Private Investigation

Dmitri Marrero

Job Description

Private investigators are professionals that use a keen eye, careful observation, and painstaking analytical skills to gather information about a case or an individual. They are skilled in deduction, logical reasoning, and typically able to physically restrain someone if the need arises. Accuracy and patience in key in the field of private investigation, and mental prowess is typically far more functional than physical ability."PI's" can work for private firms, police departments, businesses / organizations, or simply work with individual clients.

Typical Duties and Responsibilities

  • Research individuals and events to gain knowledge about a situation.
  • Discover or extrapolate evidence.
  • Use deduction, reasoning, and analytical skills to draw conclusions from said evidence.
  • Interview and/or interrogate witnesses, suspects, or others that can aid an investigation for the purpose of gathering information.
  • Survey the activities of an individual, usually at what is known as a "stakeout."
  • Apprehend fleeing or hostile suspects.
  • Document one's investigations with reports.

Training and Necessary Skills

Private investigators in Illinois are required to have a multitude of licences and courses completed before they are properly recognized as one. These include:

  • A Private Detective's License, which is acquired after an examination. (Must be renewed every six years.) One must have proof of $1 million in liability insurance before applying.
  • 20 hours minimum of an Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) approved training course.
  • A Permanent Employee Registration Card (renewed every 3 years.)
  • A Firearm Control Card (if one will be armed.)
  • 40 hours of an approved firearm training course.
  • A Bachelor's or Associate's degree in Criminal Justice, Criminology, or Psychology decreases the amount of experience needed by about a year. Without one, three years of investigative experience (2000 hours a year at least) is required.
  • Specific training in certain investigative fields (ex. arson, cyber crimes) is also optional, and available at certain schools.
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Job Outlook

The Illinois Worknet Center reports that private investigation is one of the top 50 fastest growing fields in the state. In the Cook county area alone, job growth is expected to be at 22%.

The average private investigator made $40,550 in 2012. Experience PI's in the top tenth percentile made $66,960 on average. Most private investigators in Illinois are located in the Chicago metropolitan area. These individuals also make more money than those outside of the Chicago metropolitan area.

High School Preparation

If one aspires to become a private investigator, there is little they can do to prepare in high school. However, there are some courses and clubs at Leyden that can help.

Psychology (Course and Club):

Learning about the inner workings of the mind would be very useful to someone who must interrogate individuals. Having an understanding of psychology is also useful when determining a criminal's motives, and creating a modus operandi.

High Level English Courses:

One integral component of high level English courses is the ability to deduct a line of reasoning. Critical thinking is also key. These aspects can help one prepare for intense investigative work, where they will be compiling evidence to ultimately come to a conclusion about a case.

Youth and Government Club:

This club that is offered at Leyden exposes one to United States laws. Laws are very relevant to an investigator's means of operating, and it is thus important to have a good understanding of them.


A college degree is not required to become a private investigator, however obtaining a degree will decrease the amount of experience necessary to become one. Some possible degrees include:

Psychology: A psychology degree expands upon the benefits of taking a psychology course in high school, or joining a psychology club. The human mind must be understood in this line of work.

Criminology: Criminology refers to learning the "anatomy" of crimes. This entails the causes of the crime, its consequences, and how the crime was performed. Obviously, a degree in this field would aid one who is attempting to discover how a crime was committed, and consequently who performed it.

Criminal Justice: A degree in criminal justice deals with the way crime is dealt with in our society. One with this degree would learn how to analyze a crime and link its traits to a suspect. This degree also deals with the proper course of action when dealing with a criminal, including apprehension, trials, and due punishment. Crime prevention is also capitalized.

Work Environment and Getting Hired

The work environment of a private detective is very different depending on who they decide to work with. While a PI can work alone, hiring individual clients, they can also work with a private firm or business. If this is the case, an standard application is made to said business. Those who work alone can begin advertising their services after they obtain their proper licences.

A private investigator must be willing to work with clients or a team to get a job done. The "Lone Wolf" mentality will hinder one's potential, and should generally be avoided.

A Day in the Life - Private Detective/Investigator