Private Investigator Schools and Education Options

Many private investigators receive their formal education through degree programs in criminal justice or related areas, such as psychology, criminology and law enforcement. Degrees in criminal justice may range from associate’s degrees to graduate programs, with the framework of these programs often focused on the political, societal and cultural factors that influence crime.

The coursework in private investigator school is often focused on everything from ethics and leadership to crime policy, crime prevention, and decision making.

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Private and Public Investigation Education By State

District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

Criminal Justice/Criminal Science Degrees for Private Investigators

Some of the criminal justice degree programs for private investigators include:

  • Associate of Arts with a concentration in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Justice Administration
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Crime Analysis
  • MBA in Justice Studies

Core curriculum in a criminal science program often includes the following:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Homeland Security
  • Security Management
  • Law Enforcement Operations
  • Report Writing
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Advanced Topics in Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Law
  • The Laws of Evidence
  • Forensic Criminology
  • Social Psychology

Associate’s Degrees

Associate’s degrees in criminal justice or a related program, which typically takes about two years to complete, often teaches students fundamental criminal justice skills, with a basis in the liberal arts and sciences.

Bachelor’s Degrees

Bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, which usually take about 4 years to complete, focus on in-depth training through exploration of policy analysis, management strategies, and criminal law. These programs often provide the opportunity to study a specific area (concentration) of study, such as business administration, management, computer forensics, law enforcement, homeland security, or criminal psychology, just to name a few.

Students who are interested in pursuing private investigation careers in the financial or insurance sectors also often pursue classes in business, economics, and finance, while individuals interested in computer forensics often pursue classes in accounting, business or computer science.

Graduate Degrees

Graduate programs in criminal justice or criminology, which also afford students the opportunity to focus their studies on a particular area of private investigation, are designed to explore the topics of ethics, leadership, crime policy and prevention, and decision making.

Just a few of the topics addressed in a master’s degree program in criminal justice may include:

  • Crime theories
  • Financial management in criminal justice organizations
  • Management and problem solving methods
  • Organizational behavior
  • Professional conduct and standards
  • Victimology

Graduate Certificates

Students majoring in a closely related area of study may also choose to focus their post-bachelor education on a graduate certificate in criminal justice. These graduate certificates, which are often focused on specialized studies in criminal justice and criminology, are reserved for individuals who possess a bachelor’s degree and desire to continue their education as to complete a specialized studies program.

These graduate certificates, which usually consist of about 21 credit hours of work, also include a capstone course or independent study course and culminate in a research paper.

Graduate certificate programs often include coursework in: public policy and criminal justice; criminal law and procedure; criminology; and organizational management.

Certification Programs for Private Investigators

Another common educational path for private investigators is a certificate or career diploma program in private investigation. These programs, which are offered through private investigator schools and are focused solely on the technical skills required to achieve a career in private investigation, usually require the completion of between 15 and 21 credits that take just a few months to complete.

Many times, practicing private investigators will seek these certification programs out, as well, so as to focus their career in a specific area of study and further their education. Generally, however, certification programs focus on investigation and reporting techniques, surveillance requirements and techniques, and ethics and professional responsibility for the new or aspiring private investigator.

Coursework in a professional certification or career diploma program may include:

  • Investigation as a Career
  • Legal Principles and Requirements
  • Communication Skills and Investigation
  • Investigation Business Basics
  • Reporting
  • The Computer and Investigation
  • Observation and Description
  • Surveillance
  • Equipment for Private Investigation
  • Marketing Yourself as a Private Investigator

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