For those of you who grew up watching spy films such as James Bond and Jason Bourne, you have to admit you’ve finished the films wanting nothing more than to pursue a career in becoming a spy or detective. You tried to figure out how easy it would be to join the special services like the CIA and MI5, to find that it’s pretty much impossible and you’re dreams were crushed instantly.

Well, there’s actually a career path that is more attainable and is as close as you can get to becoming a full-time spy. If you can’t figure out what I’m talking about already, it’s how to become a private investigator. 

What Do Private Investigators Do?

Private investigators (also known as private detectives) can be found all over the world and are used for a wide variety of different tasks and reasons.

The role of a private investigator can be confusing as their tasks may differ from country to country dependent on state and international laws, which I will go into later. However private investigators will usually specialize or cover these kinds of areas:

Tracking and Monitoring Individuals

Tracking, observing and monitoring individuals are usually the most common task that private investigators are challenged with. If private investigators are hired to check upon individual’s daily actions, they will usually follow, track and monitor their location from a distance and report back to the client on what they had found.

Private Investigators are commonly hired by individuals who want to check on their partner’s whereabouts to see if they are cheating in relationships. If they are proved to be cheating, for example, the client has proof of them doing so and therefore has a viable reason to either split up with them or prove a settlement, which may lead to the client’s victory in court.

History and Background Checks  

Detectives will usually do history and background checks on those that they are following in the hope of gaining an understanding of the person they are following. They will also figure out their daily routine, where they come from, who they may be visiting and so on. Having this information will aid them in successfully fulfilling their job.

Missing People

If faced with the task of retrieving a missing person, a private investigator must retrace the most recent tracks, and figure out what has happened to the missing person.


Fraud is another area of expertise for private investigators. Businesses will use them as a means of recovering information and working with other professionals to identify how fraud is taking place. 

Creating Reports

A private investigator must create reports out of the information gathered to present to his clients; how they have solved the issue and what the next actions may be.

Work with the Authorities/Crimes

They may have to go undercover to gain an insight into crimes and play a different persona with a fake identity. 

Ways To Become A Private Investigator


In the United States, there are a variety of different pathways you can take to become a private investigator, but the most common is this. According to, the most common pathway to becoming a private investigator involves the attendance of a degree program. A license from the state that you plan to work in, with a concealed weapons license. Also, be interviewed by a private investigation company or be enrolled through the police in a specialized area, whilst of course receiving a full background check.  


In the United Kingdom, the pathway to becoming a private investigator is much more simple. Due to the fact that you don’t actually need a license at this moment in time, almost anybody could theoretically set up their own firm, however, of course, their legitimacy will always be questioned. Many PI’s tend to pursue a career following working for the police which makes them more credible than most.

Some Information On Private Investigators


Private Investigators in the United States may be regulated by the state police or government but can also do their job without being regulated. The only problem they face is that some actions are prohibited, such as monitoring phone calls.

Interestingly in the United Kingdom, at this moment in time, all private investigators aren’t actually regulated through the government, so the legalities tend to confuse people.

Similar to United States laws, they have boundaries and laws which govern their day-to-day tasks, however, it does seem that they have less protection in the UK.

Private Investigator Salary

Salary for a Private Investigator can vary quite a lot. Wage can be dependant on who they are employed by, how much work they have, and whether they are private; but here are some average figures:

United States – $50,000+

United Kingdom – £40,000+ 

Do Private Investigators Work With The Police?

Yes, it can be common practice for Private Investigators to work alongside the Police. They are incredibly valuable in gaining information that the Police may not be able to retrieve themselves. 

Do Private Investigators Carry Guns

No, Private Investigators do not carry guns unless it’s extremely necessary and has been granted by Police (US)

Can Private Investigators Be Prosecuted For Harassment

Yes, Private Investigators can be prosecuted for harassment funnily enough, as anybody can be. 

What Technology Do They Use? 

Tracking Device Image

Covert GPS Tracking Devices

Covert Tracking Devices are used by detectives to keep an eye on the individual from afar and pinpoint exact locations at exact times to report and make use of. 


A Satnav would be used to detect the individual or travel around an area unbeknown to the Investigator. 


Used to create reports and as a means of viewing the tracking devices whereabouts.


Microphones and hidden recorders may be planted in certain places or on the detective themself as a means of gaining information that may be used against the individual. 


Cameras are a necessity in proving crimes, so it’s essential for an Investigator or detective to use one.

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