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Private Investigator and Detective


This career is expected to grow 22 percent through 2018, much faster than average. Demand will be driven by heightened security concerns, increased litigation and the proliferation of criminal activity on the Internet. More positions will be created as employee background checks become standard for an increasing number of jobs. Also, growing financial activity worldwide will increase the demand for investigators to control financial losses, to monitor competitors and to prevent industrial spying.


In 2008, private investigators and detectives earned an average salary greater than $41,760. The middle 50 percent earned $30,870 to $59,060. The highest 10 percent earned more than $76,640. Earnings of private investigators and detectives vary greatly by employer, specialty and geographic area.
Private detectives and investigators assist individuals, businesses and attorneys by finding and analyzing information. Private detectives and investigators offer many services, including executive, corporate, and celebrity protection; pre-employment verification; and individual background profiles.
Some investigate computer crimes, such as identity theft, harassing e-mails and illegal downloading of copyrighted material. They also provide assistance in criminal and civil liability cases, insurance claims and fraud, child custody and protection cases, missing persons cases and premarital screening.
Private detectives and investigators have many methods to choose from when determining the facts in a case. They use computers, place phone calls, make interviews and conduct surveillance, sometimes going undercover to get information or to observe a subject inconspicuously.
Private detectives and investigators often specialize in areas such as computer forensics, corporate investigation, legal investigation, financial investigation, or store and hotel retail loss prevention.


There are no formal education requirements for most private detective and investigator jobs, although many in these jobs have college degrees. Courses in criminal justice, psychology, criminology and police science are helpful to aspiring detectives and investigators. Although related experience is usually required, some people enter the occupation directly after graduation from college, generally with an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or police science.
Licensing: The majority of states and the District of Columbia require private detectives and investigators to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary, however. While many states have stringent regulations, some states have few requirements and seven states—Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri and South Dakota—have no statewide licensing requirements.
Entering the Field: The best opportunities for new job-seekers will be in entry-level jobs in detective agencies or stores, particularly large chain and discount stores that hire store detectives on a part-time basis.
Career Changers: Private detectives and investigators typically have previous experience in other occupations. Some have worked in related occupations such as insurance or collections companies, in the private security industry or as paralegals. Many investigators enter the field after serving in law enforcement, the military, government auditing and investigative positions or federal intelligence jobs. Former law enforcement officers, military investigators and government agents often become private detectives or investigators in a second career.

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Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers as a private investigator or detective, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Private Detectives and Investigators. is a consumer group that publishes online college rankings along the dimensions that matter most to online students themselves: affordability and credibility. All of our information is sourced directly from college and university websites as well government websites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Our mission:

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