The US Department of Labor Statistics says private investigators earn on average just over $50,000 a year or about $25 an hour. Of course, some earn a lot more. As good as this might sound, you should know that not everyone who wants to be a PI actually ends up becoming one. Some say that only one in 10 who try to enter the industry actually ends up as a PI.
So before you imagine yourself as the next Magnum PI or Remington Steele, you should first figure out whether or not you are cut out for the job. One thing you should realize is that real-life PIs don't actually live the kind of exciting life that TV private investigators do. In fact, investigators often spend them time tediously digging through documents and records in order to get something they can use.
People who really want to be a PI also have to undergo extensive training in order to hone their investigative skills. While some firms will consider applicants without college degrees, those who have a degree in criminal justice, for example, are often preferred. You should have of knowledge regarding the law to succeed in the field, which is probably why retired law enforcement personnel often find themselves becoming PIs after their career as cops.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and in order for you to survive the life of a PI, you also need to have a skill-set that most people in this industry already have. Knowledge of the law and knowing how to find evidence are just two of the things you need to have in your arsenal. Some PIs need to know how to operate surveillance equipment, be a quick thinker when you find yourself in sticky situations, and, in rare cases, know how to defend yourself.
You also need to have infinite patience since a lot of surveillance work involves hours of sitting in one place for hours, waiting for your target to appear or do something. Being adept at asking questions is a plus to have since this will help you get pertinent information and answers from witnesses. Having good organizational skills are also a must in this industry since you will need to take detailed notes when you are investigating something.
Being able to analyze things effectively, having problem solving skills, and a natural curiosity are also crucial to the success of a PI. And that’s not all. To succeed in this field, you need to be open to constantly learning. New ideas, new technologies, new laws, and new investigative methods will pop up every now and then, and you need to be receptive to learning all of these.
If you are still interested in becoming a private eye after reading this, you may have what it takes after all. Just remember you're not a peace officer and don't have anywhere near the privileges of a cop. Also keep in mind that no matter how skilled or how effective you are at your work, the job has its limitations too.
Good luck out there!
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