The words “private investigator” conjure up all the hallmarks of a good noir film: tough-talking dames, a stiff drink or three, and a jazzy soundtrack. Reality, of course, is a bit more pedestrian. The good news is that people will still be intrigued by your job title at parties.
The principal role of the P.I. is to conduct investigations into the background issues of criminal or civil cases, which range from missing persons to white-collar fraud to disability claims — and everything in between. Investigators typically work for a detective agency or security firm and pursue leads, prepare reports and then move on to the next case — minus the Philip Marlowe contemplation.
Barriers of entry to the private investigation field are fairly low. It helps to have previous experience in a related field, such as the military or law enforcement. If you don’t, you might consider becoming an apprentice to a P.I. or researching detective schools online. Training in specific subjects of interest will likely prove beneficial, since many P.I.s are specialists in a particular mode of investigation.
One important thing to keep in mind is licensing. All but seven states require some sort of license, although regulations can vary even within a state. Depending on where you set up shop, you may need to prove a combination of education and training. Simple online searches will inform you of such requirements — and Google detective work is a good way to begin your investigative career.