Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Private Investigator

How do I become a private investigator?

That's a complicated question with several parts that greatly depend upon in which state you plan on working. You have two options; You either work for a licensed private investigations agency or you go to work for yourself and obtain your own PI company license. Either way, you there are two considerations you must address at some point:

The first consideration is licensing; All but only a competent of states require a state-issued license to be a private investigator. Each state has different background, education and experience requirements that may vary from simply attending a state-approved training course to pre-licensing education, exams, years of work experience and obtaining a sizable professional liability insurance policy with "errors and omissions" coverage. To make matters just a little more confusing, there are some cities that require private investigators to either register or obtain a municipal license in states that do not otherwise require them.

The second consideration is training. Private investigation specific training is the most important investment you can make in yourself! Since most new PIs do not have the ability or are not ready to start up their own investigations company you will most likely be looking for employment with an established agency. As an owner of an established and well respected detective agency I get resumes all of the time; The first thing I look for before considering a candidate is to ask the question, "How has this person invested in themselves before asking me to invest in them?"

What if I Do not have the minimum experience required by the state to obtain my own company license? How will I ever break into the industry?

If your goal is to personally own your investigations agency, no problem … every state that requires experience also has a program in place to see that new investigators have access to eventually obtaining their own license. For example, in Texas where we hold an agency license those who are too new simply go to work for an established company until they have the required number of hours to be able apply for their own license. In Florida (where we also have an agency license) they specifically provide internship licenses. Again, every state is a little bit different but thousands of successful private investigators are working today and tens of thousands have come before us; We all had to get started someplace … you can too.

Also, consider your own background and employment related experience carefully some of it may apply. I have known loss prevention agents, security guards (in particular roles), accountants, firemen, bail bondsmen, alarm installers, teachers, and even a librarian use their previous employment experiences to apply for their own agency license.

What type of training should I be looking into?

Any amount of training is great though most PI companies do not place a whole lot of credibility with the courses from PCDI, Harcourt, and Thompson Direct. You could honestly do much better and at less cost.

Instead, look for academies or training programs that have been created by private investigators. Who knows better about what a new or an aspirating private detective needs to know than an investigator who has been in the field for a reasonable amount of time?

Also … look to see that the sponsoring company is active in the industry as well. Are they still providing regular private investigative services to a robust clientele? It's sad, but many PIs who wash out over a very short period of time in the business look to teaching. In reality, you will learn very little from those who could not make it themselves; Success breeds success!

Lastly, I have a little secret I would like to share with you …

Look over the education provider's entire website and see if you find boastful claims or where the company is bashing other educators. This is a very tight-knit industry and you will find that students who complete training programs from educators that spend time "bad mouthing the competition" have a terrible time getting a break simply because of the animosity created through their educator's use of negative advertising. I know that seems irrefutable but it is a reality in this business. This does not mean, however, that you should dismiss the negative press but the first thing an excellent private investigator learns is how to evaluate a claim, identify the source and make a judgment based on additional facts and research. Some statements will have merit while others will not; It's up to you to make that decision.

What is the difference between a private investigator and a private detective?

Nothing. The terms are used interchangeably but some states choose to use the term "detective" while most use the term "investigator."

I really just want to help my friends and family to find old friends or people who owe them money. Do I need a PI license?

That's a great question. Generally speaking, in those states where it is a requirement you will need to obtain a license if you hold yourself out for hire or accept payment from another person or business and participate in or provide the following services:

O Surveillance

O Obtaining or furnished information related to a crime or the identity, habits, business, occupation, knowledge, movement, location, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of a person, group or company.

O Securing evidence for use before a court, board, officer, or committee

O Locating or recovering lost or stolen property and unclaimed funds.

O Determining the cause or responsibility for a fire, libel, loss, accident, damage, or injury to a person or to property.

Some states may specifically include such things as service of process, bail enforcement, personal protection and genealogical research under those activities that require a private investigator's license as well.

Do I have to have a degree in Criminal Justice from a college or university?

No, though some states may accept a degree in Criminal Justice, Administration of Justice or Police Sciences in lieu of the minimum experience requirements. One recent study conducted on behalf of the Virginia Department of Justice concluded that almost 57% of all private investigators do not have a college education.

If I do not have a college education do I have to have a background as a police officer or other law enforcement related profession?

No. Most private investigators do not have a law enforcement background before entering into this industry. It is true that many private investigators may have once had a career in criminal justice but the bottom-line is that private investigation and law enforcement is very different and my experience has been that very few who make the transition from law enforcement are prepared for this Type of work, either technically or creatively, on their own. Most of them recognize this and seek industry specific training as well.

What type of person makes a successful private investigator?

This business requires a rare blend of logic and creativity; It's rare because logical people tend to not be very creative and vice-versa.

