Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Private Investigator?
Posted by Pamela S. on Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
“You’re a PI? I could do that.” I’ve heard that comment a lot, sometimes followed by “I followed my girlfriend, boyfriend, fill in the blanks here…” If you believe you have the guts and determination to become a Private Investigator, read on, but be prepared, I am going to cull the weak from the herd.
Why do you want to be a PI? Over the years, I have had people, and I hate to be sexist, but in this regard, it was mostly men, apply for a PI job because they thought it was exciting and cool. I could tell, although they didn’t voice it, that they thought it would be an in with the ladies, so to speak. Those guys have watched too many movies.
I’ll admit that it can be cool and exciting. There are fascinating, charismatic people in the field, both men and women. They have that aura, not because they are PIs, but because they are intelligent, well rounded individuals. Many investigators have a background in law, psychology, or law enforcement and have life experience that has given them an insight into human behaviour. If you make it in this profession, you will be an advisor, a researcher and sometimes a therapist of sorts.
To be an effective investigator, you have to have these qualities and more. You need to be a strategist and a theorist. You have to be a creative thinker and have a mind open to all possibilities. You also need to be able to see through the bull. You have to be independent but able to work well with a team. You need stamina. If you are a surveillance investigator, you will be spending long hours in a vehicle in extreme weather conditions, drinking coffee to stay awake.
Oh, wait, you won't be drinking much coffee because you can't leave to go the washroom. Are you still interested? I have taken many want-to-be investigators out on surveillance and some didn’t make it through the day, because they realized they couldn’t handle it. It appears easy, but some people can't spend that much time alone, or keep their mind active. They fall asleep, or become so bored that they are crawling out of their skin.
You also have to be a chameleon, able to adapt and fit in to any situation. You MUST be able to write a professional report. There are other qualities that are harder to describe. Read my post on “Going with your Gut: Intuition and the Investigative Process.”
So let’s say you have all of these qualities. You can have a long and rewarding career. As long as you have what it takes, you can keep going and going. Many law enforcement professionals become private investigators when they retire from their first career. I recently retired as a PI after 28 years, but only because I have health issues.
Get an education. It helps if you are well re
ad and keep up with current events. When I became a PI, there were no college courses, you joined an agency and they trained you. Over the years, we have kept pace with hiring trends for other industries. In most cases education and professional training is mandatory.
Each state has its own regulations regarding licensing requirements and some are much stricter than others.
You can obtain training through state approved colleges or private institutions that offer the appropriate courses.
Florida has some of the strictest regulations in the U.S. An investigator in Florida must be licensed. Private investigators are regulated and licensed through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
From their website:
“The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Licensing, licenses and regulates the private investigative industry in accordance with Chapter 493, Florida Statutes. Private investigators and private investigative agencies serve in positions of trust. Untrained and unlicensed persons or businesses, or persons not of good moral character, are a threat to the public safety and welfare. The private investigative industry is regulated to ensure the interests of the public are adequately served and protected.”
I won’t go into the requirements, because it would take more than this post to explain, but you can access the information and forms from their website here.
A private investigator in Florida has to have extensive training, experience, and pass a government test to obtain a CLASS “CC” intern license and then a CLASS “C” PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR LICENSE.
If this all sounds too much for you, you can pick yourself off of the sunny shores of Florida and move to Alaska, where the the only requirement is obtaining a business licence.
As someone who spent many years conducting surveillance in the north part of the country, I can tell you that it isn't fun. Or you could move to Alabama, Idaho, or Mississippi. But like many of our subjects, you can run, but you can’t hide. Sooner or later, every state will require investigators to be trained and licensed.
I know that there are great investigators in those states. As someone who was trained the old school way, on the job, I respect people who forge their own path when there is no set route. Even if you live in a state that doesn't require it, taking college courses in police sciences or any related field will make you a better investigator.
I have taken numerous courses over the years and no matter how long you have been in this business, you should never stop learning. I think that applies to every profession.
If you are serious about a career in private investigation, do your research. If you can’t research becoming a private investigator, you won’t make it. There are numerous sites online with this information.
Most experienced investigators or investigation agencies will be happy to talk to you, give you the straight goods, and advise you on the best way to become a private investigator. Our industry is growing and we welcome new people who have the skills and passion that we have.
Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.