Private Investigator Job Description

A Private Investigator job description is to find evidence of either a crime or perform surveillance on a particular person of interest. Similar to police detectives, private investigators must always work within the law, and cannot present any information that has illegally been obtained. However, unlike police officers, private investigators cannot obtain probable cause to enter a POI’s residence.

What are the Job Duties of a Private Investigator or PI?

Many private investigators must also be technological savvy. For example, some may do database searches to find the right information for their clients. Private Investigators may also handle cases that might not have enough evidence for Police to get involved.  The case may be as simple as a cheating spouse, or as complex as a twenty-year-old cold missing person case.

Sometimes, what starts as a private investigation gets the local police’s attention. As a result, private investigators can then help police crack the case. All in all, the duties or tasks of a private investigator can range depending on what kind of “Investigator” they become. Read on to learn about what skills and abilities a private investigator should have. 

What Skills do Private Investigators Need?

There are some skills and abilities useful to have as a private investigator. To be a really good investigator, having a great eye for details could help get the job done easier. If you are good at solving puzzles and have an analytical mind, then doing a job like private investigation would work for you. No detail is too small or irrelevant. Most investigators, however, need to have a license to practice.

PI’s should also have effective communication skills, be computer proficient, and have a strong knowledge of the law. Being good with photography is also a much-needed skill as a private investigator. The saying, “pictures don’t lie” speaks for itself.

When collecting evidence, having a physical picture of a crime or incident occurring can make your information very creditable in court. Having observation skills is also useful in the field of private investigation. Skills such as organization and detail-oriented are other benefits of the job. Being a PI can be dangerous, so many do carry a firearm. This is legal, as long as they have the required permits. On the contrary to some beliefs, a private investigator cannot arrest anyone, they have to let the police do that. 

Do Private Investigators Work Alone?

Private Investigators may be retired law enforcement personnel, some are even military. For the most part, Private investigators tend to work alone. However, there are some exceptions. Collaborating with local law enforcement or an organization can prove to be very useful in getting the much-needed information quicker for anxious clients. For example, many companies also employ private investigators to perform various tasks, like background checks or to quietly handle minor legal issues. In some cases, a PI can sometimes just follow a person around town, and report where that person goes, or who he or she talks with. 

Many PI’s do work alongside police officers or lawyers, trying to make a case against a criminal or alleged suspect. Private Investigators sometimes make their work as a family business, working alongside their fathers, children, or siblings. Although not common, there are times when private investigators do work with the Feds, that is the FBI. Especially if the person they are searching for is a felon, and there is a warrant out for their arrest. However, as mentioned before, private investigators are not legally able to arrest the suspect themselves. This must be only for the Police or government officials to do.

What is the Salary Outlook for Private Investigators?

Most Investigators do charge an hourly rate from 50 to 75 dollars for average cases. For bigger cases, it could cost as much as $200 an hour. As far as average annual salaries, a private investigator makes around $48,302, according to Although, salaries may vary on location or who the client is. The higher the stakes, the more they may incline to charge. Especially if the client or person you are investigating is a celebrity, politician, or just well-known in the community.

Sometimes the salary of a PI can be as high as $70,000 a year, if the cases are intense and of a very “private” matter. In addition, if the PI has a Degree in Criminal justice or criminal investigation, which often they do, this can also affect the salary. To learn more about the types of education degrees or programs an individual may need to become a private investigator check out Criminal Justice Master’s Degrees.