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Private Investigator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Private Detectives and Investigators Career Video



Gathers, analyzes, compiles and reports information regarding individuals or organizations to clients, or detects occurrences of unlawful acts or infractions of rules in private establishment.

This career is part of the Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security cluster Law Enforcement Services pathway, Security and Protective Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Writes reports or case summaries to document investigations.
  • Conducts private investigations on a paid basis.
  • Searches computer databases, credit reports, public records, tax or legal filings, or other resources to locate persons or to compile information for investigations.
  • Conducts personal background investigations, such as pre-employment checks, to obtain information about an individual's character, financial status, or personal history.
  • Exposes fraudulent insurance claims or stolen funds.
  • Obtains and analyzes information on suspects, crimes, or disturbances to solve cases, to identify criminal activity, or to gather information for court cases.
  • Testifies at hearings or court trials to present evidence.
  • Questions persons to obtain evidence for cases of divorce, child custody, or missing persons or information about individuals' character or financial status.
  • Observes and documents activities of individuals to detect unlawful acts or to obtain evidence for cases, using binoculars and still or video cameras.
  • Confers with establishment officials, security departments, police, or postal officials to identify problems, provide information, or receive instructions.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Irregular hours
  • Overnight travel
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Bonding Agent -- Posts bail on behalf arrested defendant in court and then makes sure the defendant appears in court for the further trials and proceedings.
  • Insurance Investigator -- Researches insurance claims that are suspected of being fraudulent to determine whether the claim is valid or not.
  • Loss Prevention Investigator -- Protects retail outlets from theft by shoplifters, vendor representatives, delivery personnel and employees.
  • Security Analyst -- Identifies weaknesses and recommends improvements to a security policy from very specific policies such as checking IDs at facility entrances, or a grand strategy and the overall security policy of a nation.
  • Skip Tracer -- Locates hard-to-find people who owe money to a particular business or agency and makes arrangements to collect the past due payments.
  • Store Detective -- Protects retail outlets from theft by shoplifters, vendor representatives, delivery personnel and employees.