What Do Private Investigators Do?

A private investigator (P.I.) is like a personal detective. Instead of following up on cases assigned by law enforcing agencies, as in a criminal investigation, private detectives conduct investigations that help ordinary people and businesses. They’re experienced at culling relevant information from public sources like government records and news articles. Private detectives also possess the interview skills needed to elicit important information that can help you achieve your goals.

Is Working as a Private Investigator Easy?

Like any profession, the job of a private investigator is easier if you have adequate preparation. Some private detectives learn on the job in an apprenticeship with an experienced professional investigator. A university degree is helpful but not always required by detective agencies. A degree in criminal justice or law enforcement is beneficial for learning to be an investigator, and a degree in the social sciences like psychology or sociology is also helpful. Becoming a private investigator requires dedication, and the early years of learning to be a P.I. aren’t always easy. At first, some future private detectives may have to settle for jobs like a researcher or fraud investigator for a company or public agency. Others may spend long hours in the role of surveillance employee for a detective agency before being given more responsibility. If you enjoy chasing down leads to collect information and have a knack for research, the job will seem easier because it will be a good fit for your talents.

What Do Private Investigators Do on the Job?

Three of the major tasks performed by private investigators are research, surveillance, and evidence gathering, including written reports. These activities can take place at any time of the day, and being a P.I. isn’t a nine-to-five sort of job. Because of the time-sensitive nature of some information, it may be necessary for a P.I. to work nights and weekends.

What Can Private Investigators Do to Solve a Case?


The difference between an internet search by a private citizen and a search by an investigator is partly due to the experience and skill a trained P.I. brings to online research. Private investigators also have access to internet resources and databases that the average person isn’t aware of. There’s a torrent of information on the web, and a trained researcher can narrow it down and find the parts that are useful to an investigation.


Interviewing people is one area in which an investigator’s people skills are most useful. A private detective will talk with anyone who may be able to shed light on a case or answer a question. Experienced investigators are skilled at asking the right questions to elicit helpful answers. Interviews are recorded whenever possible, and the P.I. also takes notes about relevant parts of the conversation.


Physical surveillance is one of the tasks that private investigators routinely perform. Sometimes, data that hasn’t surfaced after doing research and combing public records can be obtained through discreet observation. Surveillance photos and videos can also be used as evidence in a court case.

Evidence Gathering

Another task is to gather evidence that supports the facts uncovered by the investigator. This could include surveillance photos, audio or video files, copies of public records, news clippings, phone records, or credit card statements. The investigator will document where and how the evidence was obtained, and a reputable private investigator will only collect evidence using legal means.

Benefits of Using a Private Investigator

A professional investigator has the time and expertise needed to put all the pieces of a case together. A licensed P.I. conducts investigations using legal tools of the trade that aren’t readily available to a private citizen. Most private detectives spend years learning how to effectively solve cases, and they are sometimes asked to assist in legal cases and official investigations. If you have important questions, employing a P.I. is an effective way to get answers.



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