How to Choose the Best Online Private Investigator Course

How to Choose the Best Online Private Investigator Course for Your Career Goals

Private investigator training moved online over the last ten years, as many of the best PI trainers and PI schools decided it was a better business model.  Everyone from Udemy to Einvestigating to Penn Foster to NITA and many others believed they could offer online courses and make more money.  

Some advantages to learning online include lower costs, easy access from home, choosing the time to study, and more.  

But they forgot something pretty important.  Private investigations can only be learned by actually doing it. There are exceptions of course.  For experienced PI’s who need to learn a particular technique or some new technology.  And for new PI’s there are tidbits here and there that are helpful to know, such as surveillance terms or report writing models.  But to really learn to be a PI, the best private investigator course is in-person. Nnothing can replace learning on-the-job or live exercises with an experienced investigator trainer.

There are over 80 niches in the PI world.  So becoming a PI is also a matter of preparing for, finding, and choosing your niche.  Some PI’s have a few niches.  Some have many because they have been PI’s for over 20 years.  But in the beginning, it’s important to choose one or two or three so you can get good at them.

At StriderPI we advise new PI’s to start with surveillance and computer investigations. These courses include learning to read a case file as well as how to do these things in the urban environment.  (This is important for former cops, military, and others who may have excellent skills and experience but are new to the PI environment).

However, if you’re intent on learning online, here are some subjects to search for.

  • Background Checks
  • Report Writing 
  • Workmen’s Comp.
  • Surveillance Techniques
  • Criminal Defense Investigations
  • Cold Case Investigations
  • Fidelity Investigations
  • Civil Investigations (personal, business, etc.)

Once you have thoroughly searched online for different courses, take a couple of them.  You’ll learn something but you’ll also see how limiting the online environment is for PI’s.


The biggest challenge for PI’s is….training.  The job of the private investigator is as complicated, maybe more so, than that of the police officer.  And yet there is no academy for PI’s.  (Even the sites that claims to be “Academys” are not). When I went to the police academy in Colorado, we had 680 hours of  training spread over about 6 months.  Then, when I became a Deputy Sheriff, I had direct training while on duty, a few more months worth.  It’s called FTO or “field officer training”.  

But private investigators don’t have anything like this.  And yet the job has so many techniques and details and protocols – how to even get started?

This is why I set up StriderPI, to help new PI’s get started.  Here’s an example of what the first four hours are like in our Surveillance 101 class:


0900 – Arrival

Welcome packs, 1st case or exercise file, introductions, call sign assignments, radios and comms protocols explained. Introductions of trainers and all students.

0940 – Depart for first case/exercise

If there is a current case that can be worked by the student team, we will do that.  If not, we always do a live exercise.  Here’s an example from a recent class.

An old friend of mine, a former USAF Sere instructor, agreed that we could surveil him anytime.  So we set up on his office where he is a Chiropractor.  Instructors drove 3 vehicles and there were two students per vehicle.

One of the vehicles went to the back of the building and since it was hard to park in LOS (line of sight) to the back door.  So the two students got out and found a place where they could watch.  One smoked a cigarette while the other played on her phone.  They worked out a routine where one always had an eye on the back door while the other intentionally looked another way.  It’s important to think about how other parties may view you.  In the course we teach about primary, secondary, and tertiary parties and it’s important to be aware of all three.

The other two vehicles were strategically set on either side of the front door facing away, so that they could do a follow if Tim (my buddy) got in his car.  Staying out of the “10-2” is important when choosing a surveillance spot for a static surveillance.  Finally, after about 35 minutes, he came out to talk on his phone while drinking a coffee.  Perhaps because he was a special operator in his former life, he had this habit of looking around.  One of the students said, “he’s looking right at us!”.  But he wasn’t.

So many things happened on that surveillance.  A police car rolled through and there was a question of whether someone had call the police.  Sometimes a neighbor (tertiary party) will call because they see someone sitting in a vehicle for hours.  It is actually suspicious.  So, as a class, we talked about how to interact with the police if they contact us during a case.

Finally, around noon, Tim came out of the building and walked to his car.  Now everyone had an opportunity to practice the “3-2-1”.  The 3-2-1 is a series of photos that we want when surveilling a person, event, or location.  The goal is to capture not only a good image of the subject, but also their vehicle, their license plate number, and any distinguishing background.  Done correctly the 3-2-1 is a case winner.

1245 – Return from Surveillance

While surveillances can go on for many long hours, days, or even weeks, we do our first surveillance for a few hours only. Then we head back to the office to upload our photos and begin working on the surveillance report.  In our last class, everyone worked together to write that report.  

The ultimate goal for each student in our surveillance class, is the following:

  1. Learn to read a case file
  2. Learn to plan a surveillance
  3. Learn to execute a surveillance
  4. Learn to write the surveillance report

This is what happens with in-person training.  It is simply light years ahead of online training, even though everyone may think it’s old school.  

In summary, try online training as a way to get yourself moving forward.  But when you’re really ready to become a PI, find an in-person training course.  Or call us!

Click here for a FREE online PI Training video.

Or for more information about upcoming training opportunities, click here.

If you want to jump right in, click here for a PI Training Application.