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How to Become a Private Investigator Part 1 – Considerations

Are you considering becoming a private investigator? The job of a private investigator, also known as a PI, is rewarding and allows you to see the evidence of your hard work. The job requires patience to stay focused and a person that is honest, ethical and a trustworthy.

So, what is the first step? There is a lot of information available but sorting through and learning what your plan is can be overwhelming. The research process can be confusing and time-consuming without proper direction. How To Become a Private Investigator will provide you with the answers to your questions and guidance for you to get started.

I have assembled some of the most frequently asked questions by people who are interested in pursuing a career as a private investigator. In this three part series, I will discuss things to consider, review some of the training and education requirements and in the third part, discuss how to get started. Note that the information in this post is specific to the state of Georgia and the requirements differ from state to state.

Tell me a little about the private investigations industry in Georgia.

Private investigators obtain or furnish information in reference to criminal acts, background investigations, stolen property, damage or injury, securing evidence and protection of individuals. Private investigators fall under the classification of “private detective business” in the state of Georgia and are governed by an occupational licensing board called the Georgia Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies.

What type of person makes a successful private investigator?

Truly successful investigators have skills and qualities beyond what are taught in a training program. An aspiring investigator must posses a healthy dose of enthusiasm to help others, honesty, tenacity, diligence, be goal and detail oriented, and objectivity – with objectivity being extremely important. A bias or prejudice could hamper your ability to conduct an objective investigation and taint the way you evaluate or work the case. The investigator’s job is to provide facts, not opinions.

In addition to those characters, the ability communicate well is pertinent in a successful career – no matter the quality of the field investigation work, an investigator must convey and communicate this information with the client in a clear and concise manner. They must also possess the ability to approach and work through any case without bias, prejudice, or allowing your personal opinion to taint the way you evaluate or work the case.

As far as an investigator’s background, there is no “typical background”. Everyone possesses unique abilities and skill learned through their life experiences. The common denominator of a successful investigator is that they build on these abilities and skills and never stop learning.

What should be my first consideration regarding my decision to start a career in this industry?

If you are reading this article, I suspect you already have an interest. In addition to this, you will need a commitment to complete the training requirements and also ask how you see yourself working as an investigator. There are two options to legally work as a private investigator in Georgia – either work for a licensed private investigations agency as a registered employee or you apply for your own company license and work independently.

I have no experience. Will completing training course really help me become a private investigator?

Yes! The training has an expansive curriculum and is taught by certified instructors. The State of Georgia requires everyone to complete the 70-hour basic course, regardless of prior work experience or education. It will satisfy the Board’s minimum required training for the highest level of investigative registration and it provides the understanding of how the private investigation industry works and the technical knowledge to help you transition into this field.

Do I need to have a degree in criminal justice or have prior law enforcement experience to get a job in this industry?

No, there are no requirements for a degree or law enforcement experience to work in this field. There are some states, including Georgia that may accept a degree in Criminal Justice, Administration of Justice or Police Sciences in lieu of some of the minimum requirements.

I have a criminal conviction in my background. Will this affect my ability to become a private investigator?

There isn’t a simple answer for this question as each circumstance will be different. A criminal investigation is part of the licensing process that the Board does and they evaluate each applicant with a criminal history on the particular circumstances of their case. For instance, a recent felony will be an automatic disqualification whereas, a conviction that occurred many years ago or a misdemeanor may be considered depending upon the details of the charge.

The Board and licensing process are in place not only to regulate the industry but also to protect the public. Their position is: “Private investigators an private investigative agencies serve in a position of trust. Untrained or unlicensed person or businesses, or persons of not good moral character, are a threat to the public safety and welfare. The private investigative industry is regulated to ensure the interests of the public are adequately served and protected.”

If I am registered as a PI in Georgia, can I also work in other states or can a licensed investigator in another state come into Georgia to work?

The state of Georgia does not have any agreements with other states to allow for a reciprocal license. Anyone that wishes to operate a company or be registered as an investigator must go through the application process and company license holders are required to take the private investigation exam in Georgia.

Georgia does have agreements with some states for a limited license reciprocity. It allows a private investigator to enter and perform private investigator duties in those states. This rule allows for work that originates in Georgia and takes you to a reciprocal state to continue for a period of time no longer than 30 days per case. At this time, the list includes Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia and California but does not include Alabama or South Carolina. Check the Georgia Secretary of State website for the most current and accurate information.

Still have questions about considerations?

Contact me, Larry Davis, at Hawk PI with any questions or if you would like to discuss any of the details.

In the Part 2 – Requirements and Training, I’ll review all of the requirements and training that you need to become a private investigator.


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