How to Get a Job in Private and Public Investigations

Both private and public investigators can work for the accused or the accusing party.

A Career in Private and Public Investigations

Investigators may work for police departments, defense attorneys, prosecutors, businesses, or individuals. They may interview witnesses, victims, the accused, and friends or family of the concerned parties to build their side of the case. Sometimes these interviews help to discredit the opponents’ case.

Investigators may conduct surveillance of the accused or the accuser depending on the type of case. In order to strengthen their findings, detectives take photographs and record video when possible.

An investigator may do a background check on new hires for a corporation.

Regardless of whether the case is private or public, the investigator may need to do a background check of the suspect and the victim.

Some investigators specialize in computer forensics. They attempt to retrieve information from a damaged computer or a computer seized in an investigation. If an employee is suspected of fraud or theft, the computer forensic specialist may trace the employee’s activity on the company network.


Salary for private investigators will vary depending on how many cases they accept, the type of cases they accept, their rates, and their geographic location. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that salaries range from $25,000 to $74,000.

Public investigator salary depends on whether the employer is a local, state, or federal agency. Investigators could work for public defenders or the prosecution. Average salary for public investigators is $75,000. Local investigators earn an average of $62,000. State investigators can expect to earn an average of $53,000. Federal investigators earn an average of $96,000.

Job Requirements

Private detectives who work for themselves or a small investigation agency have no education requirements other than a high school diploma. Experience is of more importance. Training is gained on the job under the leadership of a more experienced investigator.

In order to gain credibility as a private investigator, seek certification from the National Association of Legal Investigators.

States have varying license requirements so be sure to check with your state’s department of labor.

Computer forensic investigators need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Classes in criminal justice are beneficial as well.

Public investigators need to check with the department they are interested in to see the education requirements. It would be advantageous to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or forensics.

Schools For Private and Public Investigations

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