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How to Become a Private Investigator

Private investigators are individuals who provide professional investigative services to private citizens, organisations or groups. They have no ties to law enforcement and their job is primarily concerned with collecting of information that can be used as evidence. Private investigators cannot enforce the law and therefore can't take action such as arresting an individual.

In the UK, private investigators are not yet licensed by the government. Therefore, there are people operating PI businesses without licenses or the necessary qualifications. However, licensing is expected in the near future and this will standardise the process of becoming a private detective. Currently, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is issuing licenses to individuals who wish to work as professional private investigators.


How To Become A Private Investigator: Investigative Training

To become a private investigator that is licensed by the SIA, you will need an IQ level 3 award in Private Investigation. There are various institutions within the UK that offer the training needed to attain this qualification.

These courses are designed for individuals who have no previous background in private investigation or law enforcement. Subjects taught include:

  • Investigation methodology
  • Basis surveillance
  • Interviewing
  • How to write reports
  • Legal issues etc.

Although individuals with prior law enforcement experience don't need to undertake the same training, they'll still need to be tested before receiving SIA licenses. In many of the courses offered, individuals can study on a part-time or full-time basis depending on how much time they can devote. Therefore, the course can take anywhere from several weeks to several months.

Once you've undertaken the studies, there are regional exam centres where you can take the exam for professional investigators. Once you've become a private investigator, you can still undergo further training in other fields to improve your skillset. Contact us to find out where you can receive training if carrying out private investigation.


Additional Qualifications To Become A Private Detective

In the UK, the only academic qualifications required to become SIA licensed is the IQ Level 3 Certificate for Private Investigators. However, attaining additional qualifications in relevant fields can improve the skills of a private detective. This can enable them to take on a wider range or more complex private investigations.

Such qualifications include:

  • Degree in criminal justice
  • Degree in paralegal studies
  • Security risk management
  • Information systems security training
  • Business management degree
  • Degree in accounting etc.

Qualifications in criminal justice are important in the field of private investigation since much of the work involves gathering of information to be used in criminal trials. For those interested in private investigations dealing with fraud investigations, qualifications in financial fields such as accounting will be useful.

Institutions concerned with private investigator training may also offer advanced classes so you can become a private detective with added capabilities. With extra qualifications, the private investigator will be able to investigate more cases and also make use of more advanced tools such as spy equipment in their investigations.


The Role Of Private Investigators

The role of private investigators will be mainly defined by the skills they possess and the industry they work in. Typical British investigators work in a detective agency and offer services normally conducted by police officers and detectives on a private basis.

These include:

  • Surveillance of persons or locations of interest
  • Gathering and compiling evidence e.g. taking photographs
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Locating missing individuals
  • Performing background checks on individuals, companies or organisations
  • Issuing lie detector tests
  • PC email monitoring
  • Phone text forensics etc.

Although the police carry out similar tasks, people use private investigators because the case may not meet the criteria warranting a police investigation or the police may not have the resources to carry out a thorough investigation. Private investigators with special skills are the ones who can offer services such as computer forensics, counter surveillance, forensic accounting, insurance claims investigations etc.


Requirements For A Private Investigator License

Once you've attained the IQ Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators you'll need to make an application to the Security Industry Authority to become a private detective. Apart from proof of having attained the necessary qualification, you must also meet the following criteria to get a license:

  • You must provide proof of identity
  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • Right to work in the UK
  • Mentally fit in the five years preceding the application

Having a criminal record will be taken into account but will not result in an automatic disqualification. The SIA will make the decision depending on the nature of the offence, the sentence given and how recently the offences were committed. You can also contact us to know more about how to become a private detective when you have a criminal record.


Employment Opportunities For Private Investigators

With an SIA license, you can become a private investigator that works for different types of companies or firms.

If you're lacking in experience, you can apply to a detective agency where you can work as a private detective under more experienced individuals to gain on-the-job experience. Once you have enough experience, you can even open your own agency. Alternatively, some investigators are hired by companies and firms to make use of their expertise within.

Firms that hire in-house investigators include:

  • Law firms
  • Insurance companies
  • Accounting firms
  • Human resource companies
  • Financial companies etc.

Do You Have What It Takes To Become A Private Investigator?

Holding an investigators license isn't all that is required to do the job. A PI can offer a wide range of private investigator services and these will call for a certain array of private investigator skills.

To become a private investigator who can work on cases effectively, you'll need:

  • Good communication skills
  • Sound judgement
  • Analytical skills
  • Self-confidence
  • IT skills
  • Empathy

Individuals who have worked for a law enforcement agency or the military will find many of the skills acquired in these professions to be useful in private investigative work. If you have any questions on how to become a private investigator, you can also contact us for more information.