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Private investigator PI

Private investigators carry out enquiries for their clients to find out information and check facts.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements.

Experience working in an enforcement or investigative role, like with the police, armed forces or local authority, would be useful. 

If you want to be self-employed, you’ll need the ability to run your own business and have some legal knowledge around information laws and data protection.

A driving licence is usually essential for this type of work.

The Association of British Investigators has more information about becoming a private investigator.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • good spoken and written communication skills
  • excellent observational skills
  • strong analytical skills
  • self-confidence to present information in court
  • basic IT skills
  • empathy with clients who may be distressed by your findings

3. What you'll do

Your cases could range from personal issues, like divorce, to company issues, like suspected theft. You’ll normally do background research, which may involve asking questions and analysing information.

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • monitoring people
  • fraud investigation (for example, for insurance or accident claims)
  • tracing missing people or pets
  • handling legal documents to people (process serving)
  • investigating commercial piracy (like copying software illegally)
  • background checks on employees

4. Salary

Salaries will vary and can depend on many factors, like whether you’re self-employed, working for an organisation, the type of case and the length of the investigation.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your hours of work could be long, irregular and may include nights and weekends.

You’ll work at home or in an office, but you’ll also spend a lot of time travelling and gathering information.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could progress to senior investigator or team manager, or set up your own agency and have other investigators working for you.

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Last updated: 08 December 2016