2020 forecast - what happens to salaries if the Colorado private investigator licensing law is sunset?
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook the private detective industry is expected to grow 8% between 2018 and 2028. The annual wage average was $50,090 in 2018 as "demand for private detectives and investigators will stem from security concerns and from the need to protect confidential information." The project that the field is expected to continue attracting qualified people, "including relatively young retirees from law enforcement and the military. Candidates with related work experience, as well as those with strong interviewing skills and familiarity with computers, may find more job opportunities than others," they add. But what happens to this playing field if the mandatory licensing law is taken away?
In effort to obtain an answer by zooming in on Colorado specific-data, I punched in the address of the Ross Investigators, PC, Inc., 1665 Grant St. #304, Denver, CO. 80203 What do the earnings of Colorado private investigators working in or nearby the firm look like now under the current licensing program.
Note that the local and regional salary growth projections do not take into account the late 2019 numbers which may have been impacted by the Department of Regulatory agencies' Sunset Report and DORA's subsequent decision to end the Colorado licensing program by the end of 2020.
Colorado's mandatory licensing program has been in place for half a decade and projecting salaries based on these numbers is problematic but they are still worth looking at.
See also: Colorado Department of Regulatory Agency 2019 Sunset Review recommends the General Assembly sunset to Colorado Private Investigator Licensing Program
Honing in on states without licensing programs --there are only five of them-- might shake things up a bit. Or at least make them more interesting. What happens in states where anyone can hang a shingle and proclaim themselves a private eye? Will the field become saturated or will the cream rise to the top anyway? If DORA's plan to sunset the private investigator licensing program goes through by the end of 2020 will the field become more or less competitive?
The impact of state licensing programs on private investigator salaries
The BLS provides a comprehensive median salary range breakdown for most but not all of those states if you isolate the stats. Wyoming is the only relevant data that is missing.
South Dakota, at $17,770 annually below the national average and $8.54 annually below the national average wins the Golden Raspberry or Razzie for worst salary in an unlicensed state. Boooo South Dakota!Of the five states in the country that don't have licensing programs, fifty percent have salaries that fall below the national average and fifty percent have salaries that exceed the national average. Colorado hovers around the average salary with Denver and the surrounding metro area (which includes Aurora, Lakewood, Englewood, Parker, Castle Rock, Glendale and Boulder).
Colorado's local salary averages do not take real estate, cost of living, unemployment rates or health insurance costs into account. What can we learn from them, regardless. More importantly, is Colorado at risk of becoming another South Dakota or Mississippi which hails at $9,920 annually below the national average?
Perhaps if DORA successfully sunsets the Colorado licensing law salaries will stay the same. Because sure, anyone can hang a shingle but consumers know how to disseminate between whose real-deal and whose not. Or do they?
The Denver Private Investigator Blog will continue to report on this topic. If you are a stakeholder who wants to weigh in, please contact us via email, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
If you visit Trustify’s LinkedIn listing you’ll see an announcement that reads: "Trustify has 34 job openings - find the one for you." Positions titled “Marketing Content Copywriter” and “Content Producer” include great benefits. The listings, posted a month ago, also boast of a new and presumably improved mission dedicated to, “democratizing access to private investigation and intelligences services.” Does this mean the Arlington, Virginia based multi-million venture capital backed tech startup once poised to disrupt the private investigator industry is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the dumpster fire of law suits that’s been following its demise?
Click on “apply” and get directed to a “This job is not available anymore” notification that was presumably posted and managed by a LinkedIn admin. Perhaps the position was filled? Scroll down to a heartfelt statement by Trustify founders, Danny Boice and Jennifer Mellon. After basking in the rays of their “God given mission” and reiterating several times that they regard employees as “family,” the couple concludes by praying for the opportunity to demonstrate their transparency to prospective employees.
Boice and Mellon's prayers evidently do not apply to former Trustify employees, Matthew Scott, Elisabeth Nugent, Kevin Wiggins, Stacy Blackburn, Bey Wesley, Matthew Blanchard, Bernadette Vielhaber and Andrew Little who just won a $260,000 judgement against the company for several weeks backpay, lost wages, damages and labor law violations. In addition to the most current coverage, Glen Helman’s Driven Forward blog posts includes a tally of all six of Trustify’s litigants complete with type, status, amount and an outstanding tab of $1,627,206.99.
Click through to Trustify’s derelict website and explore the catacombs of the former landing page. The skeletal remains of a footer note the celebrated and ostracized, “$99/hour” private investigator service with no retainer fee. Boice, his wife (the couple is separated now) and their staff sold PI services to people who wouldn’t ordinarily hire a private detective because the expense was prohibitive. Then private investigators with whom Trustify subcontracted took home $30 of what could be as much as a $99 hourly pay. In the era of the venture capital backed app, why not use the Uber model to make ridesharing more affordable for everyone? (As a freelance writer who lives paycheck to paycheck, I can totally understand the appeal.)
The Occupational Employment Statistics put out by the US Department of Labor put median 2018 hourly rate for private investigators in the United States at $27.50. While the PIs that I know, personally, tend to earn more, this was the average reported by the BLS in 2018.
Many independently employed private detectives can charge higher than the national average of $27 for their services because they have more experience than most of their competitors. Some have journalism degrees and others are former police and military. Some even have law degrees and all this is reflected in the price point.
It would be challenging, though not impossible, for a Colorado PI to sustain him or herself if they charged the median hourly wage in a state where even the small town residents pay big bucks for food and shelter. A recent Lending Tree study reported on CBS that Breckinridge, Colorado and Steamboat Springs, Colorado both made the top ten for most expensive towns in the country list. Boulder is the most expensive city in Colorado and with a median income there of $71,540 and with Denver skyrocketing it is not surprising people living and working in these regions need to be charging more and working more hours.