I would say that any successful detective must first have the ability to communicate. This means that he or she must have the ability to connect with people of all walks of life, regardless of economic status, ethnicity or education. It also means that the investigator must have the ability to clearly present a simple fact or a complex inquiry in writing. The end result of an investigation is the investigative report, which is given to the client upon conclusion of the assignment; This is especially our work product. If you can not write reasonably well, your reputation will certainly suffer as a result.

Secondly, great investigators have a burning desire to answer any question that is put to them only after a careful and determined effort to identify the facts and circumstances that contribute to a complete and unbiased explanation. We are in the business to provide facts, not opinions; We let our clients draw their own conclusions from our report. Oftentimes in order to get to those facts, we must be relentless in our pursuit of information. This is where logic meets creativity. Dead-ends often only require a different approach!

Lastly, I believe that every investigator should possess a varied set of experiences and knowledge. One characterization of the private detective industry I can make is that by and large we represent a vastness of experience, skills, and trades. One of the most accomplished investigators I have ever metlisted "Mom" on her resume. When she decided to become a private investigator she had no appreciable skills that she could put in her resume but through her own experiences she had developed an intuition that was almost never wrong and she could simplify complex problems into there most basic parts. I have personally hired a plumber, building contractor, car salesman, and a host of other seemingly unrelated career types into my own company, CompassPoint Investigations, because they had certain intangibles that made them great in this business!

The bottom line is that anyone can train to become a wild successful private investigator, just like one can train to become a barber or an attorney, but an aspiring detective has to bring some things to the table that can not be easily taught: creativity, logic , The ability to communicate and an insatiable curiosity!

I have a criminal conviction in my background from many years ago. Will this affect my ability to become a private eye?

Every state that requires a license to be a PI also requires a background investigation as a part of the licensing process. I believe that a felony conviction will be an automatic disqualification in almost every instance (although I know a felon who has a PI license issued by the city of Columbus, MO.), While misdemeanors may be considered depending upon the crime, its seriousness and The amount of time that has passed since the conviction; Again this will vary by state.

Will my military discharge affect my ability to become a private investigator?

In some cases a discharge that is anything but honorable may prevent you from becoming a PI. Just as in the answer to the criminal conviction history above, some states require PI applicants be free from negative military discharge classifications- Bad Conduct Discharge, Less than Honorable or Other Than Honorable service characterizations are grounds for denial of a PI license in several states and Jurisdictions.

Perhaps the Florida Division of Licensing put it best: "Private investigators and private investigative agencies serve in positions of trust. Untrained and unlicensed persons or businesses, or persons not of good moral character, are a threat to the public safety and welfare. Investigative industry is regulated to ensure the interests of the public are adequately served and protected. "

Can I just specialize in a particular type of investigation or will I have to do the surveillances and cheating spouse investigations too?

I absolutely recommend that investigators find their niche and specialize in only a few types of investigations! There are several important reasons for this, which I discuss in my training programs, but it can be summed up this way: when you are the most notable investigator in your region of the country for a specific type of investigation, you will find additional additional Opportunities to make a lot more money than if you advertise yourself as a "jack of all trades." This has been proven across the country time and time again and is a major topic of discussion in our coming private investigation marketing manual.

What types of assignments do private investigators typically take?

Wow, the options are endless and the subject really describes its own entity section! I have listed the most obvious types of private investigator assignments in an article you can find by going to my Articles Page. I will eventually briefly describe each type of investigation in the next couple of weeks. Continue to check in as we are constantly making additions.

What type of investigation or specialty assignment pays the most?

I do not know that anyone can answer that question definitively, but I will say that surveillance is typically the most lucrative type of assignment a private investigator can get because it is solid, billable, blocks of time. I am aware that there are particular types of investigations where investigators are making anywhere between $ 300 and $ 500 an hour for activities like forensic computer evaluation, security consulting, automobile repossession, and a few others specialties. I personally have made $ 10,000 in an hour on several occasions in 14 years doing bail fugitive recovery work, those types of paydays are few and far between. Overall I average almost $ 150 an hour while engaged in bail enforcement, not too bad by most people's standards, though many investigators just do not have the stomach for that type of work. It can be extremely dangerous, it is a very competitive field and you get paid only if you can complete the case.

Is private investigation dangerous work?

Obviously, there are some PI jobs that are more dangerous than others like contractual repossession or bounty hunting but, generally speaking, private investigation is not a dangerous job. We all have heard the stories of PIs getting spoken while on surveillance by an irate cheating husband or being chased out of a yard at the business end of a shotgun while serving a subpoena. Most episodes of Magnum PI had Tom Selleck dodging bullets, too. Certainly, scary things can and do happen on rare occasions but like all war stories, the ones that seem to get a lot of attention play out more like fiction than reality. Safety is always at the forefront of every trained investigator's mind.

