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Private Investigator Training and Licence Courses

Private detectives are hired by businesses and individuals to gather evidence, monitor suspicious activity and investigate disputes or financial issues. Private detective training programs provide hands-on and classroom training for conducting investigations, doing in-depth online and offline research, and working with law enforcement officials. Those who wish to become a private detective or private investigator must learn some specialized skills and acquire a license before they are legally permitted to offer private detective or investigative services. Private detective schools prepare students for several private detective career opportunities.

How to Become a Private Detective

In order to become a private detective or private investigator, an individual needs to complete a specialized private detective training program and obtain their private investigator license. Private detective schools provide formal training in the fields of research, investigation techniques, surveillance, computer forensics and criminal justice, and train students to research and investigate disputes, intercept criminal activities, and work with law enforcement officials when needed.

Approximately 21 percent of private detectives are self-employed, and others work with a private investigator firm or are hired by a single company or individual to offer exclusive services. Some individuals who attend private detective school may also pursue private detective careers with a detective agency, or as a part-time store detective.

Those who complete private detective training have the advanced skills and knowledge needed to provide personal protection services for businesses, corporate executives and even celebrities. They may be hired to observe certain people or sites and use surveillance equipment to record any and all activities. Some private detectives are hired to collect personal information about an individual or business, and must used advanced Internet and research techniques to acquire information relevant to the investigation.

Types of Private Detective Training Programs

Private detective training programs are designed to provide students with both classroom and hands-on training so that they can learn key surveillance methods, work with specialized equipment, learn how to legally tape and record phone calls, learn how to take investigative notes and conduct interviews, and also learn how to appear in court. Some private detective training programs provide career-training opportunities with internship or externship programs, while others will provide students with resources for finding employment after graduation.

Private detective training programs may include:

  • Private Investigation Business Training
  • Private Investigator Gear
  • Industry Ethics for Private Investigators
  • Skip Tracing Methodology and Techniques
  • Surveillance Equipment and Methodology Training
  • Interrogation Training

Many private detective training programs also provide students with manuals and resources that they can use throughout their careers. These resources may include items such as:

  • State by state licensing laws and regulations
  • Cyber crime terms and definitions lists
  • Private investigation terms and definitions
  • Listings of state and national private investigator associations
  • Statement guides
  • Courtesy surveillance notification forms
  • Investigations retainer agreements
  • Investigative reports
  • Independent subcontractor agreements

Enrolling in Private Detective Schools

Every private detective school offers its own set of courses and programs, but most offer the following types of courses:

  • History of Private Investigation
  • Common Characteristics of Private Investigators
  • Traditional Investigative Services Explained
  • Niche Private Investigator Services and Specialties
  • Finding Private Investigation Employment
  • The Interview Process
  • Interpreting Nonverbal Behavior
  • Developing Rapport
  • Enhancing Recall and Eliciting Facts
  • Taking Recorded and Written Statements
  • Introduction to Skip Tracing
  • Credit Headers and Consumer Credit Reports
  • Public Records Research Methods
  • Internet Profiling
  • Surveillance Investigations
  • Surveillance Equipment and Operation
  • Industry Ethics
  • Contracts and Retainer Agreements
  • Investigative Notetaking

Private Detective Career Specializations and Opportunities

Many private detectives choose to specialize in a particular area as they advance in their private detective career. Private detective career specializations include:

  • Intellectual Property Investigations
  • Financial and Estate Investigations
  • Legal Investigators
  • Corporate Investigators
  • Finance and Accounting Investigators
  • Retail Theft and Loss Prevention

Most States and the District of Columbia require private detectives to be licensed, and some investigators can demonstrate competency by taking the National Association of Legal Investigators certification exam. ASIS International offers the Professional Certified Investigator certification.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of salaried private detectives and investigators were $41,760 in May 2008.


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