Private Investigator Jobs in Miami Florida
A private investigator, private detective, PI, or private eye, is a person who undertakes investigations, usually for a private citizen or some other entity not involved with a government or police organization. They often work for attorneys, civil cases or on behalf of a defense attorney. Many work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious claims. Before the advent of no-fault divorce, many private investigators were offered a job to search out evidence of adultery or other illegal conduct within marriage to establish grounds for a divorce. Despite the lack of legal necessity for such evidence in many jurisdictions, according to press reports collecting evidence of adultery or other "bad behavior" by spouses and partners is still one of the most requested activity private investigators undertake.
Thanks to books, movies and TV shows, many people have a clear mental image of the stereotypical private investigator. His job location comes from a dimly-lit, cluttered, sometimes smoky office in a less-than-affluent part of town. There, he greets a series of walk-in clients -- often women -- who have been wronged in one way or another.
Usually, his job is either to find proof of wrongdoing or to make the situation right again. To do this, he gets useful information from witnesses and bystanders, sometimes with the help of false pretenses and fake identification. He tails witnesses, takes pictures, searches buildings and keeps an eye out for clues that others may have overlooked. Occasionally, his curiosity gets him into trouble, and he barely escapes being caught somewhere he isn't supposed to be. But eventually, he returns to his distressed client, letting her know that he's solved the case.
Lots of fictional detectives have contributed to this image, including Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe and multiple film noir heroes from the 1940s and 50s. Today's pop-culture investigators, like Adrian Monk and Veronica Mars, are often a little quirkier than their older counterparts. They don't necessarily wear fedoras, have jobs around questionable neighborhoods or even call themselves private investigators. However, they still appear as heroes who have a knack for digging up the right information at the right time.
How much of the Private Investigator lore is really true? How many of the events depicted in fiction are really possible -- or legal? what it takes to become a private investigator and exactly what the job involves?
The first step to separating fact from fiction is to define precisely what a private investigator is. Essentially, private investigators are people who are paid to gather facts. Unlike police detectives or crime-scene investigators, they usually work for private citizens or businesses rather than for the government. Although they sometimes help solve crimes, they are not law-enforcement officials. Their job is to collect information, not to arrest or prosecute criminals.
Private investigators have existed for more than 150 years. The first known private detective agency opened in France in 1833. In 1850, Allan Pinkerton formed Pinkerton National Detective Agency, which grew into one of the most famous detective agencies in the United States. The Pinkerton Agency became notorious for breaking strikes, but it also made several contributions to the fields of law enforcement and investigation. The agency takes credit for the concept of the mug shot, and the term "private eye" came from the original Pinkerton logo.
Today, about a quarter of the private investigators in the United States are self-employed. Of those who are not, about a quarter find jobs in detective agencies and security services. The rest work for financial institutions, credit collection services and other businesses. Many private investigators choose to focus on a specific field of investigation based on their background and training. For example, someone with a degree in business might become a corporate investigator. A private investigator with a background in patents and trademarks might focus on intellectual property theft. A certified public accountant (CPA) might specialize in financial investigation.
But regardless of specialization, a Private Investigator's job is to conduct thorough investigations.
The job of a private investigator often includes:
- Performing surveillance
- Preparing reports
- Conducting background checks
- Interviewing people
- Intelligence gathering
- Providing security services
- Assisting in locating missing persons
- Providing courtroom testimony
Private investigators must walk a fine line, and though they are not government agents, the information they gather may be used later for criminal investigations. For this reason, it is important that like police detectives, private investigators adhere to established rules of evidence.
Many people who decide to become private investigators already have experience in a related field. They may have served in a branch of the military or worked as police officers. Others have experience in crime-scene investigation or surveillance. While this experience can be helpful, it doesn't entirely replace education and training.
In most cases, a person learns to be a private investigator through apprenticeship with an experienced investigator or formal instruction. Either on the job or in a classroom, the future private investigator learns about:
- Planning and coordinating investigations
- Investigative and surveillance techniques
- Laws and ethics pertaining to investigative practice
- Questioning witnesses
- Evidence-handling procedures
Having a license allows a private investigator to practice in one particular state, but the nature of investigative work can require investigators to cross state lines. Some states have reciprocity agreements with one another -- a license in one state allows a person to practice in the other as well. Private Investigators practicing in states without such agreements sometimes apply for licensure in nearby states as well. Others develop working relationships with private investigators in other states, having jobs as assistants, apprentices or trainees when traveling.
While licenses give people the right to present themselves as private investigators, they do not give people the right to break the law in the course of investigations.
