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Nov 15, 2019 01:51 PM EST

How to Become a Private Investigator

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How to Become a Private Investigator

(Photo : How to Become a Private Investigator)

Private investigators (PIs) are individuals hired to investigate an issue for their clients, who vary from individuals to corporations. They may be investigating personal matters or looking in to business issues. Some private investigators may opt to specialize in specific investigative areas, which enables them to draw on the specific skills they have. For example, an individual who has a background in accounting may be most interested in investigating financial matters. Others may opt to take a wide range of different cases. Those considering a career in this field will find opportunities to work alone or with a team. Some may opt to prepare specifically for this career, or pursue PI work following a career in another field.

General Requirements

In order to work as a PI, you must have a high school diploma. Most states have specific requirements for PIs that need to be met. You can run a free criminal check to ensure nothing in your history is going to impede your ability to qualify for a license. This report will often include extensive information about your identity and background, and it often helps to check this information before anyone else does. This gives you time to clear up any errors should there be any. Completing an online learning self-assessment will also confirm that this is a career field suited to your skills and interests. In addition to good communication skills, PIs must be able to make good decisions and be thorough. Leads must be explored and eliminated or confirmed with facts. This is why good PIs don't rush to assumptions or skip potential avenues of investigation.

PIs with Career Experience

It is common for individuals to move to private investigation after acquiring years of experience in another career. Retired police officers make ideal PIs because they have spent years investigating criminal complaints and questioning witnesses and suspects. They also understand the requirements for legal proceedings. This is advantageous if a client hopes to pursue criminal charges over a serious matter. Former paralegals also have legal knowledge and research skills that can make them ideal PIs. Those with a background in accounting or bookkeeping may be ideally suited to investigating financial matters and should have good analytical skills and be detail-oriented.

Licensing and Certification

PIs need to check the licensing requirements that are applicable where they work and fulfill those requirements. Some states require licensing applicants to have U.S. citizenship and prior experience in a related field, such as law enforcement. There are also certification options. ASIS International is a professional organization that offers a Professional Certified Investigator credential for those pursuing a career as a PI. Those interested in becoming a Certified Legal Investigator can complete their credentials through the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI).

Relevant Education

Although only a high school diploma is required to become a PI, these professionals often have relevant work experience in fields that require postsecondary education. Paralegals typically have an associate's degree in paralegal studies, for example. It's common for bookkeepers to study math or accounting at the postsecondary level. Computer skills are essential for all of these career fields, and they are important for PIs. A lot of information can be found through the Internet, and knowing how to perform effective and thorough searches on companies, issues, and individuals is crucial for PIs. Studying criminal justice in college is also a good way to prepare for a career as a PI.

Dispelling Myths

Although classic crime movies and novels present the PI as a man in a fedora who works on their own and is committed to finding the truth, that's fiction. Real PIs often work for companies and may operate as part of a team. Some may spend most of their time working at a computer while others will spend their day in an office reviewing financial documents and related paperwork.

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