Though highly overly-glamorized by television and movies, the career of a Private Investigator is often stressful, sometimes dangerous, and, assuredly “irregular” when placed in context of the “normal 9 to 5” work ethic.
Private Investigators are in fact “freelance professional investigators” hired by individuals, companies and/or institutions in order to assist in legal proceedings, investigations and other “confidential” matters. Most commonly, a Private Investigator (“Private Detective”) provides surveillance, conducts background checks, traces missing persons, undertakes investigative research and provides interviewing services to the general public, legal counsel and businesses alike.
It was quite a cultural shock to many seeking a career in Archaeology, and, who were concurrently avid fans of “Indiana Jones” … to find out that the career being sought involved more library research and “dusting bones with a dry brush” in lieu of undertaking exciting escapes with the “beautiful girl in one hand and a revolver in the other”.
Realistically, however, while books, television and cinema do in fact (and intentionally) overly-glamorize the “world of the Private Investigator”, most “real world” Private Investigators conduct their work in relative obscurity … by design and more often by choice. Accordingly, many maintain a complete misperception suggesting that the field of Private Investigation is “24/7” high adventure and filled daily with professional intrigue … because it assuredly is not.
That is definitely not to suggest, however, that Private Investigators do not face a certain amount of risk in their workday activities. Do remember, Private Investigators are not “sworn” law enforcement officers, and, as such, do not regularly deal with the dangers attributed to the “criminal element” for the most part. Accordingly, they only possess the same powers of arrest as any other citizen.
Private Investigators may, during the course of an assignment, be required to interrogate “hostile witnesses” or ask inflammatory questions on behalf of their client(s). Getting people to admit self-incriminating behavior requires a certain combination of “psychological manipulation” and self-confidence … both of which successful Private Investigators have mastered.
Most aspects of Private Investigation present no inherent danger or risk when searching public records, pre-trial preparation for civil actions, computer crime investigations, etc. However, other aspects of Private Investigation may well involve some level / degree of danger and risk when involved in an assignment or case of employee theft, undercover investigation, process serving, marital investigations, surveillance and bodyguard services.
In comparison to many other professions, Private Investigation is a relatively uncomplicated career in which to enter, regardless of age or present / past employment experience. The “novice” will most probably commence his / her Private Investigation career as a “field investigator” within the framework of an Investigation agency or under the tutelage of an experienced Investigator.
It is here, in the “formative years”, that the novice will combine “beginner’s luck” with common sense and "street smarts" in order to gain optimum professional results. The desired abilities of “thinking on one’s feet”, “looking over your shoulder”, and, developing the ability to create immediate and creative responses if "caught in the middle of an undercover assignment task” will be readily achieved.
Those individuals seeking a “mid-life career change” will as well find that the field of Private Investigation provides an excellent “next step” in their professional goals. Older, more “mature” individuals bring substantial “life-experience” in understanding human problems and motives, as well as having prior-developed the important abilities to deal with varying, often unpredictable circumstances, and, a wide range of experience and knowledge concerning many professional and technical matters of “life in general”.
All such factors are both desired and inherently necessary for a successful career in Private Investigation. And, finally, those who fall into the mature grouping as aforementioned, and, who additionally maintain specific experience in law enforcement, security and/or intelligence, have been found to be the very finest “prospects” overall when examining a career in Private Investigation.
But let us first and foremost dispel some myths. As a Private Investigator:
Private Investigation work, for the most part, cannot be considered “hard”, but it can be time consuming, will have you working at odd hours of the day or night, requiring the kind of person who is flexible, open-minded, inquisitive, intuitive and who does not jump to conclusions, requiring patience and persistence, and, requiring you to search and search until you find “what everyone else said didn't exist” or prove that “what everyone else thought existed really never existed at all”.
Not everyone will fit into this “mould”, as you must have and demonstrate a wide variety of talents and skills … but … IF you are good as a Private Investigator, you could earn an excellent living and a have rewarding career.