Some critics feel that private investigators' work is an invasion of people's privacy. A number of laws and constitutional amendments protect people's privacy in many countries throughout the world. However, many of these laws regulate the steps that the government or certain businesses can take. They do not necessarily affect whether a private investigator is permitted to take surveillance photos or to use pretexts to get information that would otherwise be confidential.
Because of privacy concerns and depictions in popular culture, some people believe that private investigators are often on the wrong side of the law. Private investigators have also appeared in a negative light in some high-profile cases, such as the Hewlett-Packard corporate spying trial in 2006 and 2007. However, as more states and countries begin to regulate and license private investigators, this perception may gradually begin to change.
Private detectives and investigators held about 34,900 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most private detectives and investigators were as follows:
- Investigation, guard, and armored car services 30%
- Government 7%
- Finance and insurance6%
- Retail trade 6%
Nearly 1 in 4 private detectives and investigators were self-employed in 2014.
Private detectives and investigators work in many environments, depending on the case. Some spend more time in offices, performing computer searches and making phone calls. Others spend more time in the field, conducting interviews or performing surveillance.
Although private investigators often work alone, some work with others while conducting surveillance or carrying out large, complicated assignments.
Some of the work can involve confrontation, and some situations may call for the investigator to be armed. In most cases, however, a weapon is not necessary because private detectives and investigators’ purpose is to gather information, not to enforce laws or apprehend criminals.
Private detectives and investigators may have to work with demanding, and sometimes distraught, clients.
Private Investigator’s business is one in which he or she is not going to find that many 9-to-5 jobs, though. The workload can be really inconsistent and private investigators are often hit with time-sensitive work, so they have to be flexible with their hours and have an understanding family.
Private Detective and Investigator Education
Private investigator jobs are one of the many great criminal justice and criminology careers that don't require a degree. However, prior experience in a related field may be beneficial and at times required to advance in any private investigator career.
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.
Private Detective and Investigator Training
It’s critical to get on-the-job learning by being a practitioner in the business. 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.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Licensing, licenses and regulates the private investigative industry in accordance with Chapter 493, Florida Statutes. Private investigators and private investigative agencies serve in positions of trust. Untrained and unlicensed persons or businesses, or persons not of 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. This information has been made available to inform Florida citizens about licensing requirements.
A private investigator is any individual or agency who, for consideration, advertises as providing or performs the following activities. Individuals or agencies providing or advertising as providing these services for consideration must be licensed.
Private investigators are usually hired to uncover and analyze information about many types of matters, such as business, relationships or finances. Today much of the work is done using computer research, though investigators might still need to perform surveillance on an area or an individual. As a private investigator, you might specialize in cases pertaining to issues such as worker's compensation claims or intellectual property theft, or you might work in a business investigating suspicious activity. These professionals use equipment like video cameras and global positioning systems to perform their investigations. You might perform face-to-face interviews or go undercover to obtain information.
Employment postings for private investigators indicate that you'll likely need your own computer and video camera, and you'll probably need to be willing to travel. As a private investigator, you should be comfortable working with little supervision and be able to avoid and manage conflict with others. Here are some job postings from March 2012 to show you what employers were looking for:
A surveillance company in Kentucky advertised a job for a full time licensed private investigator with a clean criminal history and driving record, as well as a laptop and internet access. A criminal justice degree and previous relevant experience is preferred.
A national department store chain in Illinois posted a job for an assets protection investigator to identify fraud and possibly represent the company in court proceedings. The posting specifies that candidates must have a 4-year degree and knowledge of law enforcement and security.
A risk management firm searched for a field investigator to work at a Miami location. The advertisement explains that investigators perform research and interviews to determine the validity of insurance claims. Candidates must be bilingual in English and Spanish, and five years of insurance claims investigation experience is preferred.
An insurance investigation group in Salt Lake City offered a job for a part-time fire investigator to analyze the cause of fires and provide court testimony. Candidates with 5-10 years of experience and certification by the National Association of Fire Investigators are preferred.
An auto insurance company in Orlando - Florida looked for a special investigator to research suspicious customer claims. This job requires two years of either claims experience or investigative experience is required.
As a private investigator, you'll probably be using specific technologies in your work, such as computer imaging software, query software and cameras. Potential employers offer jobs for candidates with appropriate surveillance equipment, and you might be able to stand out among applicants if you can show a range of knowledge in computer programs, surveillance gadgets and other relevant topics. These skills are especially important if you opt for a career in computer forensics investigation, a field that requires understanding of operating systems, software programs and other technologies, according to the BLS.
