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Private Detectives and Investigators - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Some investigators receive certification from a professional organization to demonstrate competency in a field. For example, the National Association of Legal Investigators confers the Certified Legal Investigator designation upon licensed investigators who devote a majority of their practice to negligence or criminal defense investigations. To receive the designation, applicants must have 5 years of investigations experience. They also must satisfy educational requirements and continuing-training requirements and must pass written and oral exams.

ASIS International, a trade organization for the security industry, offers the Professional Certified Investigator certification. To qualify, applicants must have a high school diploma or the equivalent; must have 5 years of investigations experience, including 2 years managing investigations; and must pass an exam.

Most private detective agencies are small, with little room for advancement. Usually, there are no defined ranks or steps, so advancement takes the form of increases in salary and assignment status. Many detectives and investigators start their own firms after gaining a few years of experience. Corporate and legal investigators may rise to supervisor or manager of the security or investigations department.

Private detectives and investigators held about 45,500 jobs in 2008. About 21 percent were self-employed, including many for whom investigative work was a second job. Around 41 percent of detective and investigator jobs were in investigation and security services, including private detective agencies. The rest worked mostly in State and local government, legal services firms, department or other general merchandise stores, employment services companies, insurance agencies, and credit mediation establishments, including banks and other depository institutions.

Job Outlook
Keen competition is expected for most jobs despite much faster than average employment growth.

Job Growth
Employment of private detectives and investigators is expected to grow 22 percent over the 200818 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for private detectives and investigators will result from heightened security concerns, increased litigation, and the need to protect confidential information and property of all kinds. The proliferation of criminal activity on the Internet, such as identity theft, spamming, e-mail harassment, and illegal downloading of copyrighted materials, also will increase the demand for private investigators. Employee background checks, conducted by private investigators, have become standard for an increasing number of jobs. Growing financial activity worldwide will increase the demand for investigators to control internal and external financial losses, to monitor competitors, and to prevent industrial spying. More individuals are investigating care facilities, such as childcare providers, hospices, and hospitals.

Keen competition is expected for most jobs because private detective and investigator careers attract many qualified people, including relatively young retirees from law enforcement and military careers. The best opportunities for new jobseekers will be in entry-level jobs in detective agencies. Opportunities are expected to be favorable for qualified computer forensic investigators.

Median annual wages of salaried private detectives and investigators were $41,760 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,870 and $59,060. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,640. Wages of private detectives and investigators vary greatly by employer, specialty, and geographic area.

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