The Wasser Agency

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Private Investigator in Miami, FL. Surveillance Investigation Miami and Divorce Investigation. South Beach Investigator. Miami Investigator

Private Investigator Salary Miami Beach South Beach

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.

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.

Since the trial of O.J. Simpson, the profession of private investigation has risen to a new level of respect among both the legal community and public at large. The success of O.J.’s “Dream Team” was largely a result of the brilliant work of the defense investigators. The Dream Team found the witness who exposed Mark Furman’s racism. They fashioned successful responses to everything that the prosecution witnesses testified about.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of private detectives and investigators is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. Demand for investigators is expected to be generated by increase in population size, increased economic activity, and domestic and global competition.

These forces are expected to produce increases in crime, litigation, and the need for confidential information of all kinds. As crime continues to increase, more firms will hire or contract for the services of private detectives. Additionally, investigators will be needed to meet the need for information associated with criminal defense and litigation for companies and individuals.

Greater financial activity will also increase the demand for private investigators. As competition becomes more intense, growing numbers of companies will hire private investigators to control internal and external financial losses, and prevent industrial spying.

The salary of private investigators varies greatly depending on their employer, specialty, and the geographic area in which they work. According to studies done in 1994, private investigators averaged about $36,700 per year, having a salary of an estimated $15,000 to 18,000 per year to start, with experienced investigators having a salary of $20,000 to 35,000.

Entry level private corporate investigators earn $40,000 to 45,000, with experienced corporate investigators earning $50,000 to 55,000. However, a successful self-employed Private investigator can have a salary of $100,000 and more.

Private Investigators bill their clients $50 to 250 per hour to conduct investigations. Most private investigators, except those working for law firms and corporations, do not receive paid vacation or sick days, health or life insurance, retirement packages, or other benefits. Investigators are reimbursed for expenses and receive pay for mileage. In my experience in South Florida, intern investigators earn from $8 to 15 per hour.

Investigators with two or more years of experience earn from $15 to 35 per hour. The potential earnings for those entering the field is unlimited. There has never been a greater need for these services than right now. Additionally, investigators are finally receiving the professional recognition that they deserve. Business is good, and the prospects for the future are incredible.

Salary Overview

Private Investigator Salary Miami Beach South Beach

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.

Important Facts About Private Investigators

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Entry-level Education: High school diploma or equivalent

Licensure: Available; requirements vary depending on the state

Work Environment: Investigations, guard, and armored car services; finance and insurance; government; legal services

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary by Experience

According to 2015 data from, 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 for 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. Private investigators typically charge anywhere from $13.85-$54.15 per hour. Self-employed investigators keep 100% of what they charge, though they are responsible for more administrative duties, such as record keeping.

Job Outlook

The BLS expects private detective and investigator employment growth to be average, at a rate of 11% over the 2012-2022 decade. Competition is expected for jobs, and it may be easier for entry-level professionals to find work in detective agencies.

Private detectives and investigators held about 34,900 jobs 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 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.