Differences Between a Dive Bar and Club

In the United States, 21 is the magical age. Once a person turns 21, the world is practically opened up to her, and there aren’t any more age restrictions to worry about. One of the first things that a new 21-year-old typically wants to do is bar hop. However, there are a lot of different bars out there to choose from, and it can be a bit intimidating the first time around. Knowing what to expect from certain types of bars is handy and helps a person feel more relaxed.

Dive bars are popular among the younger age groups for various reasons. Dive bars tend to be much more relaxed, meaning they don’t require a cover charge and don’t have dress standards. For example, a Nob Hill dive bar might have a crowd full of college-age students wearing jeans and t-shirts. Dive bars also tend to have fairly cheap drinks and have a community feel among them. Although rare today, some dive bars might be so casual that they only accept cash for drinks.

Beer bars are a type of specialty bar. These bars specialize in offering a wide variety of beers for patrons to try. While most of them also serve cocktails, the main drink to try is a beer from their extensive list. This is a place to go for beer-lovers, and the age crowd at beer bars tends to be a little older.

Clubs are bars that also offer dancing and entertainment. Clubs are popular for their exciting nightlife, good music, and attractive customers. Clubs, unlike beer bars, rarely offer a wide variety of beer, but usually offer an extensive list of cocktails and hard alcohol. Most clubs have a dress code, so it’s important to know what to wear before trying to get in. Additionally, clubs usually require a cover charge in order to get in for the night.

Building Background – Benefits of Using Sentence Frames to Build Background Knowledge

Even as native English speakers we sometimes struggle with just the right word to explain, describe, clarify, or elucidate what we want to convey. We always understand more than we can speak. One of best ways to engage English language learners (ELL) in actively acquiring new material is to connect their background knowledge to the new topic. So, let's give them some brackets to help them use language.

We will be most successful if we remember to always start with the concept or theme.

# 1 When beginning a new topic, let pairs pretest one another. Write this sentence frame on a board, overhead, or PowerPoint, or make your own blackline master with the sentence frame repeated four to six times on a page so you can cut them into strips to hand out to the pairs.

A: "Do you know anything about (topic)?

B: "I'm not sure, but I do know _____."

Egypt "I think it could be _____ because I learned _____."

After students copy the sentence frame, or use the handy strips, erase the word 'topic' in the first sentence. Write in the topic for today. It may be a theme, or a characteristic, or an emotion.

  • Read the sentence frame aloud to the students.
  • Read it again, and this time the students should repeat after you.
  • Give them sixty seconds (yes, really time it, using the entire sixty seconds) to look at the word and think about everything they know about it. No talking. No writing. Just thinking.
  • Next, let students use another 60 seconds (yep, time it again) to write words and phrases to capture their thoughts about the topic.
  • Finally it is time to talk.

This is time well-spent. Your lesson will be stronger and more relevant. Your students will be engaged. You can continue to spiral the content, connecting it to what they already know or previously learned. The ELs will build confidence as they are encouraged to think, write, and talk about what they already know.

# 2 Plan more opportunities for pupil interaction. Here's another sentence starter than can be used with individuals, then shared in small groups.

This new theme of _____ reminds me of a time in my life when _____.

# 3 Make sentences frames with the word 'because' to have students explain connections between previous learning and the new topic.

"I think the next topic will be _____ because our last lesson was _____."

This kind of sentence frame encourages prediction according to prior learning. This is a good time to show the students how much they have learned and how it all links together.

# 4 After reading a story, a sentence frame can be used to let students speak with a partner. You can expand this speaking activity to include a second partner, like elbow- partners and across-the-aisle partners. Provide a sentence frame:

For example, "I think _____ is a hero, because _____."

# 5 Ask students to make comparisons to concrete objects in linguistic ways. Hand out objects to students and give them some time to think and write again, before speaking.

Try this sentence frame with a variety of objects:

I am like this _____ (Snickers bar), because I am _____ (nutty).

I am like this _____ (Matchbox Ferrari), because I am _____ (small and fast).

I am like this _____ (red pencil) because I am _____ (my face is red because I have to talk aloud).

The objects you use can be almost anything!

Now that your imagination is raising up, make up some brackets to use tomorrow.

  • Think about how you would want the smartest student in the school to speak.
  • Then use your target vocabulary and academic language to make a sentence frame.
  • Encourage your ELLs to speak in complete sentences in all conversations in the classroom. This will increase their academic vocabulary, which maximizes learning, and builds confidence.
  • Kids like to feel smart!

