Private investigators carry out professional investigations for a variety of clients. They work with solicitors, insurance companies, councils, private companies and individuals.
Investigators are quite often involved in process serving, which is presenting legal documents to individuals or companies. However, the work is varied and could involve surveillance, fraud investigation, missing persons enquiries, investigating insurance claims and commercial piracy, and personnel vetting.
Investigators ask questions, analyse information and carry out background research. They also use computers to process detailed reports. Many private investigators are self-employed or work freelance, so need to maintain their own accounts. Despite a glamourous image, the work of a private investigator can be unexciting and financially unrewarding.
Hours can be very irregular, and may include working a 12-hour day. Late nights and weekend work are common.
Although the work is office-based, there can be a lot of time spent outside travelling around gathering information. A driving licence is usually essential and it is useful to have your own transport.
As a private investigator, you will need:
Opportunities for work have increased, as investigators are taking on more work previously done by the police. However, this also means there is more competition for jobs.
Private investigators are usually self-employed, run their own agencies, or work for an investigation agency. It can be difficult to obtain work with detective agencies without any kind of experience. It could be useful to try and get part-time or temporary work to build up experience. A list of reputable agencies can be obtained from the ABI and IPI. Currently, there is no overall control of the industry in the UK, but the ABI and IPI ensure firms adhere to professional standards.
Agencies vary in size; with larger agencies promotion to senior investigator, or manager of a team of detectives, may be possible. There is also the possibility of working abroad – commercial piracy is an international problem and would present opportunities for travel.
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