The Art of Investigation: Building a Rewarding Career as a Private Detective

The private detective industry has evolved over the last several decades, and so has the number of detectives. Data shows that the private detective workforce in 2020 was around 87,461 in the US.

Despite the development of the industry, the fundamentals of investigative work remain the same. Private detectives help clients with a wide range of needs, and to be successful in this line of work, you have to have a strong foundation in your field. You must also understand how technology has changed and how investigators can leverage it.

In this guide, we’ll walk through everything an aspiring private investigator needs to do before launching their career.

The Basics of Becoming a Private Detective

The term “private detective” was first used in the late 1800s to describe someone investigating crimes for hire. Today, most private detectives work for law enforcement agencies or attorneys. They provide information that helps solve crimes and prosecute offenders.

Private investigators also help individuals by providing evidence when they need it most. For instance, the evidence can help when accused of something they didn’t do or have gone missing.

The difference between a regular detective and a private one is that the latter has no official authority. Instead, they gather facts about your case using surveillance techniques or interviewing witnesses before revealing their findings. This allows you to decide whether or not it’s worth pursuing further legal action against whoever harmed you somehow.

If you have yet to decide to become a private detective but are thinking about it, there are many reasons why you should choose to become one. The biggest reason is the demand for the job. According to recent data, there were around 37,000 job openings in 2021 alone in the US for detectives.

Education and Training

To become a private detective, you should have a college degree in criminal justice or law. You’ll also need to learn investigative techniques through training programs and experience. Some of these include:

  • Computer skills: You’ll need to know how to use computers for Internet research and data analysis and communicate with clients or other investigators.
  • Interview techniques: You must be able to interview people effectively so that they reveal information critical to your case. This may require special training if you feel uncomfortable doing it naturally.
  • Self-defense: Someone will likely attack you on the job if they know who they’re up against, but it’s always good practice to learn self-defense.

Lastly, you should enroll in some courses to investigate, interact with witnesses, etc. These courses help you get all the required information to get a license for private investigation and start your career.

There are many online private investigation courses you can enroll in. You can perform a Google search, find some course providers, compare training modules, and decide which one will be right for you.

You should also consider if the course offers any location-specific training. Based on the location, you might have to execute different skills. For instance, if a neighborhood has a higher crime rate, you should be more cautious about whom you interact with and hide your identity. If you have a location in mind, look for courses that offer learning modules for beginning and enhancing your career in that particular region.

For instance, Texas has a crime rate of 26.47 per 1,000 residents, higher than the national average. Hence, to become a private investigator there, you should look for private investigator schools and courses offering Texas education.

In that scenario, you can do a Google search to find such schools in Texas. You will get results like ACES Private Investigator School and more. You can then go through the website of each of these schools and decide based on the information you gather.

Building a Strong Foundation

Before starting your business, building a solid foundation is essential. This means having the right training and education and networking with other professionals in the field. A good example is attending classes at local colleges or universities where they offer courses in criminal justice or law enforcement studies.

In addition to these formal programs, many private detective schools offer training for aspiring detectives who want to get their feet wet before jumping into private investigation full-time.

You would want to get into a school that offers certification. According to ACES Private Investigations, certification gives you a better chance at quickly starting your private investigator career after completing the course.

You will also need a license to practice private investigation. The license fee may vary from place to place. For instance, in Louisiana, the license fee is $342.50, and the renewal fee is $250. Practicing private investigations without a valid license may lead to legal consequences.

Navigating the Professional Landscape

There are many different types of private investigators. Not all private investigators are the same, and you must know what kind of work you want to do before deciding if this is your career.

Most importantly, you need to know what type of work your skills and interests best suit. Some enjoy working as undercover agents, while others prefer investigative research or surveillance operations.

There are also many reasons why someone might choose this profession:

  • Some people use their PI licenses to supplement their income, while others use them as their primary source of income.
  • Some do it because they love helping others, while others do it because they enjoy being able to solve puzzles on their own time.

Whatever reason leads someone to become a private investigator may change over time, but whatever happens along the way can help shape who they become.

Developing Professional Skills

You’ll be expected to develop several key skills as a private detective. These include:

  • A strong work ethic. You’ll need to be able to work long hours and take initiative on your projects without supervision.
  • Strong attention to detail. Your ability and willingness to notice small details will help compensate for your lack of resources compared with government agencies or large corporations with access to more advanced technology than individual investigators do.
  • Empathy toward others. Empathy is crucial because it allows you to understand each other better and helps you connect with those around you. This can help build trust and get information from those you interview as a part of the investigation.

Marketing Yourself and Finding Clients

Marketing yourself and your business is essential to the private detective profession. You will need to market yourself both to find clients, as well as keep them. The best way to do this is through networking with other professionals in the industry and word-of-mouth advertising.

By networking with other private detectives, you can get advice on how they have marketed themselves to gain new clients. This may mean attending conferences where many private detectives gather or local networking events where people looking for services like yours are likely to present. By meeting these people, you can build face-to-face relationships that could lead to future jobs.


In this article, we’ve explored the basics of becoming a private detective. We hope you are better prepared to decide whether or not this career path is right for you. If so, then congratulations. You have taken the first step towards building a rewarding career as an investigator.

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