Online private investigation degrees are most commonly offered at the associate degree level and equip students with skills in investigative surveillance and field investigation, interviewing sources, Internet research, and fraud and insurance investigation. Students are taught how to explore public records and prepare investigative reports for their clients. Some programs even explore the business side of private investigation, such as billing clients for services and marketing their services.
While private investigation is similar in some regard to police investigation, the difference is that police investigators are sworn law enforcement officers and private investigators are private citizens. While police investigators only conduct criminal investigations, private investigators also perform identity and character verifications, investigate the cause of fires and property damage for insurance purposes, and may even be hired by someone to find out if their spouse is cheating on them. Therefore, the skills taught in an online private investigation program will differ significantly from skills taught in a police studies or police administration program.
Course work in an online private investigation program will explore computer crimes and financial fraud, strategies for conducting missing persons investigations, case management, and investigation techniques and processes. Students will also learn about all the types of investigation that can be conducted by a private investigator, from locating heirs to ensure they receive their inheritance, to bounty hunting.
While the most fitting career for a private investigation graduate is a private detective or investigator, some may pursue public police detective work, provided they have the right experience for the job. A sampling of job titles in private investigation includes computer forensic investigator, legal investigator, corporate investigator, and financial investigator, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).