What is a Private Investigator?

A career as a private investigator, despite its glamorization on television, is often stressful, dangerous, and unpredictable. Surveillance, investigation, research, and interviewing services are provided a private investigator or private detective to the general public, attorneys, and businesses. Legal, corporate, and financial investigators, as well as store and hotel detectives, are all specialties in the field of private investigation.

A private investigator’s main responsibilities are to verify facts and gather information. Many private investigators have prior experience in law enforcement, insurance, the military, or government investigation or intelligence. Although most states require private investigators to be licensed, there is no formal education requirement. Some states are requiring specific education, a criminal background check, and the passing of a written exam as part of their training requirements. Political science or criminal law and justice courses are required for the education portion.

A private investigator must be assertive and quick-witted because he or she will be confronted frequently. Interrogation and interviewing are common duties of a private investigator, so good communication skills are required. Some investigators conduct pre-employment or background checks. Others look into computer crimes like piracy, e-mail harassment, and identity theft, among others.

The private investigator works a lot of odd hours, such as early mornings, late nights, weekends, and holidays. Work such as computer searches and phone calls, on the other hand, can be done in an office during normal business hours. Investigators work alone for the most part, especially when it comes to surveillance and interviewing.

Although a firearm is not required in most cases, some private investigators are licensed to carry one. Many investigators have worked in law enforcement, the military, or the government and are now retired. Although certification is not required, those who meet the experience, education, and continuing-training requirements, as well as pass the necessary written and oral exams, are awarded the Certified Legal Investigator designation the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI). This credential is for licensed investigators who specialize in criminal defense or negligence investigations.

Legal investigators are frequently employed law firms, where they assist in the discovery of witnesses, the service of legal documents, and the gathering of evidence. An internal or external corporate private investigator conducts investigations, some of which are related to drug use or theft. A certified public accountant who works as a financial investigator may assist in the investigation of large financial transactions. Store private investigators and hotel detectives both protect their employers from theft, both externally and internally, and may also serve as a safety or protection officer.