Several Colorado private investigators who were willing to give Trustify a go during their lean times informed me that because the service hadn’t properly vetted clients and provided no reimbursements for travel or database subscriptions, it wasn’t a viable investment of their time and energy. Consequently they stopped using the service to try and find work.
(Part 2 of 2 coming soon)
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blog
Denver comes in 11th on the list of private investigator salaries nationwide. Does that mean that if you're a private investigator living in Colorado you should migrate to NYC? Not necessarily .
Claiming to see salaries "as high as $99,500 and as low as $22,500, the majority of Entry Level Private Investigator salaries currently range between $34,500 (25th percentile) to $46,000 (75th percentile) across the United States" according to Zip Recruiter's national chart dated September 2, 2019. But where are they getting their data? And how many private investigators are they speaking to? "The average pay range for an Entry Level Private Investigator varies little (about $11,500), which suggests that regardless of location, there are not many opportunities for increased pay or advancement, even with several years of experience" reflects an anonymous analysis on another part of their website. And they may be onto something.
Putting the data together enables you to compare a private investigator living in New York City to Denver and other major cities in the US. Most can expect an average annual salary of $49,268 as of August 26, 2019 and an average annual pay for an Entry Level Private Investigator in the United States averaging $46,587 a year. Does this mean that the highest average private investigator salary in the country is just $2,681 shy of what the highest earning PIs in the country make?
Zip Recruiter's post unfortunately, also falls short in providing the number of jobs surveyed. Previous years' Labor Day posts discussing salary pulls data from the United States Census Bureau and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics provide the most comprehensive results however recruitments sites rolling out salary data based on the jobs posted on the site are also useful. Moreover, reviewing and discussing salary with your colleagues is, according to Adam Conover, the best way to bridge the income inequality gap and this is a clip of Conover's rundown if you'd like to know more:
Back to recruitment site data though: if you're following recruiter sites, they update frequently and tend to provide local as well as national analysis. This makes it worth the effort, despite the fact it's not as comprehensive as government sites or sites using government data.
Glassdoor's comparisons, which were updated July 29, 2019, list the average base pay at $53,854 but lists entry at $45,318 which is in Zip Recruiter's ballpark. But GlassDoor provides additional options that allow viewers to compare bonuses and see how large firms compare to small firms. Spoiler alert: larger firms pay better. GlassDoor also offers recent anonymously shared salary reports which, although also unverified, provide feedback from someone who was actually employed rather than something a job poster submits.
Could Glassdoor be amalgamating too many listings which range from topics as broad as "Environmental Health Investigator" for the City and County of Denver to "Cyber Coder Fraud Investigative Analysis" for Cyber Coders. Absolutely. Is it nevertheless a viable resource to include in your research? Yes it is.
Indeed's rundown of PI salaries is the outlier in so far as they actually include the number of salaries submitted: 338. Indeed also provides the unique observations that the average PIs tenure is 1-3 years and hourly averages $23.11 which is a penny away from the Arlington, Virginia average and more than Denver's $21.81 average.
Happy Labor Day!!
Colorado private investigator and detective industry bucks national salary disparity trend with female PIs earning 95 cents on every dollar their male private investigator counterparts earn, for the same work
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
Colorado bucks the national salary disparity trend when it comes to salary discrepancy based on gender. Data USA, a Deloitte, Datawheel and Macro Connections collaboration publicly posted data compiled by the census bureau and the American Community Survey (ACS) revealing that salary averages of the 78,239 person workforce making up the United States private investigator and detective industries reflect a disparity between genders that is already greater than the national disparity average.
See also: the 2016 World Investigator Conference has thirty-three speakers and only one of them is female.
The Pew Research Center's latest report (created using the same US Census Bureau data that Data USA used) concluded women employed full-time earned 80% of what their male counterparts earned in 2015 (when the latest census was taken) and when comparisons were made of part-time employees in the field, the average women earned 83% of what their male counterparts earned.
Using Data USA's database to isolate salaries by industry and gender I could see that the average female private investigator in the United States earns 75 cents on every dollar that her equally qualified male counterpart earn doing the same same job.
The public database, however, fell short when it came to isolating by states. This prevented me from the viewing Colorado-specific data I needed to see how the disparity impacted this blog's primary audience.
To find out how, specifically, Colorado private investigator disparity averages compared to national averages, I contacted Data USA and asked them to isolate the Colorado private investigator salary data, separating the salary averages for males and females, so that I could inform my readers how their male and female private investigator's salaries compared to the national averages.
Johnathan Speiser responded with a spreadsheet in which he had isolated all the private eye salaries in the country by gender as well as by state. Consequently I was able to calculate how the salary disparity between men and women impacts private investigators in the State of Colorado.
While female private investigators in Colorado earn an annual average of $52,489 their male Colorado counterparts --with the same qualifications and working in the same job-- average $55,321 annually.
Female private investigators in Colorado still earn less than their male counterparts for doing the same work, however the disparity isn't as dichotomous as it is in other states.
The United States equal pay equal opportunity commission, the "Equal Pay Act" requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. "The jobs need not be identical but they must be substantially equal. It is job content, not job titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Specifically, the EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment." The 2015 US Government Census data, however, tells a different story.
If you are a female private investigator living in Denver, Colorado, you can expect to earn 95 cents on every dollar your equally qualified male counterpart earns doing the same job. That is a full 20 cents on the dollar over the national average income disparity that female PIs in can expect to experience nationwide.
Conclusively this means if you are an average female private investigator working in the State of Colorado, chances are you are about 20% better off, salary wise, than the female PIs in other parts of the country. You are still going to be earning 5% less than your equally qualified male counterparts for the same job, though.
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