Private investigators (PIs) make enquiries on behalf of their clients to find out information and check facts.
Salary range: Variable
How to become a private investigator
You can get into this job through:
- a college course
- working towards this role
- applying directly
- a specialist course offered by a professional body
You could do the Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Private Investigation.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
If you’re already in the police force you could be selected to complete the National Investigators’ Examination and be a private investigator for the police.
There are currently no set entry requirements to become a private investigator.
Experience working in an enforcement or investigative role, with the police, armed forces or local authority, would be useful.
You can do a private Investigator course through a professional body or private training organisation.
If you want to be self-employed, you’ll need the ability to run your own business and have some legal knowledge around information laws and data protection.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- customer service skills
- excellent verbal communication skills
- active listening skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- the ability to use your initiative
- persistence and determination
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- analytical thinking skills
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll usually need to have a driving licence.
Although private investigator licensing is subject to approval, the government’s intention is to regulate this industry, by making it a criminal offence to operate as a private investigator without a licence.
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day duties might include:
- monitoring people
- investigating fraudulent insurance or accident claims
- tracing missing people or pets
- handing legal documents to people, known as process serving
- investigating commercial piracy, like copying software illegally
- making background checks on employees
You could work in an office or from home.
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could become a senior investigator or team manager, or set up your own agency and have other investigators working for you.