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Private Investigator Business Idea

If you enjoy solving mysteries, then maybe you should learn how to become a private investigator.

Private investigators (also called private detectives) help individuals, businesses and attorneys get information. When many people think of investigators, they think of fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes or more recently, Magnum P.I.

In movies the private detective skulks around outside the subject’s house, and invariably ends up in a fist fight or shoot out.

While some of that may be accurate (the skulking around part at least), the truth is that the private investigation can very sophisticated. Figuring out how to become a private investigator can take time.

Many private investigators (P.I.s for short) have backgrounds in law enforcement or the military. Increasingly, there is a need for P.I.s with accounting or computer backgrounds.

What a Private Investigator Does

A P.I. is hired by a client to solve a problem. It may be a spouse suspecting infidelity, or a CEO suspecting fraud, or a fire chief suspecting arson. The investigator will research, interview and watch for clues, then prepare a report with his findings.

How To Become A Private Investigator – P.I. Training

While you can get training through a private investigator school, you can also follow the path of other private investigators who have college degrees, or who complete college classes in the judicial system, journalism, communication and photography.

If you want to become a private detective, you might also contact a P.I. firm and volunteer your services as an intern.

Some states require P.I.s to have licenses, so check your state’s requirements.


After you learn how to be become a private investigator and you gain experience, you may want to specialize in a specific area that utilizes your background and interest.

  • If you enjoy working on computers, you might work for a company that investigates identity theft.
  • An interest in science or chemistry might make you the fire chief’s first call to investigate a suspicious fire.
  • If you are interested in law, you can locate and interview witnesses to help attorneys build a criminal case.
  • A keen eye for numbers may help you investigate wrongdoings in corporate finances.
  • Got a human resources background? Pre-employment verification may be the field for you.
  • For a psychology lover, investigating suspected infidelity will give you a bird’s eye view of the human psyche.
  • Private investigators may also help guard celebrities or work in stores or hotels to guard property.

What You’ll Need to be a P.I.

To be a P.I., you’ll need great attention to detail. Clues may be small and numerous, and you’ll need to pay attention to all of them. Communication is also important: in order to get information, you’ll need to be able to communicate (interview/question) effectively, and pull together clues in an unbiased way.

Creative thinking and persistence are also necessary personality traits. Take caution: sometimes the work can be dangerous—not everyone is receptive to being investigated. A course in self-defense may be very useful.

Depending on the type of work you’re doing, you will need a reliable car for surveillance, a computer for Internet research, a cell phone, a long-range camera and a recording device.

If you’re thinking about starting a home business, researching this field and learning how to become a private investigator may give you all the clues you need.

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