Private Investigator

Quick Facts: Private Detectives and Investigators
2012 Median Pay $45,740 per year
$21.99 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation Less than 5 years
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 30,000
Job Outlook, 2012-22 11% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 3,300

What Private Detectives and Investigators Do

Private detectives and investigators find facts and analyze information about legal, financial, and personal matters. They offer many services, including verifying people’s backgrounds, finding missing persons, and investigating computer crimes.

Work Environment

Private detectives and investigators work in many places, depending on the case. Some spend more time in offices doing computer searches, while others spend more time in the field conducting interviews and performing surveillance. They often work irregular hours. About 1 in 5 were self-employed in 2012.

How to Become a Private Detective or Investigator

Private detectives and investigators mostly need several years of work experience in law enforcement. Workers must also have a high school diploma, and the vast majority of states require private detectives and investigators to have a license.


The median annual wage for private detectives and investigators was $45,740 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of private detectives and investigators is projected to grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for private detectives and investigators will stem from security concerns and the need to protect confidential information. Strong competition can be expected for jobs.


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