How do I become a Private Investigator?

Who makes a good Private Investigator?

The best private investigators in the world are those individuals who possess a combination of special traits:

  • An analytical mind
  • A curious mind
  • Are detail oriented
  • Methodical and unrelenting
  • Unorthodox thinker
  • Respects the rules, but always questioning
  • Has both mental and physical endurance

What are the requirements for licensing?

Licensing for becoming a private investigator has become much stricter over the last decade and is regulated at the state level. Most states require a combination of previous work experience, education, state testing, and continuing education. Many states are starting to offer reciprocity between each other as many investigations will cross state lines. For those states without reciprocity, investigators can sub-contract and partner with investigators licensed in that state.

Florida private investigator licensing is controlled by the Florida Department of Agriculture, and has three licensing categories:

Private Investigator:

            To become a fully licensed private investigator in the State of Florida one must:

    • Be at least 18 years old
    • Have 2-years of documented work experience pertaining to some form of investigations. Experience that may qualify:
      • Former Law Enforcement Special Agent, Detective, or Analyst
      • Intelligence Analyst
      • Forensic Accountant
      • Digital Forensic Analyst
    • Relevant accredited education can be used to substitute 1 year of experience.
    • Pass a 2-hour state exam covering sections 493.6100 through 493.6203, and Section 493.6301(5), Florida Statutes

Private Investigator Intern:

If an individual does not possess the relevant occupational and education history required to be a private investigator, they can apply for a private investigator intern license and seek sponsorship from a licensed private investigation agency. This individual must maintain their internship and license within good standing for a minimum of 2 years under close supervision of a fully licensed private investigator. At the end of the 2-year internship, the intern may apply for their private investigator license.

Armed Investigator:

Many states, including Florida, allow private investigators to be armed during the course of their duties. In the case of Florida, private investigators are also permitted to perform executive protection duties as non-uniformed personal security. The license to be an armed private investigator in the state of Florida is known as a “G License”. This license requires private investigators to undergo a 28-hour firearms course provided by a K-licensed instructor, with annual 4-hour requalification courses and examinations. Investigators are permitted to be licensed to carry 9mm, .45 ACP, .40, .380, and 38 special. Investigators must score 168/240 points over a course of fire involving 48 rounds.

How do you become a specialist?

Most private investigators are a one-man jack of all trades/master of none. However, many investigators can and do specialize. Private investigators who specialize tend to come from more elite backgrounds in business, intelligence, federal law enforcement, forensics, and accounting. They will tend to have higher levels of education in more difficult fields of study like STEM, Finance, Accounting, and Law. While it is a long road, the advantage of specializing is that these investigators can typically command double or triple the standard private investigator rates, while working much more challenging and interesting cases.

Examples of specialized investigative fields are:

  • Corporate Investigators
  • Fraud Investigators
  • Forensic Accountants
  • Digital Forensic Analysts
  • Cyber Crimes Investigator
  • Arson Investigator
  • Accident Reconstruction Investigator


What is the lifestyle like?

The lifestyle of a private investigator varies greatly and in recent years has changed drastically. A few decades ago, a private investigator would find themselves on the road or at a courthouse daily. These days the majority of the job is done from behind a computer, leaving the office to verify information or collect information that is not available online. Still, this varies greatly on the type of investigator. Insurance and domestic investigators will still find themselves sitting in a car for hours drinking their coffee while watching a suspect with an unblinking eye. Corporate investigators may find themselves sifting through reports, attending board meetings in suits, and giving briefings to the C-suite. The lifestyle of a private investigator is what a private investigator makes it. It really is a good career for the intelligent outsider who likes to go their own way in life.

How much does a Private Investigator make?

Private Investigators will typically charge hourly rates or per project, similar to an attorney. Like attorneys, their rates will vary based on experience, specialty, and the reputation of the firm they work for. At the lower end, domestic and insurance private investigators working for commercial low-end agencies will make between 20-55 dollars an hour. Private investigation firms with a good reputation that can perform some specialized work will charge between 125-250 dollars an hour. On the higher end, private investigation firms consisting only of specialists and investigators with extremely elite backgrounds will charge between 200-600 dollars an hour.

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