Private Investigators

What Private Investigators Do

Private investigators find facts and analyze information about legal, financial, and personal matters. They offer many services, including verifying people's backgrounds, tracing missing persons, and investigating computer crimes.  Some other duties may include doing live surveillances, undercover investigations, preforming interviews/interrogations and testifying at court hearings (often times as expert witnesses).

Work Environment

Private detectives and investigators work in a number of environments, depending on the case on which they are working. Some spend more time in their offices conducting computer searches and making phone calls, while others spend more time in the field conducting interviews and performing surveillance from a vehicle or in other ways while remaining inconspicuous.

How to Become a Private Investigator

Private investigators in Virginia are required to be registered with the Department of Criminal Justice Services and the company or companies they work for must also be licensed. In order to become a registered private investigator in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a person must be 18 years of age, complete the required 60 certified course, and be a citizen or legal resident alien. Previous experience in investigative work can be beneficial but many firms will train novice investigators.


The median annual wage of private detectives and investigators in the US was $42,870 in May 2010.  Novice private investigators in Virginia starting wage is usually around $20.00 or more an hour.

Job Outlook

Employment of private detectives and investigators is expected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for private detectives and investigators will stem from heightened security concerns and the need to protect confidential information and property of all kinds.

Similar Occupations

Some other occupations that are similar to private investigator are Bail Enforcement Agents (that locate and arrest bail fugitives that refuse to appear in court on the required dates), Personal Protection Specialists (also known as Executive Protection or ‘bodyguards’; that provide close personal protection from body harm to their clients), and Armed Security Officers (who safeguard and protect the lives and property of others).


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