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Career profile Private Investigator

Also known as Asset Protection Detective, Field Investigator, Investigator, Loss Prevention Agent, Loss Prevention Associate, Loss Prevention Detective, Loss Prevention Investigator, Loss Prevention Officer, Private Investigator, Special Investigator

Private Investigator

Also known as Asset Protection Detective, Field Investigator, Investigator

Interests Profile
  • Enterprising
  • Conventional
  • Realistic
Pay Range
$31,440 - $96,950 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading Comprehension
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Law and Government
  • Administrative
Core tasks
  • Write reports or case summaries to document investigations.
  • Conduct private investigations on a paid basis.
  • Search computer databases, credit reports, public records, tax or legal filings, or other resources to locate persons or to compile information for investigations.
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What does a Private Investigator do?

Private Investigators gather, analyze, compile, and report information regarding individuals or organizations to clients, or detect occurrences of unlawful acts or infractions of rules in private establishment.

What kind of tasks does a Private Investigator perform regularly?

Private Investigators are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Write reports or case summaries to document investigations.
  • Conduct private investigations on a paid basis.
  • Search computer databases, credit reports, public records, tax or legal filings, or other resources to locate persons or to compile information for investigations.
  • Conduct personal background investigations, such as pre-employment checks, to obtain information about an individual's character, financial status, or personal history.
  • Expose fraudulent insurance claims or stolen funds.
  • Obtain and analyze information on suspects, crimes, or disturbances to solve cases, to identify criminal activity, or to gather information for court cases.
  • Testify at hearings or court trials to present evidence.
  • Question persons to obtain evidence for cases of divorce, child custody, or missing persons or information about individuals' character or financial status.
  • Observe and document activities of individuals to detect unlawful acts or to obtain evidence for cases, using binoculars and still or video cameras.
  • Confer with establishment officials, security departments, police, or postal officials to identify problems, provide information, or receive instructions.

The above responsibilities are specific to Private Investigators. More generally, Private Investigators are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

What is a Private Investigator salary?

The median salary for a Private Investigator is $53,320, and the average salary is $60,100. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Private Investigator salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Private Investigators earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Private Investigators earn less than $31,440 per year, 25% earn less than $38,400, 75% earn less than $73,190, and 90% earn less than $96,950.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Private Investigators is expected to change by 13.1%, and there should be roughly 3,500 open positions for Private Investigators every year.

Median annual salary
$53,320
Typical salary range
$31,440 - $96,950
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
13.1%

What personality traits are common among Private Investigators?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Private Investigator are usually higher in their Enterprising and Conventional interests.

Private Investigators typically have very strong Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Also, Private Investigators typically have strong Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Private Investigator tend to value Achievement, Independence, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Private Investigators strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Second, Private Investigators strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Private Investigators moderately value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Private Investigators must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, attention to detail, and dependability.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Private Investigators, ranked by importance:

Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Initiative
Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Independence
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.

What education and training do Private Investigators need?

Private Investigators often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Private Investigators usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Private Investigators

  • 0.6% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 11.8% completed high school or secondary school
  • 20.1% completed some college coursework
  • 11.4% earned a Associate's degree
  • 38.2% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 14.1% earned a Master's degree
  • 3.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Private Investigators

Private Investigators may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, law and government, or administrative knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Private Investigators might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Law and Government
Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
Administrative
Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.

Important Abilities needed by Private Investigators

Private Investigators must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Private Investigators need abilities such as inductive reasoning, oral comprehension, and oral expression in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Private Investigators, ranked by their relative importance.

Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

Critical Skills needed by Private Investigators

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Private Investigators frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and reading comprehension to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Private Investigators, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Complex Problem Solving
Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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