What the Average Consumer Doesn't Know About Private Investigators But Should

If you personally have never used the services of a private investigator, you probably aren’t familiar with what it is we do, how exactly we operate, and the laws and requirements we work within to do our jobs.

Read on to discover answers to these questions and more.

Each State Has It’s Own Licensing Body to License Private Investigators… With a Few Exceptions

If an individual wants to become a private investigator, the first step in doing so is to check their state’s requirements for licensure. There are only a few states that have no requirements for private investigators.

The following resources give overviews of PI licensing requirements in all 50 states, but each state should be checked individually for updates and changes: 

Pursuit Magazine



Many Licensing Requirements for Private Investigators Include Insurance, Experience, Testing, and Continued Education

Most state private investigator licensing bodies require some amount of liability insurance. No private investigator should balk at a request to show proof of insurance to a prospective client.

Another common requirement includes some form of experience, degree, or combination of the two, though this isn’t the case for every state.

Many private investigators have to initially pass a written exam of some kind to become licensed. Additionally, continued education is quite common to keep a license current and renewed.

Many Private Investigators Have Niches or Specialties

There are some private investigators who are considered “generalists” and offer quite the variety of services. However, many private investigators offer limited services based upon their niche(s) or specialty area(s).

Check out my earlier blog post that lists some of the most common niches found in the industry - https://newhopeinvestigations.com/blog/niche-markets-in-the-private-investigation-industry/2018/9/5.

The Work Private Investigators Do is Extremely Varied

To go along with the niches and specialties offered by many private investigators, a wide swathe of ground is covered in the private investigation industry. Some PI’s offer surveillance services while others spend all of their time assisting defense attorneys with their cases. Others provide bug sweeps while still others become extremely specialized in areas such as accident reconstruction, threat management, or nursing home abuse.

I’ve written another blog you can find here that further outlines the various jobs private investigators do.

It is also worthy to note that private investigators don’t just work for one type of person. We work for corporations, companies, insurance firms, attorneys, and individuals.

Private Investigators Have a Host of Very Different Backgrounds

It’s true that many of us are former law enforcement, but many others of us are not. Our different backgrounds serve us well in our chosen niches and specialties.

For example, it just makes sense that a private investigator who specializes in financial crimes is a former banker, financial planner, accountant, or financial crimes investigator for a law enforcement agency. It doesn’t make much sense to have a private investigator specialize in financial crimes whose background is DNA testing, surveillance operative, or computer forensics.

Private Investigator Fees Vary

It isn’t ethical for private investigators to work under contingency fees. It’s also illegal in some states.

Contingency fees aren’t a good idea for private investigators because we are hired to find the facts, plain and simple. Our work and results should not be swayed based upon whether or not they stack up to a favorable outcome for our client.

Most private investigators charge an hourly rate, though flat fees are sometimes used as well. The rate charged is highly dependent on geographical location, experience, and specialty. It also very much depends on the task at hand.

A client is going to pay a heck of a lot more for a team of investigators to conduct very technical and complicated surveillance on multiple subjects compared to a lone investigator to complete a background investigation on a job candidate.

I personally see most fees range from $70 per hour to $200 per hour.

Private Investigators Have Limits

It’s a common assumption that private investigators have the ability to “hack” into whatever database we need to get the information we seek. Some even assume we can trespass or even secretly break into a physical location to get the goods. This just isn’t so.

Private investigators cannot trespass. We cannot obtain cell phone, medical, or financial records without consent or a subpoena. We can’t add spyware onto a computer or hack into private databases.

Sorry if this disappoints you and completely erases the awesomeness you thought surrounded us. We are ordinary people who carry licenses that allow us to provide a service that revolves around fact gathering.

Most Private Investigators Are Quite Approachable

If you have a problem you think a private investigator might be able to help you out with, don’t hesitate to call one of us up and ask. We are here to serve you.