Businesses are only expected to create a handful of new private detective jobs a year. Still, since employment in the industry is so small, the few new jobs means the occupation will grow by 18 percent over the next decade.
Some two-year colleges offer criminal justice training programs, and applicants with a degree often have the edge over those without. Private investigators also must be licensed with the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.
The national average salary of private detectives and investigators was $44,570 in May 2014, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those in the bottom 10% of workers made $27,000 or less, while those in the top 10% made $85,560 or higher. Several factors play a part in how much a private investigator earns. Some of these factors include your level of experience, your location and the industry in which you work.
A Private Detective or Investigator can expect a compensation somewhere between $32000 to $48000 based on levels of tenure. Private Detectives and Investigators can earn a pay level of Forty Seven Thousand Four Hundred dollars annually.
For instance a Private Detectives and Investigators receive the highest pay in Virginia, where they receive average pay levels of close to $68420. People working these jobs have the most lucrative average salary level in Educational Services, where they earn an average pay rate of $73480.
Salary by Experience
According to 2015 data from PayScale.com, private detectives and investigators with 0-5 years of experience earned around $41,000 per year on average. Those with 5-10 years of experience earned higher salaries of around $52,000. With 10-20 years of experience, salaries increased to about $55,000 per year. With over 20 years of experience, expect to earn about $73,000 per year.
Salary by Location
Where a private investigator works affects how much he or she earns. Someone in the Los Angeles area has a mean wage of $58,190, while someone in Philadelphia, however, has a mean wage of $55,100, according to May 2014 BLS figures. States with the highest mean wages for private detectives and investigators in May 2014 included Nebraska ($66,800), New Jersey ($63,520), Alabama ($59,640), Washington ($59,220), and Hawaii ($58,030).
Salary by Industry
The BLS reported that the investigation and security services industry had the highest employment level of private detectives and investigators in May 2014, and the annual mean wage in this industry was $53,910. The management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry had the second highest employment level and a mean wage of $55,430. Employment levels were much smaller in the local and state governments, with annual mean wages at $53,930 and $46,130, respectively.
Salary by Type of Employment
Whether a private investigator works independently or finds a job in a private investigation agency has an impact on his or her salary. Many agencies pay private investigators an average percentage of billable hours based on the hourly rate charged per client, according to HG.org Legal Resources. Private investigators typically charge anywhere from $13.85-$54.15 per hour, according to PayScale. Self-employed investigators keep 100% of what they charge, though they are responsible for more administrative duties, such as record keeping.
Strong competition for jobs can be expected because private detective and investigator careers attract many qualified people, including relatively young retirees from law enforcement and the military.
The best job opportunities will be for entry-level positions in detective agencies. Candidates with related work experience, as well as those with interviewing and strong computer skills, may find more job opportunities than others.
Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career
- Private detective
- Private eye
- Private investigator
- Loss Prevention Officer
- Loss Prevention Detective
- Loss Prevention Agent
- Loss Prevention Associate
- Loss Prevention Investigator
- Asset Protection Investigator
- Asset Protection Detective
- Loss Prevention Specialist
Pros of a Career as a Private Investigator
This occupation is expected to experience about average employment growth with a low volume of annual job openings. The need for replacements, rather than from business expansion, is projected to make up the majority of job openings in the coming decade. Strong competition for jobs can be expected because private detective and investigator careers attract many qualified people, including relatively young retirees from law enforcement and the military. Compared to all occupations, wages for this occupation are average.
- Average employment growth expected from 2012-2022, at 11% (for private detectives and investigators)
- Many specializations and types of investigation work (surveillance work, interviews, computer searches)
- Variety and independence in work tasks (Can work alone, as part of a team or undercover)
- No specific education required to enter profession (Can learn investigative skills on the job)
- Salary is higher than the average for all occupations (Around $53,000 average salary for private detectives and investigators)
- Cons of a Career as a Private Investigator
- Strong competition for available jobs, with many qualified candidates
- Need to be licensed (Some states require investigators to have 2-3 years of experience)
- Irregular work hours (nights and weekends are common)
- Confrontations can be stressful and possibly dangerous
- Surveillance and research can be time-consuming
Full-time versus part-time: Almost all jobs in the criminal investigation field are full-time positions requiring significant overtime availability. Because these jobs are regarded as necessary for public safety, minimal flexibility is available for work schedules and shift scheduling is typically enforced at all levels of the occupation. Newcomers to the field or the working environment may be assigned less desirable shifts and duties as preference is most often given to private investigators and detectives with seniority in the workplace environment.