How To Start Investing For Financial Independence, Part 1

Today, I am going to start a multi-part series about how to go from being a beginning investor to being "financially independent" in a steady and predictable way. At our website, we get tons of e-mails about how do I start, how do I start with little $ 's, etc., etc., etc. If you are asking this question, congratulations because you are ahead of most. All of us have been there at some point.

I must warn you …. What I am about to share here for free is what "gurus" across the nation charge thousands of dollars for in weekend seminars. The "secrets" disclosed are going to seem pretty simple because quite frankly, there are no secrets. The methods used here have been done for centuries and there is no real reason to complicate them. Let's apply these principles to see how fast someone might become financially independent without betting the farm.

Realize that everyone has wildly different starting points and different financial goals. For this series of articles, we assume that an individual has access to at least $ 15,000 liquid capital (or home equity) to start, is at least breaking even with their current income income expenses, and has decent credit to obtain financing. Note there yet? …. See the footnote below.

To start, what you need is to make your money grow while keeping your current income stream, and current expense level in place. I can not say this more plainly ….. To change your current financial path, you have to us your money and your time to grow additional income streams that increase wealth. There is many ways to do this but we are going to use investing in real estate as an example.

Now for beginners, here is the really bad news …… As an investor, you reap rewards by placing your money in HARMS WAY. You do everything in your power to minimize your risk but bottom line is that real investors make money by taking CONTROLLED risks. As investors get better, they learn how to make fantastic investment returns doing things that all their friends and relatives thing is crazy ….. However, they know exactly what risks are small in comparison to the potential Rewards.

One reason people really like real estate investing is leaseage; Ie, you can purchase an expensive property using 0-20% of your own money while financing the rest. So if you put 10% down for example, and then the property goes up by 20%, you have made a 200% return (ignoring expenses, taxes, etc. for simplicity). Of course this works in reverse … If the property drops by 20%, you have lost not only your original investment but have to come up with another 10% as well ….. Ouch!

For someone beginning, here is what I would suggest:
1) Look for an opportunity that will return at least 150% in 2 yrs or less;

2) Be mentally and financially prepared if the investment does not work out;

3) Have VERY good reasons why you do not think you will lose money …… You may not make as much as expected but you would rather not lose money at this stage.

4) Be patient. This single result should not either make or break you but it is crucial to a longer term plan.

In our Mastermind Group, we are bringing out a land project (see related article Land Investing that appears to meet these criteria (each investor has to decide for themselves.) So let's say the purchase price is $ 150,000, with 10% down and another $ 3,500 In closing costs. With good credit, then the financing obtained would make the land payments for 2 years while waiting for growth.

Now let's say after you did your analysis, looked at what had happened in the past, looked at why you thought more and more people would want this property, etc., you decide that you think this property will average 20% / Yr escalation over The next 2 years. MORE IMPORTANTLY, you decide that barring a major meltdown in the market, you think there is little chance that you can not at least break even after 2 years.

So if you end up being right about the growth, then you might net a tidy $ 43,000 (before taxes) or so after everything is considered. After long term capital gains at 15% let's say, then you just picked up about $ 36,000 of the "market's money". That is money that if you take a loss on the next investment will not be nearly as painful as if you lost your original money. When you combine this with your original investment amount, you now have around $ 55,000 of operating capital for step 2.

Realistically, you can not predict how much you will make from the investment. When I invest, I try to establish in my mind what is reasonable. Frequently, I have been surprised to the positive and made much more than expected. Sometimes I have made less. The key being put to yourself in a low risk situation where you have a strong reason to believe the market will go in your favor.

To accomplish this first step, let's look at what you really had to do:

1) Had to be willing to put $$ in harm's way;

2) Had to educate yourself enough to evaluate the risk and the opportunity;

3) Had to find the opportunity or be in a position to have the opportunity presented to them;

4) Had to act.

I would like to comment on the education side. As a former professor, I have seen very smart people spend 1,000's of hours and 10,000's of thousands of dollars educating themselves to "earn a living"; This is a great move in many cases. On the other side, I have seen very smart people who want investing to be a major source of income but will not spend any time or any money educating themselves.

To me, this is a recipe for disaster. By the time we finish this series, you will see that with a few simple steps, implemented over time, many people can easily produce more money than their regular job. Tomorrowmore, many people will put 100's of thousands of dollars at risk but know almost nothing about what they are doing. If you chose the path of making your investment dollars grow steadily with time, I hope this does not end up describing you.

** Footnote: If you are not yet at that level, here is what I suggest. First, read Michael Masterson's book called "Automatic Wealth". This is an excellent book on how to quickly change your financial position while staying employed. Next, I would read Van Tharp's new book called "Safe Paths To Financial Freedom". Van uses a very different thought process from many and so adds a great deal of rounding. Like anything else, you will not agree with everything written in these books but they provide some great thought processes. When you have some capital and are cash flow positive, they come back and revisit this article.