User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show.

A private detective or investigator is hired by individuals, law firms, corporations and celebrities to investigate a wayward employee, a cheating spouse, or a possible witness to a criminal court case. They also provide private protection to celebrities. Private investigators (PIs) are also employed to find missing persons. Insurance agencies hire PIs to do surveillance in connection with insurance fraud investigations. Private detectives don't work observe from a safe distance. They also use global positioning system (GPS) to track their intended target. Internet research is pertinent to investigators who do background checks on prospective employees. They use the Internet to search for previous addresses, work and criminal histories, and even driving records. Some investigators might have to carry a gun, so it's best to know your state's licensing requirements for concealed weapons permits as a private detective or investigator.


Legal investigators can serve legal documents and try to find potential witnesses and evidence in criminal and civil trials. A computer forensic investigator looks for relevant deleted information on a computer. Corporate investigators look for employees who might have stolen assets from a company. The financial investigator is really a certified public accountant searching for hidden or misappropriated money in financial records. These investigators can work in law firms or corporations, but often freelance.

Where Detectives Work

Detectives can work for retail stores and hotels. Detectives at retail stores assist in loss prevention for the store. They look for shoplifters and stop them when they try to leave the store with merchandise. Loss prevention can also be internal, looking for employees who might be stealing from the store. Hotel detectives are really there to give guests peace of mind that they will be safe and their valuables will be protected.

Education for Detectives

There is no formal educational requirement to become a a private detective or investigator. Some detectives might already have a degree in criminal justice or computer science. You can also take online courses in criminal justice or police science.

Licensing of Investigators

Licensing requirements for detectives and investigators vary from state to state. Check with your state to find out what the requirements are to become a private detective or investigator. A good website to check out is


The average annual salary for an investigator is $42,000 to $78,000.