Private Investigator at a Glance

Projected Job Growth

  • +0% Job Growth for
    Private Investigator

  • 2013
  • 2023

Average Salary for Private Investigator

  • $0 Annual Pay
    National Average
  • $0 Hourly Pay
    National Average

Best States for Private Investigator

in 2011
Annual Salary
Hourly Pay
New York 3,220 $52,430 $25
Maryland 1,270 $41,700 $20
South Dakota 160 $33,720 $16

Becoming a Private Investigator

Typically, a potential private investigator can find a job without a degree, although most employers and clients will expect the candidate to have completed at least some college. At a minimum, private investigators must have a high school diploma or equivalent. In lieu of a degree, some experience with problem-solving and communication in a professional area could help a candidate find employment. For inexperienced new hires, some employers may administer on-the-job training.

Although degrees are not required, they can be instrumental in helping a potential private investigator stand out among a pool of applicants. Earning an associate or bachelor's degree in a criminal justice field will prove that the applicant has knowledge of the law and experience with criminal cases, background checks, and evidence collection. The best criminal justice programs will also teach future private investigators how to use different surveillance and computer equipment. Common classes for prospective private investigators include the following:

  • Criminal Law
  • Written Communication
  • Undercover Investigations
  • Case Management

Whether or not a candidate chooses to earn a private investigator degree, he or she will need to become licensed before being permitted to practice. Licensing requirements vary by state. Generally, however, private investigators must become fingerprinted and entered into the state system, which ensures that they will be on file in the event that they commit crimes. Additionally, private investigators must have clean criminal records and must be a citizen of the United States.

After those requirements are met, students may be asked to fill out an application for licensure. Some state licenses require proof of professional work within an investigative field, while others may require a degree in criminal justice. Some may also request professional reference letters. To learn more about the requirements for earning a private investigator license, visit your state's official website.