Training is an integral component of any private investigator’s career, as this multi-faceted profession requires a diverse set of skills to achieve success. In fact, training must remain a central focus, both for individuals with aspirations of a career in investigations and for private investigators actively working in the profession.
Training to Become a Private Investigator
Individuals interested in a career as a private detective must first obtain the necessary education and training so as to achieve a comprehensive resume, both for state licensure, which is required for entry into the field of private investigations, and so as to be competitive if looking to secure a job with an existing PI firm.
Currently, 42 states require state licensing to become a private investigator, and another 3 states require licensing at the local level. But before individuals can become licensed in the state in which they work, they generally need to show experience and the completion of some type of education or pre-licensure training.
As such, the completion of educational courses or training courses is an excellent way to: (a) obtain the skills needed to work as a private investigator and (b) satisfy some or all of the education/experience requirements that state licensing bodies enforce.
A formal educational background is often obtained through the completion of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, psychology, or criminology, as these degree programs provide individuals with a basic framework of the criminal justice system, and behavioral psychology, which is a must for private investigators.
A bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice, for example, may include the following coursework:
- Criminal investigations
- Criminal law
- Emergency management
- Justice, crime and ethics
- Public safety research/statistics
Another common path in this field is the completion of an undergraduate academic certificate or diploma. Private investigator diploma or certificate programs are ideal for individuals who want to learn the technical aspects of becoming a private investigator.
These programs offer specific training classes, including:
- Background investigation and research
- Skip tracing and locating missing persons
- Legal investigations
- Business crime investigations
Training Programs to Prepare for Private Investigator State Examinations
Many states require candidates for licensure to successfully complete a state exam that includes topics related to state laws and statutes, legal procedures and definitions, and court systems. State exams for private investigators typically assess a candidate’s knowledge on the following topics:
- State law
- Federal laws
- Court systems
- Legal Procedures and Due Process
- Legal Privacy Requirements
- Criminal and Civil Law
- Surveillance, researching, and interviewing
- Documentation, including report preparation
- Types of investigation
Because of the complexity of these exams and the sheer amount of information covered, it is quite common for individuals to complete a state-approved basic training course before taking the state examination. Although not a requirement for licensure, these programs are an excellent way to prepare to take the state exam, not to mention being a great way to gain knowledge vital to a career in private investigations.
Some schools offer a 40-hour training course in private investigations that are designed to prepare students to take state-specific private investigator exams. Some states require individuals to complete a training program prior to applying for a license as a private investigator. This may include a 60-hour, entry-level training program, which provides them with an introduction to the field of private investigations.
Curriculum in these training programs may include study in:
- Code of Virginia and the Regulations Relating to Private Security
- Constitutional, Civil, and Criminal Law
- General Investigative Techniques
- Types of Investigation
Firearms Training for Private Investigators
Some states allow private investigators to carry weapons or firearms. To qualify to carry a weapon or firearm and receive a state certificate to do so, individuals must complete mandatory firearms training through a program approved by the state.
For example, private investigators in Georgia must complete training through the Georgia Firearm and Training Academy to achieve a Private Detective Concealed Weapons license, while private investigators in Ohio must complete a basic firearm training program at a training school that is approved by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission.
Private Investigator Training through Continuing Education
Many states require, as a condition of a license and firearms certification renewal, the completion of a number of continuing education credits or hours. Continuing education is an excellent way for private investigators to stay current on state laws and regulations and to learn the newest techniques and theories related to the field of private investigation.
Private Investigator Training for Career Specialization
Because the private investigative field is a broad one, with professionals often focusing their careers on everything from insurance fraud investigation and computer forensics to marital fraud and corporate investigation, many private investigators seek additional training so as to gain insight on a specific area of investigations.
For example, private investigators may choose to take courses related to:
- Arson investigation
- Cybercrimes/computer forensics
- Legal investigation
- Financial investigation
- Insurance investigation
- Civil/domestic investigation
- Retail investigation (loss prevention)
There are many private investigator schools that offer these types of private investigation courses, and many state and national private investigator associations offers training courses for their members.