Private Detectives and Investigators

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Also known as:
Certified Legal Investigator, Licensed Private Investigator, Loss Prevention Detective, Private Detective, Private Eye, Private Investigator, Skip Tracer, Store Detective

ABOUT PRIVATE DETECTIVE AND INVESTIGATOR CAREERS
Video transcript

Movies and TV can make private investigative or detective work look pretty glamorous - but the modern PI is more a researcher than an action hero. Most often, licensed private investigators or detectives round up facts, not felons. Some investigators conduct private inquiries for clients, looking for missing persons or proof of infidelity. But far more people in this field work for stores, hotels, large agencies, or security and risk management companies. Their job is to investigate theft, fraud, and other crimes involving money.

Their tools are computers, phones, and cameras - along with a persuasive manner and a knack for thinking outside the box. They need to be clever, persistent, and resourceful to gather the information their clients need and discreet enough to do it without being noticed.

The work is becoming increasingly specialized. A majority of investigators work for insurance companies on workers' compensation and other claims involving possible fraud. Legal investigators usually work for law firms to help prepare criminal defenses. This might involve locating and interviewing witnesses, serving legal documents and reviewing evidence.

Investigators may have responsibilities as varied as executive protection, record searches, accident re-construction, "de-bugging," and polygraph examinations. There are no formal education requirements for most private detective and investigator jobs, though many in this field hold college degrees. Often they have had related experience working in the military or in law enforcement. People in this field don't mind putting up with the drudgery for some occasional drama, and for them, "being nosy" is a virtue.

SNAPSHOT
Gather, analyze, compile, and report information regarding individuals or organizations to clients, or detect occurrences of unlawful acts or infractions of rules in private establishment.
Leadership
HIGH
Critical decision making
HIGH
Level of responsibilities
LOW
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
HIGH
Dealing and handling conflict
LOW
Competition for this position
HIGH
Communication with others
HIGH
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
HIGH
Comfort of the work setting
HIGH
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
LOW
Exposure to job hazards
LOW
Physical demands
LOW
Daily tasks

Testify at hearings or court trials to present evidence.

Expose fraudulent insurance claims or stolen funds.

Question persons to obtain evidence for cases of divorce, child custody, or missing persons or information about individuals' character or financial status.

Observe and document activities of individuals to detect unlawful acts or to obtain evidence for cases, using binoculars and still or video cameras.

Confer with establishment officials, security departments, police, or postal officials to identify problems, provide information, or receive instructions.

Obtain and analyze information on suspects, crimes, or disturbances to solve cases, to identify criminal activity, or to gather information for court cases.

Search computer databases, credit reports, public records, tax or legal filings, or other resources to locate persons or to compile information for investigations.

Conduct private investigations on a paid basis.

Write reports or case summaries to document investigations.

Conduct personal background investigations, such as pre-employment checks, to obtain information about an individual's character, financial status, or personal history.

MAIN ACTIVITIES
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Analyzing Data or Information Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Law and Government Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
Computers and Electronics Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Clerical Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
Administration and Management Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Public Safety and Security Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Psychology Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
TOP SKILLS
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Complex Problem Solving Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Writing Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Social Perceptiveness Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Active Learning Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.