People pursue Private Investigator careers for a variety of reasons. Some love the challenge of uncovering information and piecing it together in a way that connects seemingly disparate circumstances. Others view an investigative career as a logical progression of their military service or law enforcement experience. Still others see a PI job as an interesting way to supplement their income.
If you’re thinking of becoming a Private Investigator, you may see yourself in one of the reasons listed above. But then again, your motivation may be completely different. Whatever your reason, it’s always wise to look at the positive and negative aspects of being a PI before committing yourself to a career. The following lists offer a high-level overview of the factors that can help you decide whether a Private Investigator career is right for you.
Private Investigator Pros
1. Case Variety
Due to the nature of investigative work, you may find yourself working in diverse fields that range from corporate clients to law enforcement collaboration. If you enjoy learning new skills and information, being a Private Investigator is right up your alley.
2. Career Control
Depending on your preference, you can choose a broad scope of work or specialize by working for corporations, attorneys, insurance companies, or private firms. If you’re in business for yourself, you can make the call on which cases you’ll take.
3. Earning Potential
As a self-employed Private Investigator, you have the freedom to work as much or as little as you want, and you can also set your rates. If you choose to work for an investigative firm, you may earn a little less, but you may not have to cover as many job-related expenses as a self-employed PI. Either way, your earning is only limited by your willingness to work.
4. Job Satisfaction
Investigative work provides a steady stream of mental exercises and analytical challenges, which can appeal to individuals who enjoy solving complex puzzles and providing valuable information for clients who could not find it otherwise.
5. Personal Fulfillment
For individuals with a strong sense of justice, Private Investigator work often aligns with personal values, which creates a personal sense of satisfaction as well as professional accomplishment.
Private Investigator Cons
1. Start-Up Costs
Private investigation requires certification and a state license — some states even require an apprenticeship as part of the licensing process. In most instances, you will need to arrange your own Private Investigator training and cover your own licensing expenses to get started.
2. Business Challenges
Being a PI requires more than just an investigative mind. To be successful, you need to know how to run a business as well. From marketing your services to dealing with clients who question rates and hours, the business concerns of being a PI can be just as challenging as the investigative work.
3. Unpredictable Planning
Unless you start working for a large company or PI firm from the very beginning, the hours and workload can vary greatly. As a result, your pay can be low initially, which requires careful planning while you build your practice.
4. Repetitive Tasks
Yes, being a Private Investigator can be exciting. However, much of the work involves research, monitoring, and observation. These tasks can be monotonous, but they’re an essential part of the job. As a Private Investigator, there’s a good chance you’ll spend more time in front of a computer screen than in high-speed chases.
5. Safety Risk
While the previous point highlights the fact that most PI work isn’t thrilling or glamorous, it’s important to remember that, depending on the case, you can find yourself in dangerous, high-risk situations, especially when investigating criminal behavior.
How much do Private Investigators earn?
Even after weighing the pros and cons of pursuing a career as a Private Investigator, many aspiring PIs still have a lingering question — one driven by simple economics: How much can a Private Investigator expect to make? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics, the average annual wage for a Private Investigator is approximately $57,000, and earning levels can vary based on investigative specialty and employment type. However, geographic location and private investigator types are often the most significant factors in earning potential.
The following list shows the five states with the highest average Private Investigator salaries:
- District of Columbia Private Investigator - Annual Wage: $69,790
- California Private Investigator - Annual Wage: $68,570
- Delaware Private Investigator - Annual Wage: $65,610
- Utah Private Investigator - Annual Wage: $64,440
- Nevada Private Investigator - Annual Wage: $64,200
If you’re considering a career as a Private Investigator, NITA offers self-paced, online pre-certification training along with continuing education and professional development courses. Additionally, our support staff is available to answer any questions you may have about what’s required to start your PI career. Should you have questions or want more information on our courses, please fill out our online contact form or call us at (800) 730-6482.