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Career Profile: Private Detectives and Investigators

Gather, analyze, compile, and report information regarding individuals or organizations to clients, or detect occurrences of unlawful acts or infractions of rules in private establishment.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 33,700 people employed as private detectives and investigators in the United States. The median annual salary is $53,300. Entry level employees earn approximately $31,440 per year and senior employees earn approximately $96,950 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Count cash and review transactions, sales checks, or register tapes to verify amounts or to identify shortages.
  • Monitor industrial or commercial properties to enforce conformance to establishment rules and to protect people or property.
  • Conduct personal background investigations, such as pre-employment checks, to obtain information about an individual's character, financial status, or personal history.
  • Expose fraudulent insurance claims or stolen funds.
  • Obtain and analyze information on suspects, crimes, or disturbances to solve cases, to identify criminal activity, or to gather information for court cases.
  • Testify at hearings or court trials to present evidence.
  • Question persons to obtain evidence for cases of divorce, child custody, or missing persons or information about individuals' character or financial status.
  • Observe and document activities of individuals to detect unlawful acts or to obtain evidence for cases, using binoculars and still or video cameras.
  • Confer with establishment officials, security departments, police, or postal officials to identify problems, provide information, or receive instructions.
  • Investigate companies' financial standings, or locate funds stolen by embezzlers, using accounting skills.
  • Perform undercover operations, such as evaluating the performance or honesty of employees by posing as customers or employees.
  • Alert appropriate personnel to suspects' locations.
  • Write reports or case summaries to document investigations.
  • Conduct private investigations on a paid basis.
  • Search computer databases, credit reports, public records, tax or legal filings, or other resources to locate persons or to compile information for investigations.
  • Apprehend suspects and release them to law enforcement authorities or security personnel.
  • Warn troublemakers causing problems on establishment premises and eject them from premises when necessary.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
33,700
Annual Openings:
3,500
Increase in Openings by 2030:
13%
Annual Salary Range:
$31,440 - $96,950
Education Requirements:
High school diploma