Are you the type of person that sees things that go unnoticed to most people? Are you capable of keeping things confidential when the need arises? If you answered yes to both questions then you should consider pursuing a career related to private and public investigating. While most colleges and universities do not have a bachelor's degree program that is specific to investigating, it is still possible for interested individuals to obtain a formal degree relative to their career goals. Typically, individuals who desire to become an investigator choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree that focuses on criminal justice.
This allows these individuals to receive formal training that teach them to conduct investigative police work that involves gathering evidence and verifying the accuracy of facts that are generally used in criminal investigations. Of course, before working to become a public or private investigator you will need to obtain your high school diploma, or the equivalent. Keep in mind, a solid GPA that is recorded on your high school transcript, along with satisfactory SAT examination scores will surely allow you to gain admittance to a reputable college or university of your choosing. It is important to note that many learning institutions offer a two year program that will result in you being able to practice as an investigator. Should you decide to pursue this educational path first, then it is highly likely that your course work will be applicable as you begin working on your bachelor's degree program.
Typically, individuals who want to have a career as a private or public investigator choose to pursue a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice. This allows students to study the nature of crimes, how society responds to crime, and the theory and practice as it relates to our criminal justice system. Upon completion of the bachelor's degree program, graduates should have a thorough understanding of the behaviors that generally can be expected from legal practitioners, offenders, and victims and how law enforcement personnel operate within our legal framework.
The courses required by a bachelor's degree in criminal justice may include: patterns and typologies, criminology, criminal procedure, evidence management, crime analysis, intelligence analysis, and white collar crimes. Of course, an individual who is focusing his or her education on a future career in investigation will likely want to choose courses that are tailored to this career path. Keep in mind, the specific courses that are required by this degree program may vary some depending on the college or university you decide to attend.
Following graduation, your bachelor's degree in private investigation or criminal justice will prepare you for a career as an investigator in many areas. For instance, there are many employment opportunities for investigators in the federal sector of our society. Furthermore, if you are fluent in more than one language then you will surely stand out against fellow job seekers. Being bilingual is a definite advantage in this career path.
If you are considering enrolling in a school to earn your Bachelor’s degree in Private Investigation or even your certificate then you’ll take courses related to the PI industry. Some of the more common courses you’ll take during your degree training include:
- Investigative Practices
- Security and Undercover Work
- Interviewing Techniques
- Firearm Use
- Surveillance Techniques
- Homeland Security & Management
- Field Assignments
- Social Psychology
One thing about becoming a private investigator is you’ll work with a lot of different clients. Many PI’s specialize in a certain service that they are good at and have the proper resources to help their clients with.
Surveillance – As a PI that focuses in on surveillance you’ll spend long hours recording video and the movements of individuals. Surveillance can be done during the day or night and often the goal is to establish a pattern of movement for your clients.
Insurance Companies – Often insurance companies hire private investigators to help with bogus insurance claims. Fraud is big business and insurance companies would rather hire a PI on a big claim than pay out. The biggest type of fraud is injury from an accident.
Child Custody – When it comes to child custody often the husband or wife will employ a PI to dig up information on the other spouse. This info can show the courts they aren’t fit to raise the child and often is used to get custody if it is proven they are not fit.
Workers Comp – Getting injured on the job and suing an employee is a billion dollar business and each year companies are sued with bogus claims. Companies sometimes hire full-time private investigators to help crack cases and avoid paying out workers comp claims.
Skip Tracing – If someone jumped bail and didn’t show up in court or to a hearing then besides bounty hunters sometimes PI’s are called. If a case goes cold and perhaps the amount of bond is high sometimes private investigators can be called in to take over.
One of the hardest things to do when you graduate is decide if you are going to go into business for yourself or if you are going to join an existing PI team. The advantages of joining an established company is you don’t have to find your own clients. The disadvantage is your pay is lower. Many PI’s first start out learning the ropes for a few years before they start their own business. Once you own your own business try marketing your service by:
Pro Bono: You can’t do it all the time but you can offer your private investigation services free of charge or at minimum at a big discount for new clients. This helps get your name out in the area you are working.
Flyers: If you focus on attorneys that use PI’s it can lead to a good long lasting relationship. Clients like attorneys often hire PI’s for all sorts of investigation work.
Community – If you live in a small community then get involved, especially if you are the only one or one of just a few PI’s in your town. Personally I grew up in a small town of under 8000 residents and we have one individual who was the only PI within a 200 mile radius of the town. Everyone knew him and knew how to get ahold of him if they needed anything.
Referrals: Probably the best way to gain new business if from referrals. Ask your friends, neighbors and co-workers if they need help with anything. If something comes up they will have your business card to call.
Have a Niche: One way to really drum up business is to be known for a particular niche. If all of your clients need skip trace work then overtime you’ll be known for that. By having a niche you’ll also learn how to conduct those investigations quicker and be able to take on more than a few clients at a time.
Online Marketing: Those who are internet savvy can promote their private eye business online. You can buy advertising, build a website and even get it ranked in your area for the services you offer.