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Become An Investigator

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Working As An Investigator

  • Getting Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $77,084

    Average Salary

What Does An Investigator Do

An Investigator is a person who carries out a formal inquiry or investigation. This position may refer to a clinical investigator, detective, inspector, psychic detective, or private investigator.

How To Become An Investigator

Private detectives and investigators typically need several years of work experience in law enforcement or the military. Workers must also have a high school diploma, and the vast majority of states require private detectives and investigators to have a license.


Education requirements vary greatly with the job, but most jobs require a high school diploma. Some, though, may require a 2- or 4-year degree in a field such as criminal justice or police science. 

Corporate investigators typically need a bachelor’s degree. Often, coursework in finance, accounting, and business is preferred. Because many financial investigators have an accounting background, they typically have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field and may be certified public accountants (CPAs). 

Computer forensics investigators often need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or criminal justice. Some colleges and universities now offer certificate programs in computer forensics, and others offer a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.


Most private detectives and investigators learn through on-the-job experience, often lasting several years.

Although new investigators must learn how to gather information, additional training depends on the type of firm that hires them. For instance, at an insurance company, a new investigator will learn on the job how to recognize insurance fraud. Corporate investigators hired by large companies may receive formal training in business practices, management structure, and various finance-related topics. 

Because computer forensics specialists need to both use computers and possess investigative skills, extensive training may be required. Many learn their trade while working for a law enforcement agency for several years. At work, they are taught how to gather evidence and spot computer-related crimes.

Continuing education is important for computer forensics investigators because they work with changing technologies. Investigators must learn the latest methods of fraud detection and new software programs. Many accomplish this task by attending conferences and courses offered by software vendors and professional associations.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Private detectives and investigators typically must have previous work experience, usually in law enforcement, the military, or federal intelligence. Those in such jobs, who are frequently able to retire after 20 or 25 years of service, may become private detectives or investigators in a second career.

Other private detectives and investigators previously may have worked for insurance or collections companies, as paralegals, in finance, or in accounting.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The vast majority of states require private detectives and investigators to have a license. Requirements vary with the state. Professional Investigator Magazine has links to each state’s licensing requirements. Because laws often change, jobseekers should verify the licensing laws related to private investigators with the state and locality in which they want to work.

In most states, detectives and investigators who carry handguns must meet additional requirements.

Although there are no licenses specific to computer forensics investigators, some states require them to be licensed private investigators. Even in states and localities where they are not required to be licensed, having a private investigator license is useful because it allows computer forensics investigators to perform related investigative work. 

Candidates may also obtain certification, although it is not required for employment. Still, becoming certified through professional organizations can demonstrate competence and may help candidates advance in their careers.

For investigators who specialize in negligence or criminal defense investigation, the National Association of Legal Investigators offers the Certified Legal Investigator certification. For investigators who specialize in security, ASIS International offers the Professional Certified Investigator certification.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Private detectives and investigators must listen carefully and ask appropriate questions when interviewing a person of interest.

Decisionmaking skills. Private detectives and investigators must be able to think on their feet and make quick decisions, based on the limited information that they have at a given time.

Inquisitiveness. Private detectives and investigators must want to ask questions and search for the truth.

Patience. Private detectives and investigators may have to spend long periods conducting surveillance while waiting for an event to occur. Investigations may take a long time, and they may not provide a resolution quickly—or at all.

Resourcefulness. Private detectives and investigators must work persistently with whatever leads they have, no matter how limited, to determine the next step toward their goal. They sometimes need to anticipate what a person of interest will do next.

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1,611 Investigator jobs

Food Safety and Inspection Service
Washington, DC

$77,084 Estimated

Office of Personnel Management
La Plata, MD

$103,444 Estimated

Phoenix, AZ
Anti-Money Laundering Investigator

$77,084 Estimated

State of Massachusetts
Boston, MA
Dental Investigator

$92,000 Estimated

Investigative Consultants
Los Angeles, CA

$79,799 Estimated

Correct Care Solutions
Columbia, SC

$77,084 Estimated

Northwestern University
Chicago, IL
Tenure-eligible Investigator

$53,458 Estimated

Northwestern University
Chicago, IL
Developmental Therapeutics Investigator

$53,458 Estimated

State of Massachusetts
Wrentham, MA
Staff Investigator, Wrentham

$92,000 Estimated

Bank of America
Charlotte, NC
Insider Threat Investigator

$77,084 Estimated

Bank of America
Chicago, IL
Insider Threat Investigator

$53,458 Estimated

Alamogordo, NM

$77,084 Estimated

Lockheed Martin
Stratford, CT

$77,084 Estimated

York Risk Services Group
Atlanta, GA

$77,084 Estimated

Menlo Park, CA
Company Investigator

$103,500 Estimated

City of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA
Investigator - Philadelphia

$75,450 Estimated

Hartford, CT
SIU Investigator

$77,084 Estimated

Northwestern University
Chicago, IL
Pediatric Cardiology - Tenure Track Investigator

$53,458 Estimated

Houston, TX

$80,214 Estimated

King of Prussia, PA

$75,450 Estimated

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Real Investigator Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Investigator II Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research Inc. Cambridge, MA Jul 16, 2015 $145,000
Investigator General Hospital Corporation MA Aug 08, 2016 $126,138
Investigator Los Angeles Biomedical Research at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Torrance, CA Jan 08, 2016 $125,000
Investigator II Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc. Cambridge, MA Nov 18, 2016 $120,819
Investigator II Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc. Cambridge, MA Apr 18, 2016 $120,000
Investigator II Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc. Cambridge, MA Aug 16, 2016 $120,000
Investigator II Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc. Cambridge, MA Oct 09, 2016 $119,768
Investigator II Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research Inc. Cambridge, MA Jul 16, 2015 $118,764
Investigator Baylor Research Institute Dallas, TX Jan 02, 2016 $117,500
Investigator Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA Jan 15, 2016 $117,300
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Top Skills for An Investigator


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Top Investigator Skills

  1. Background Investigations
  2. Law Enforcement Agencies
  3. Insurance Fraud
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conduct background investigations to determine suitability for persons who require access to sensitive/classified government information.
  • Collaborated with Federal/State law enforcement agencies/media/community.
  • Assigned periodically to work undercover to detect and deter insurance fraud.
  • Perform advanced social work related to protective services, intake, child abuse or neglect, and investigation.
  • Conducted surveillance and operated video equipment in a covert manner.

Top Investigator Employers

What Kind Of Companies Hire an Investigator

  1. Keypoint Government Solutions
  2. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
  3. Department of Family and Children Services
  4. Child Protective Services
  5. Capital One
  6. USIS
  7. CVS Pharmacy
  8. Us Investigation Services
  9. Glaxosmithkline
  10. TCF Bank
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Investigator Videos

FYI - The Real CSI