The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Private Investigator: Skills, Training, and Career Prospects
You’ve been thinking about becoming a private investigator for a long time. You’ve probably watched all the great tv shows and imagined you could do it.
Chances are, if you really want to be a private investigator, you can. There is no age requirement. No absolute training requirement (although training for a private investigator is a must). No physical fitness requirement. No educational requirement.
It really comes down to three things:
- Do you really want to become a private investigator and if so, are you willing to work at it?
- Where will you get your initial training? You do need skills to make it as a PI.
- What will be your niche? There are over 80 private investigator niches. Everything from criminal defense to cheating spouse to missing persons to cold case homicide are possible niches for PI’s.
These three questions deserve your attention and focus. Solve them, and you’ll be on your way!
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR SKILLS
Let’s talk about skills first. You can develop them by working as a private investigator in conjunction with training. But when you’re just getting started, you will want to take advantage of what you have. So make a personal skills inventory. Here’s an example I created with one of our 32-year-old students based on her previous work experience:
- Analysis of records
- Interviewing (customers)
- Small office mgmt.
- Pizza Delivery
- Car Repair
So with this student, we see that she does actually have some relevant and useful skills to use in becoming a private investigator. Let’s summarize them. She is comfortable talking to people. She knows something about small business. She understands cars and was technically a professional driver (pizza delivery). Good driving is critical for surveillance. Finally, she is a trained photographer. So this candidate has a good skill set from the get-go. She has potential in any non-dangerous surveillance, financial crimes, missing persons, taking witness statements, maybe even car repair fraud.
So your skills come from two subsets. The first is your previous experience in life or work. The second is those skills you will develop as you are becoming a Private Investigator. And that path means PI training.
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR TRAINING – THREE TYPES OF TWOS
There are two kinds of PI training: online and in-person. The companies are located either locally or nationally. Finally, the training is provided by two types of trainer backgrounds: as professional teachers or as actual PI’s.
We recommend learning locally. The laws, rules, and even the culture of professional private investigators varies by state. So it makes sense to learn locally online or otherwise. We also recommend learning from PI’s, but the ideal scenario is a PI who has also been a teacher or tactical trainer. Finally, we believe new private investigators (aka “Rookies”), especially need in-person, live training.
At StriderPI, we are 100% advocates for in-person training. This is why we don’t offer online training, even for OSINT. PI work is hands-on and one simply cannot learn how to evaluate a crime scene, how to read a map and plan a surveillance, or how to get a “1-2-3” case-winning pic without doing it in real life.
We also want to meet future PI’s and feel that they benefit in meeting us. Our instructors include some of the most experienced private investigators in Texas. They are former FBI agents, police academy instructors, detectives, and OSINT Operators (OO’s).
StriderPI’s courses are all “live-action”. We do send videos prior to the course so you can learn the key terms, concepts, and theories. But once students arrive at our school, we make introductions, and then we get down to work – and usually on a real case.
In summary, when choosing your first PI course, think about the difference between online vs. in-person, local vs. national, and what type of teacher. This will guide you in the right direction for you.
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR CAREERS
There are over 80 private investigator niches. Eventually, you will want to focus on 2-3. Or if you are really disciplined, just one!
The best way to find your niche is to try a lot of different cases and missions. But it could also be that your previous experience drives this. For example, a former client wants to become a private investigator in Michigan. His background? Well, for 25 years he was a surgeon. So there is a niche waiting for him if he wants it – accidental death, failed surgeries, anything medically related.
Here are some of the 80 niches for private investigators:
- Cold Case – Missing Person
- Workmen’s Comp. Fraud
- Business Fraud
- Oil Well Monitoring Devices Fraud
- Traffic Accidents
- Hit and Run Driver
- Bail Bond Recovery (aka Bounty Hunter)
- Civil Damage Lawsuits
- Asset Recovery
- and many more!
We also recommend joining a firm for 1-2 years before starting up on your own. It’s best to learn from a pro before launching out on your own. It’s also a good idea to try different things. Before I started my own firm, I worked for three different private investigation firms:
- I worked for a former LAPD Sergeant doing surveillance. One client wanted his younger girlfriend to watch in case she cheated on him. That went on for months. Another client was an insurance company that believed a claim was fraudulent and we watched the house and followed by foot and car. The subject had a hidden second car!
- I worked for a former ICE agent doing criminal defense. She was great at that. I did 25 cases with her. One case involved an attempted rape. We worked for the accused. I didn’t enjoy that. Another case involved a man accused of attempted murder. He didn’t do it. Another case was a 3X armed robbery. Very bad and dumb dude.
- I worked for ACES which is one of the leading PI firms in Texas (see acesprivateinvestigations.com). Eventually, I became their Austin Director and handled all cases in my area. We did everything from mobile to static to technical surveillance. Aces also provides security officers and protection teams. I recommend working for them if you get the chance. It’s a great place to get experience and they are in most Texas cities and some in Florida and Nevada.
If your goal is becoming a private investigator – it is not easy to get full-time work in the PI profession until you have experience and at least one niche where you can demonstrate competence. So that should be the first order of business for any rookie private investigator.
We discuss all of these issues in StriderPI’s training courses for new private investigators. So come join us if you want help getting started in your next career as a Texas Private Investigator. It’s the best job on the planet.
Service as a Texas PI has been the best job I have ever had. I highly encourage you to check it out. If I or my team can be of any assistance, please contact us. Good luck out there!
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.