Becoming a Private Investigator
You may be starting out on a new career path, or you may be considering a change
of employment, or indeed be looking to start a business in investigation.
Hopefully, the answers to the questions you need to ask will be contained in
Starting Out in Investigation
For those readers who have no investigation background at all, we
recommend a number of simultaneous approaches.
First of all, seek training. The Institute provides an excellent online Foundation Private Investigation Course as well as various levels of
investigative training (City and Guilds qualifications and
seminars), as do other organisations, associations and commercial companies, but
investigative training need not, and should not, be all that is undertaken.
A prospective investigator should consider legal training, and/or training in
business. Both areas supplement the training that an investigator needs, and
will add to your personal skills list irrespective of your success in finding
work in this area. Local colleges can be consulted about this form of training.
Funding for training can be found through Career Development Loan facilities,
Local Authority funding, and by working at other jobs while training is
Secondly, start composing your Curriculum Vitae. Make a note of every
achievement, both in terms of academic qualifications and experience. Don’t be
tempted to exaggerate – keep the content simple to read, and absolutely
accurate. Bear in mind that your prospective employer, better than anyone else,
will be able to check its accuracy.
Third, consider offering your services on a freelance basis. Let local
investigators know that you are available for work. There may come a time when
they need untrained but enthusiastic manpower for relatively simple work. Don’t
dismiss such an opportunity. This industry is very much one where what you can
do, and your willingness to do it, can influence your future career prospects.
Don’t restrict yourself: Private investigation is a term covering a wide range
of investigative work. Credit reference agencies, charities, banks, etc, all use
investigation staff in-house. Consider approaching them for career
Don’t expect adventure and excitement. This is not a romantic profession. But it
IS an interesting one.
Consider getting a few years experience, and some training, by seeking
employment with police, HM Customs, HM Forces, local authorities or other
agencies. Learn the trade, and get paid for doing so.
Important: The Private Security Industry Act 2001 will shortly
impose licensing requirements on investigators providing their services to
clients on a contracted basis. Such licences are likely to be issued only to
persons with clear police records.
It will therefore be incumbent upon any licence applicant that he, or she has no
relevant prior convictions.
Starting an Investigation Business
In order to start
an investigation business, a prospective investigator must consider what
services he is going to provide, e.g. debt collection, tracing, process serving,
internal theft investigation – the list is extensive.
dictate that an investigator should not offer services he is unable or
unqualified to provide, UNLESS he can provide those services on an agency basis.
Membership of a trade association or professional body allows investigators a
nation-wide network of agents who can act on his or her behalf in such
Notwithstanding the event of licensing, investigation
businesses should also comply with Consumer Credit Act licensing, if applicable;
registration under the Data Protection Act, which is a legal requirement and
applicable to ALL businesses; professional indemnity insurance (not compulsory
but advisable); and any other professional qualifications applicable to the
services provided (e.g. bailiffs, accountants).
It is also strongly suggested
that investigators seek membership of a professional or trade body in order that
they keep themselves up to date with legislation and practices pertinent to
their profession. Larger companies can provide their own training facilities,
but small businesses should take advantage of the services on offer from such
Once these factors are addressed, the investigator
needs to consider premises, advertising, and investigative equipment, and the
other ‘normal’ business considerations. To seek a parallel template, we would
suggest working along the same lines as legal service providers, including
advertising in local and national legal publications.
Institute of Professional Investigators provides the following training
facilities for those seeking employment in investigation and for those already
working in that industry, but who are seeking recognised professional
qualifications in Investigation.
Foundation Course In Private Investigation: This is an online course
that students can undertake at their own pace.
Subjects addressed include – general investigation methodology,
interviewing, basic surveillance advice, legal issues, report writing, and so
on. Keep note of the IPI website for details, or contact the office.
There is no
formal qualification obtained through this course, although the Institute
provides evidence that training has been received, however, this course will
provide a bridge to an Institute Certificate and a Diploma, both of which will
be recognised qualifications.
National Vocational Qualifications: The Institute
has been responsible for setting and agreeing NVQ Standards with and through the
Security Industry Training Organisation (SITO) over the past decade.
Seminars: The Institute regularly holds
instructional seminars on various investigation subjects, and upon legislation
changes that affect the way investigations are undertaken.