Authored by Jamais Jochim in Careers and Employment
Published on 03-22-2009
The problem with detective novels is that they make the life of a private investigator seem romantic and full of adventure. Actual private investigators don’t lead that kind of life. There is one that needs to be made very clear: A private investigator is not a police detective. You investigate people, not crime scenes; the life of a private investigator is very boring, and makes you look at the seedier side of life. If you are interested in pursuing the kind of investigating one would see in a novel, you are advised to look elsewhere.
Just going through the quest to become one should tip them off to that. The process seems simple enough, but the would-be private investigator learns quickly that appearances can be deceiving. Although most private investigators come either from a law enforcement or military background, there are also a lot of people who become private investigators because they are interested in that kind of life were rejected from it for various reasons. However, this doesn’t mean that a person wants to become a private investigator just to indulge some personal fantasy; they do so because they are earnestly interested in the work.
The first problem is that it’s difficult to find proper instruction; instructors are few and far between, and it may necessitate moving to a big city for a while. The instruction can be extremely boring, as the student learns a lot by doing; the student quickly finds that surveillance is a more boring if you can’t just jump to the point where you find out the secret you’ve been looking for. The instruction also covers how to obtain all of the various licenses necessary to do the job, as well as basic legal instruction, as there are potential legal ramifications to be aware of while on the job. This instruction can last from weeks to months, depending on how in-depth the instructor goes into the material. By the time that a person graduates, they should know how to follow a lead, see others, and not be seen as well, as well as possibly some basic self-defense training and definitely which laws apply to your potential actions.
The next issue is to get the various licenses needed for the job, which usually starts with a background check before the person can even begin the quest to get licensed as a private investigator, which will usually involve a trip to the local police. It should be noted that this is a county-by-county issue, and not a universal; some cities allow private investigators to ply their trade without licensing, so check with the local police before you begin investigating. Some investigators also carry weapons; this requires additional licensing.
There are a lot of obvious disadvantages to becoming a private investigator, especially as it’s not usually the glamorous life it may seem like from the novels. However, for the right person, who is patient, is interested in helping others, and can deal with the stress, it can be a very interesting life.