The job of a licensed private investigator, also known as a private detective, is to help people by gathering information that is used to answer questions or solve mysteries. Investigators may choose to specialize in certain areas, but many offer a broad range of services to their clients. Some examples of the types of work they do include background checks, locating missing people, and solving identity theft problems. They are also frequently asked to gather proof when individuals are suspected of wrongdoing like misrepresenting themselves in child custody battles, being unfaithful to their spouses, or making false insurance claims. Private investigators can also serve diverse types of clients. They may work for individual people, lawyers, businesses, and sometimes law enforcement.
The requirements to become a licensed private investigator vary quite a bit between different states. In the United States, all states except for Missouri, Colorado, Mississippi, Alaska, Alabama, South Dakota, and Idaho have laws that require them to get a license. Even in these places, there may still be city or county regulations that have to be followed. The actual requirements are also different in various locations, with some being much more strict than others. It's essential to do some research before setting up shop as a private investigator. The most common criteria that must be met are being at least 18 years old and having a clean background with no criminal history. There may be written tests that have to be passed in order to get a license.
Some places also require a certain level of education, which can mean either a specific number of hours spent in training, or the attainment of a formal degree. However, many private investigators enter the field with little college experience or only a high school diploma. Whether or not it's a requirement in a particular state, it is usually very helpful to attend school for a field like criminal justice or political science.
Most people who become private investigators have previous experience in a similar line of work. This could mean working in law enforcement, the legal field, security, serving in the military, or another field that is related to investigation. Having this type of on-the-job training is extremely useful, especially if one is going to become a self-employed private investigator and work alone. Related experience is usually considered acceptable in place of education for employers who hire private detectives. It's also possible to break into the field with virtually no training in some places, as there are employers who place a high value on personality and don't mind taking the time to teach the right candidates.
In addition to becoming licensed by the government, private investigators can also get certified by professional organizations. The requirements for this tend to be more strict than those set forth by law, and they can include written tests and a minimum level of experience and education, among other things. While certification is optional, it can provide the benefit of helping an individual further his career.