How to Become an Investigator

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Contributor, Benzinga
June 10, 2020

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Do you have a knack for solving mysteries? Maybe you’ve dreamed of getting to the bottom of unsolved cases involving infidelity, organizational theft or other matters? 

This guide takes a closer look at the profession. You can also discover steps you should take to become a private investigator. 

Investigator Overview

Benzinga is here to help you decide whether a career as an investigator is right for you. Here’s a job description, salary averages, job outlook data and education requirements to help you make an informed decision. 

Job Description

Private investigators are employed by agencies to unravel mysteries. Core tasks include conducting interviews and surveillance, analyzing background data and gathering evidence to facilitate the search for missing persons. You may also be tasked with reviewing court records for criminal history and civil judgments, completing background checks and leading investigations regarding company theft. 

The top employers of private investigators are in these sectors: 

  • Armed car, investigation and guard services
  • Finance and insurance
  • Government 

Prefer to work independently? Many private investigators choose this route to have more flexibility and increase their earning potential. 

Salary Information

In 2019, the median annual wage for private investigators was $50,510, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Here are the averages by industry: 

  • Armed car, investigation and guard services: $45,530
  • Finance and insurance: $60,300
  • Government: $60,120

Education Requirements

You can get started as a private investigator with a high school diploma and some work experience under your belt. However, it’s a good idea to get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and complete an internship to make yourself more marketable. 

Before you can get hired, you will also need to gain work experience. In many states, you must be licensed before you can work in the field.

Many employers offer on-the-job training to show you the ropes and prepare you for a successful career.

Job Outlook

According to, the demand for private investigators is expected to rise by 8% through 2028. This is 3% higher than the average anticipated growth rate for all occupations. 

Tips to Becoming an Investigator 

Be mindful of these tips as you work toward becoming an investigator. 

Enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree Program

You want a degree program offered by a reputable institution that’s viewed favorably in the eyes of employers. The program should be accredited and have a high job placement rate among recent graduates. Be mindful of the cost of attendance — only consider colleges and universities with competitive tuition and fees. 

Get Hands-On Experience 

While enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program, inquire about internship opportunities. They allow you to get hands-on experience and learn from seasoned professionals before entering the workforce. It’s also beneficial to have this experience on your resume — it’s impressive to prospective employers and helps you stand out from the competition. 

Consider an Online Course

Seeking a better understanding of the criminal justice system or want to learn more about becoming an investigator? Online courses are worth considering. You can find several options for all skill levels, and the enrollment fees are very affordable. Plus, there are no strict deadlines, which means you can view lectures and complete assignments at your own pace. 

Best Universities for Becoming an Investigator

Consider these online criminology degree programs to prepare for a career as an investigator. 

1. Florida State University 

Florida State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice. It’s tailored to nontraditional students with demanding schedules and equips you with the skills knowledge needed to thrive as an investigator. Students receive stellar instruction from experienced professionals and support from the institution to ensure they graduate on time. 

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2. Arizona State University 

Pursue an online Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice or a Master of Arts in criminal justice from Arizona State University. Both degree programs are ideal for aspiring investigators and feature 7.5-week courses designed to help you progress through the program at an accelerated rate. Classes are led by industry professionals who possess advanced knowledge of the court system, crime, fraud, gangs and policing. 

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These online courses dive into the fundamentals of criminal justice and private investigation. 

Introduction to Criminal Justice

Beginner • 31 videos • 11.2 hours
Introduction to Criminal Justice
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1. Introduction to Criminal Justice by Udemy 

Interested in learning more about the basic structure and function of the American Criminal Justice System? Look no further than this highly-rated course from Udemy. Introduction to Criminal Justice features 11 hours of on-demand video instruction from Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Kevin W. Jennings. The material is divided into segments on criminological theory, victimization, law enforcement, terrorism, trials, sentencing and punishment, corrections, probation, parole, recidivism and more. It’s easy to enroll, and you will receive a certificate of completion when you finish the course. 

Get this course

Basics of Skip Tracing, Backgrounds & Assets Investigations

Beginner • 8 videos • 0.8 hours
Basics of Skip Tracing, Backgrounds & Assets Investigations
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2. Basics of Skip Tracing, Backgrounds and Asset Investigations 

This introductory course covers the essentials of locating people and learning more about who they are. Offered by Associates in Forensic Investigations Beers, Basics of Skip Tracing, Backgrounds and Assets Investigations features 2.5 hours of on-demand video and 11 downloadable resources to enhance your comprehension of the material. Enroll with confidence today knowing the course comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied for any reason. 

Get this course

Prepare for a Career as an Investigator

Take the first step toward becoming a super-sleuth today. Consider our top recommendations for degree programs and online courses, review what they have to offer and select the best fit. Hard work, determination and strategic networking means you could find yourself in a private investigator role much sooner than expected. 

Southern New Hampshire University Online

SNHU Online Offers:

  1. Flexible schedules
  2. Affordable tuition
  3. Online tutoring
  4. Access to electronic research materials
  5. Specialized academic advising
  6. Supportive online community

Learn more at SNHU.