The Pros and Cons of a Career as a Private Investigator: Is it Right for You?

There are many pros and cons of a career as a Private Investigator. Private investigators play an important role in society, in both the criminal and civil justice systems and even in the movies!  But what do PI’s do on a daily basis?

That depends a great deal on their niche.  Every private investigator must choose one or two at some point and this will drive their daily activity.  For example, if you decide to focus on criminal defense, you will spend your day meeting with lawyers, locating subjects (including possible suspects), interviewing witnesses, taking affidavits, analyzing crime scenes, and more. This is a job where it’s best to go armed.

If you choose workmen’s compensation fraud, on the other hand, you will spend your day briefly reading assignments, then many hours on surveillance, and finally writing your report.  Your photographs and film may be the deciding factor in whether each case is a success or not.  So it’s important work, sometimes boring, but also has its moments of excitement when the subject finally comes out of their house and walk to their car and you have 7.0 seconds to get the pic that shows they were there.

So if we’re discussing the pros and cons of a private investigator career, we need to know the niche. But there are some general pros and cons; let’s look at those.


If you are going to work as a Texas Private Investigator, you will have many of these advantages:


  • Flexibility and autonomy – choose when you work, work on your own
  • Variety of work – every case is different, there is always something new going on
  • Competitive pay – it’s all relative but PI’s make anywhere from $20/hour to $250/hour
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement – work for a firm, start your own firm, run a firm for someone else (I know a PI that runs three)
  • Constant Learning – probably one of the most attractive aspects of being a private investigator, there is always something new to learn and always a new area to investigate
  • Supportive profession – PI’s are always ready to help each other whether it’s to join a case, give advice, or make a referral.  It’s a very cooperative profession.

But also some disadvantages…


  • Irregular work hours – not everyone wants to work Saturday night or stay up all night when necessary
  • Potentially dangerous situations – it depends a lot on the niche, but there are many roles a PI may play that involve some danger
  • The emotional toll of the job – it depends on the niche as wel, but many PI roles involve dealing with trauma and heartache.  You have to decide if you are up for that.
  • Difficulty obtaining and retaining clients – it is no small feat to get clients, especially when you are starting out.
  • Government – not everyone wants to be regulated by a government agency but PI’s are.  This means DPS will audit you about once every two years.  It’s necessary to have certain forms completed, to have enough CE’s, insurance, and more.


One of the great things about becoming a Private Investigator is that you can use whatever skills you have.  That could be a very long list but it’s worth thinking through.

Here are some examples:

  • Sales Skills – good for interviewing, persuading, even getting out of risky situations!
  • Bookkeeping Skills – good for financial cases and for running a PI business
  • Babysitting Skills – yes, even those could be useful in a negligent infant death for example
  • Military Skills – many are applicable from leadership to OSINT to surveillance and much more.  Many in the PI community think that former military can make great PI’s.
  • Photography Skills – one of the best surveillance agents I ever met had spent years photographing restaurants for a law firm.  He was so handy with the camera that he hardly gave it a thought and still delivered the best pics of anyone.
  • Driving Skills – especially for mobile surveillance, it’s important to be a good driver
  • Oil Rig Skills – there are PI’s that specialize in oil wells.  I know one who specializes in oil well monitoring devices.


The most important pros and cons are going to be lifestyle-related.  Let’s compare becoming a PI to becoming a Walmart cashier.  The differences are stark.

The Walmart cashier gets 4 hours of training.  They do the same job everyday.  They are watched and monitored by cameras, reports, stats, supervisors, and more.  They do not need to decide when to start or when to finish.  They have almost no decision-making. Their actions have very little impact on the world.

A private investigator, on the other hand, is the very definition of a self-starter, problem-solver, always on the move (physically, digitally or telephonically), and what they do can make an incredible difference in people’ lives.  

Private investigators need to be in constant learning mode because there are thousands of little and big problems they will encounter and must overcome. Because of my work, people have gotten out of jail, gone to jail, got divorced, lost money, gained money, found their missing relatives, had their child returned to them, and much more.


The pros and cons of becoming a private investigator are stark and plentiful, especially when compared to other jobs like that of a Walmart cashier.  It’s important to consider the niche or niches where one intends to focus their time. They make for radically different experiences as a PI. Ask yourself (or go to one of our conferences and ask some PI’s there), what you will be doing every day in a particular PI field.  

PI’s must be self-starters.  They must love a good challenge.  They must be comfortable with the unknown because every case is different and unpredictable.  They must be comfortable with a certain amount of stress, conflict, and hardship.  PI’s deal with real life issues for real people, often in trouble. What we do matters.  

If the pros outweigh the cons for you, then join up.  I think being a Texas PI is the best job on the planet.

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