Becoming a private investigator isn’t as simple as walking down the street and applying for the job. That certainly might be involved, but the process is a complicated one, involving a great deal by way of background checks, licensing by the state in which you intend to operate, and qualifications required in accordance with strictly-defined sets of standards. A private investigator has access to sources of personal information which are unavailable to the general population – and their trustworthiness is of great concern to each licensing body. Thus, certain experience is expected, and a variety of background checks are conducted. Someone looking to become a licensed private investigator can expect to have those who know them, or who have known them in the past, interviewed; this is something of which it is considered polite to inform those who might fall under this category, though ultimately the decision to pursue the career should be your own.
Many private investigators are willing to take promising individuals who are interested in pursuing the career with them for a day or two, to help them see what exactly the job is like, what work is involved, and how they go about discharging the duties for which their clients pay them. If you think that this is a field in which you might be interested, you should try to get in touch with private investigators in the state in which you would be looking to practice, and ask them for suggestions and advice. There will always be plenty of work to go around, and many private investigators have a deep and profound feeling for the function they fill within the wheels of the American civil and criminal justice systems. You will doubtless receive a great deal of feedback, as well as a lot of information on what steps to take next, and possibly more than a few offers to go on a ride-along.
Before you consider filing an application to become a private investigator, you need to examine your state’s licensing requirements. Many states have requirements that a licensed private investigator have a certain amount of law enforcement experience before they can receive their license. This requirement varies from state to state, and isn’t present in all of them, but where it is present it tends to consist of a requisite of several years’ experience: by way of an example, the state of Massachusetts requires 3 years’ experience in law enforcement, while the state of Connecticut to its immediate south requires 5.
In some cases, however, it is possible to gain that experience – not through law enforcement, or at least not only through law enforcement – but through employment under a licensed private investigator. Many private investigators employ administrative assistants or other personnel; being a private investigator involves the handling of a great deal of paperwork, including sensitive information, contracts, and large financial transactions. A person can pick up the nuances of working as a private investigator while working in the employ of one.
In addition… there is one more possibility whereby someone can gain the requisite experience to apply for a private investigator’s license. In some states – though certainly not in all – it is possible to work in the employ of a private investigative agency which is itself the holder of a license, whereupon it is the responsibility of that agency to selected suitable individuals for employ depending upon their qualifications. While, in many cases, they are likely looking for the same traits as the state government would be – and while their hiring policies may themselves be strictly monitored, more so in some states than in others – this remains a possibility. At the very least, you could make inquiries, and deal directly with the individuals who would be making the hiring decision.
Background Checks and Criminal History
In most cases of employment in the modern day, background checks are a fact of life, but when pursuing employment as a private investigator it’s a matter of state requirement… and it goes a bit further than what the local grocery store or construction contractor is likely to demand, if only because these kinds of background checks are extremely expensive for civilian agencies to perform. They include not only a credit check and a criminal background check, but also involve the conducting of interviews with friends, family members, and associates of the applicant. Strength of character, behavioral history, and an individuals demonstrated past tendencies when it comes to such qualities as personal responsibility and reliability – along with many other, similar factors – are taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to issue a candidate with a private investigator’s license.
Not only is the background check thorough with regards to an applicant’s criminal background – if there is one to be found, that is – but the existence of any current or past charges is taken strongly into account when the decision is made as to whether or not a candidate may be eligible for a license. Different states may have different requirements here, but there are certain features which are common enough to be considered more or less universal. A person cannot become a private investigator if they have any felony convictions in their past, or if they are currently facing charges which have yet to be officially resolved. There are certain misdemeanor offenses which will likewise present a more or less universal barrier to employment as a private investigator, regardless of where you are looking to practice; these vary slightly more than other requirements do, but consistently present among them are charges involving the knowing mishandling or theft of money or personal information. Private investigators have access to a wide variety of databases regarding personal information that is not available to the general public, and those with a history of obtaining such information illicitly – or using it inappropriately – are not granted licenses which would allow for more ready access to any such official government databases.