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How to Become a Private Investigator

Parashar Joshi
Have you always wanted to play detective at a serious, professional level? Well, read on to know how to become a private investigator.
The Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators, Sherlock Holmes... , these books are Holy Bible to children who dream of being private investigators. Imagine a detective who lurks in shadows, hot on suspects' pursuit, finds clues and catches them red-handed! If you are serious about becoming an investigator, read on.

Qualities of a Good Private Investigator

Before we move on to how to become a private detective, it is important to know the characteristics and qualities that a good investigator must possess. In order to be a good detective, one must ideally have the following qualities and behavioral characteristics:
● Ability to think logically and analyze situations rationally. However, you should also be able to think out of the box whenever the situation demands.

● Extreme attention to detail and keen observation skills.

● A thirst for solving mysteries and a liking for adventure.

● A dislike for crime and criminals and a desire to bring them to justice.
If you have all the mentioned qualities within you, you can go ahead and think of becoming a private investigator.

Basic Requirements

Make a Mature Decision

First and foremost, you should make sure that your decision is a well-thought one, and not one that has been taken in a rush of blood after watching 007 snoop around, having a good time with the ladies, using futuristic gadgets and apprehending (mostly killing) all the bad guys.
James Bond is fictional, but you are real. Bond gets all the bombshell babes, whereas you in all probability, will get a couple of boys (as part of your sleuth team).

Identify Your Skills

Private investigation field has a number of specialized sub-fields. They work in a variety of domains such as civil crimes, police investigations, business crimes, insurance frauds, family disputes, theft, etc.
Each of these career opportunities has a different set of skill set requirements and job responsibilities. Identify what area interests you, what could be your niche, etc.
One more important point, you will need to sharpen your writing skills as you would be required to write reports. These reports should be in-depth and be thoroughly professional.
You are also expected to have sound knowledge about different mediums of communication and how to use them for investigative purposes. Being a private investigator, you also need to have a background in criminal justice or political science or law.

Join a Detective Agency

Once you have zeroed in upon the specific investigative area that you wish to work in, the next thing you should do is sign up with a certified and licensed detective agency or investigative agency.
There is no need of formal educational qualification as such. A Master's or Bachelor's degree is good enough.

However, sometimes relevant academic background can prove to be useful. One can enhance his/her investigative skills by taking up courses in criminal psychology and science, forensics and similar subjects.
Though in some places it is not mandatory, it is always beneficial to become a licensed private investigator. As licensing requirements vary from state to state in the US, you should adequately research about license requirements in your city or state of residence. Keep in mind that use of firearms also requires a special firearm license.
Undergoing training from a certified detective agency will help you to become familiar with criminal background checks, criminal psychology, various investigation techniques, as well as other specialized operations like fingerprint analysis, etc.


After completing your training and getting your license, you can consider working with that particular agency itself and getting some work experience.
Quite a few investigators are self-employed, so you could consider this option as well. However, if all you can think of is 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', then Scotland Yard is the only way out.
These were basic requirements. Apart from that, you also need to have a clean record with the cops. Many agencies look for investigators who have a 3 years experience of paid investigative work. Finally, be honest and logical, persistent, aggressive and assertive.
If you wish to become a principal investigator at your work, learn to work alone most of the time, especially during surveillance work. Be prepared to toil hard, which will ultimately help you become a master investigator.
Most importantly, you need to have a thirst for unraveling hidden facts. Working undercover does invite a certain amount of risk and danger and is not always as picture perfect as it seems in the movies. You would be well advised to keep this in mind while making your decision.