I’ve been a private investigator in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine for a number of years. I love what I do and wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. What about you, though? Have you thought about becoming a private investigator, but just aren’t sure whether it’s the right road?
Being a private investigator isn’t much like Murder She Wrote, the Hardy Boys, Matlock or the Nancy Drew Mysteries. Yes, there’s a lot of “connecting the dots”, but it’s mostly finding and analyzing information. Although footwork comes into it, investigators use computers to gain a lot of information, such as deleted emails, arrest records, convictions, memberships and telephone numbers.
We might call up a subject’s job to verify their income. We might interview people for more information, such as in a missing person case. Most are trained in physical surveillance, either by watching from a vehicle or out of sight, or through cameras, binoculars and GPS systems, to name a few.
Now, it might all sound exciting. However, while you want to gather as much information as possible, you have to keep the law in mind during your investigation. Federal, State and local laws all come into play; you have to be able to make split-second judgment calls when the legality of something isn’t clear. In addition, when collecting evidence you have to know how to make sure the evidence isn’t compromised, so it can be admissible in court.
Although some states don’t require much to become an investigator, others have very strict rules for being licensed. Some types of investigation, such as corporate investigations, may require a post degree. Some may require over 6,000 hours of actual investigation work in an official capacity. The licensing laws change per state, so check with your state to find out what it will take for you.
Is it worth it? Will it be worth it in the future?
Well, security concerns, heightened criminal activity, increased numbers of employee background checks and more all point to a need for private investigators. In fact, the job market for investigators is expected to grow 22% over the next 8 years. However, most don’t have guaranteed incomes; you get what you earn unless you’re salaried through an agency. The hours can be long; there’s no such thing as a “set” eight-hour day. You start when you start and you’re done when you’re done.
Me, I love being a private investigator in four states: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. Each takes slightly different experience for licensing requirements. As a Deputy Sheriff and member or leader of various investigation teams, I’ve been able to grow my skills to expand into several fields of investigation and meet those requirements.
For you, however, only you can decide if it’s really what you want to do. If you think it is, your very first assignment is to gather as much research about private investigation in your state as you can. Find out what it takes and then make your decision.