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Becoming a Professional Private Investigator: 5 Things to Think About

Whether your fancy yourself a Sherlock Holmes, a Sam Spade, or a Miss Marple, you may have some romantic fantasies centered on sleuthing. What you’re likely to find is that becoming a private investigator is nothing like the fictional stories you love. But it can definitely be a challenging and exciting career path for the right person. However, before you take the leap into detective work in the private sector, there are a few things you’ll want to think about. Here are some considerations that could sway your decision to become a private eye.

  1. Attention to detail. This is an important part of private detective work, especially since you could be doing a lot of work for attorneys interested in digging up dirt on behalf of their clients or police departments looking to outsource components of their investigations. But whether you’ve been hired by a jealous wife to find out if her husband is cheating, you’re looking into catfishing cases, or you’re helping a client to figure out if an investment opportunity is on the up and up or it’s actually too good to be true, having the innate (or even the learned) ability to see what others miss, put the pieces together, and document relevant data accordingly will serve you well in the course of your job. Lacking attention to detail could be a major liability in an industry that relies on accurate and relevant information.
  2. Problem solving skills. You may have noticed one thread of similarity running between every detective novel you’ve ever read: mystery. Although you might not end up solving crime capers that have been masterminded by evil geniuses, any time you’re digging into nefarious undertakings, you’re bound to come up against people who are trying to conceal what they’re doing, perhaps because it’s illegal, unethical, or simply distasteful. The ability to figure out ways to get the information you need is invaluable. You may need to pump people for information, follow people who don’t want to be followed, access records that are beyond your reach, and put together seemingly disparate pieces of data to form a complete picture. So problem solving is essential.
  3. Personal safety. As a private investigator you could find yourself in situations where your personal safety is compromised, so you need to understand what you’re getting yourself into. When people hide information, especially of the illegal variety, they may take exception to your efforts to uncover it. And they might tell you so rather forcefully (with threats, fists, weapons, and so on). As a result, you may want to carry a concealed weapon for protection.
  4. Degree programs. There are all kinds of college degrees that can help you in an investigative field, and most are geared towards information gathering. As a result, computer science degrees may be useful in this day and age, although the knowledge and skills to be gained from an education in criminal justice or forensic science could be equally valuable. It sort of depends on the type of investigative work you’re most interested in, as well as whether or not you intend to seek consulting gigs with the law enforcement community.
  5. Networking. As a private investigator, it pays to have an extensive network of contacts that spans nearly every industry imaginable. The ability to call a friend who specializes in chemistry one day and someone from Global International Security Services the next could not only make your job easier, but your ease of information gathering could put you at the top of your field. So it pays to shake hands and spend the time needed to maintain relationships.

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