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How to Become a Private Investigator

Do you enjoy checking information and have the ability to think logically? If yes, why not consider starting your own business in private investigation or joining an existing agency to earn a living from what you love to do? 

What do Private Investigators do?

As a private investigator, you will carry out secret enquiries for the clients to find out new or check given information. Normally, you would be expected to:

  • do background research
  • analyse information from a number of different sources, including your own surveillance and observation
  • find missing people or pets
  • investigate frauds
  • help to trace thieves

This list of duties is non-exhaustive, and can include just about everything a client may request you to find out; it is necessary that a private investigator chooses an area of specialisation and focuses on it to build both expertise and a network of useful contacts. 

According to the National Career Service, those planning to start a career in private investigation should have good communication, observational, and analytical skills, know the law, be honest, patient, and self-confident, have basic computer skills, and have the ability to work independently. 

Private investigators often work alone and have only their experience and logic to rely on. Those who manage to turn their private investigation service into a really profitable business can afford hiring people to assist them with the job. 

Industry Regulations

Private investigation is partially regulated by the Private Security Industry Act 2001. According to the act, a special license from the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is required to conduct any type of surveillance, secret enquiries or investigations. Anyone who is involved in private investigation business should have the license or risk a penalty of six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000.  

In 2013 the Home Office announced its plans to develop more elaborate rules that will regulate private investigation starting some time in 2014. New regulations may require that you complete some type of SIA-approved programme before you can apply for a license. 

Entry Requirements and Qualifications 


Because most of private investigators are self-employed, they have to decide what type and how much of training they need. Usually, the choice private investigators make is between the following courses:

Those who have a franchise with a bigger investigation company may have access to professional development programmes as part of the franchise agreement. If you work for an investigation agency, your employer will organise trainings for you. 

Hours and Income

There are no set hours you should work as a private investigator. Neither there are any estimates of starting salaries. Everything will depend on where you work and how successful you are in serving your clients' needs. You will work in an office but will also have to travel to investigate sites or gather information. 

Employers and Career Development

The good news is that the number of opportunities in this area is growing. So, despite fierce competition, you will still have a number of opportunities to choose from.

With experience, you can expand your business and hire new investigators, or be promoted to a senior role within the company, if you choose to start as an agency employee. For the list of investigation agencies that can have some open vacancies for you, visit the following websites:


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