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So You Want to be a PI...


So You Want to be a PI...

A reporter contacted me and asked... 

Q. What would be your advice to someone who wants to become a PI? One way to think about this question is, what you would have wanted your younger self to know before entering the career. 
  1. Know yourself. If you are not naturally inquisitive, not willing to work odd hours (24/7, including holidays) illing to accept financial risk once you are on your own... find something else to do.
  2. Plan on working with an established, large PI firm when you first start out. You may have been a great detective in you law enforcement career, but you'll need to learn the business of doing business to succeed if you want to eventually go out on your own in the private sector. If you have little or no experience, working for a large investigations firm is the way to get some. Large firms will teach you if... you show aptitude, good sense and have excellent writing skills.
  3. In addition to developing a general knowledge of private security, security hardware/software, etc., develop two specialties. This will make you unique and reduces the competitive pressures.
  4. Be willing to learn other aspects of business, e.g. bookkeeping, marketing, advertising, public speaking, website development, social networking, etc. You will need these skills, or you will be paying someone else too much to do them for you.

Q. What are the career path options someone like yourself has in the field? 

The private investigations field is broad: surveillance, insurance investigations, undercover employee, secret shoppers, civil investigations, fraud and counterfeit, on-line research, computer forensics, accident reconstruction, technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM), skip tracing, pre-trial research, corporate investigations, arson investigations, background checks, domestic investigations, infidelity investigations, and more. Most PI's have many of these fields listed on their menu. The really successful ones specialize in only one or two.

Then, there is the whole field of security consulting where knowledge and experience (and nothing else) are the items being sold. This is considered the top of the field at the end of the career path. For more information on this, visit the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (

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