a higher level of interaction, feedback, and extensive training in communications. Private investigator schools train students on how to conduct in depth research and investigation, how to handle personal injury cases, and how to conduct effective interrogations.

Completing private investigator training can take as little as ten months, or as much as two years; the length of study depends on the type of course or program a student enrolls in, and if this is a self-paced private investigator training program or one that is connected to an associate or bachelor's degree program in criminal justice. After attendance at a private investigator school, students can move on to obtain private investigator licensing. Private investigator licensing is required in almost all states, and requires completing an examination and passing a series of background and credit checks.

After receiving a private investigator license, the private investigation candidate can pursue a career with a company or offer their services independently. Private investigator training allows students to learn the skills and abilities they need for a long-term career, and continuing with private investigation training with supplementary courses can help increase experience in different industries.

Obtaining Private Investigator Licensing

In order to obtain private investigator licensing, the candidate must first check statewide licensing requirements. Only seven states do not have licensing requirements: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Dakota. Many states also have mandatory private investigator training program requirements for private detectives and investigators, and the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services is usually involved with the outlining the requirements.

In most cases, the candidate must be at least 18 years of age, pass a criminal history background check, and receive a qualifying score on a 2-hour written examination. They may also need to obtain a firearms permit.

Ongoing Private Investigation Training

Ongoing private investigation training through classes and courses can help improve and develop key skills, and most corporate investigators must have at least a bachelor's degree in a business-related field. The National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI) provides certification based on competency in the field, and candidates must pass both a written and oral examination to receive licensing through this professional organization.

Private Investigator School Curriculum and Courses

Private investigator school programs often include courses such as:

  • Finding Jobs in Security

  • Public and Private Records Sources

  • Undercover Investigation

  • Surveillance

  • Interviewing and Interrogation

  • Statement and Confessions

  • Computer Investigations

  • Auto Repossession and Lock Picking

  • Report Writing

  • Domestic Investigations

  • Photography Techniques

  • Criminal Investigation

  • Bodyguard Training

  • Internal Security

  • Background Investigations

  • Hospital Security

  • Shoplifting

Earning Potential and Employment Prospects in Private Investigation

With the fear of crime, stricter rules and regulations in the civil and professional communities, and the increases in computer-related crime, the demand for private investigation professionals is on the rise. Private investigation careers are also becoming more attractive with increasing retirement in law enforcement and military careers. Detective agencies and stores that hire private investigators independently offer the most promising opportunities, and the employment of private investigators is expected to grow faster than average through 2014.

Median salaries of private detectives and investigators were $32,110 in 2004, and this varies significantly depending on the geographic area, employer, certification, and specialization. Related occupations include:

  • Security guards

  • Bill collectors

  • Police detectives

  • Appraisers

  • Claims adjusters


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