Institute of Professional Investigators
 Institute of Professional Investigators
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Becoming a Private Investigator


You may be starting out on a new career path, or you may be considering a change of employment, or indeed be looking to start a business in investigation. Hopefully, the answers to the questions you need to ask will be contained in this article.

Starting Out in Investigation
For those readers who have no investigation background at all, we recommend a number of simultaneous approaches.

First of all, seek training. The Institute provides an excellent online Foundation Private Investigation Course as well as various levels of investigative training (City and Guilds qualifications and seminars), as do other organisations, associations and commercial companies, but investigative training need not, and should not, be all that is undertaken.

A prospective investigator should consider legal training, and/or training in business. Both areas supplement the training that an investigator needs, and will add to your personal skills list irrespective of your success in finding work in this area. Local colleges can be consulted about this form of training.

Funding for training can be found through Career Development Loan facilities, Local Authority funding, and by working at other jobs while training is undertaken.

Secondly, start composing your Curriculum Vitae. Make a note of every achievement, both in terms of academic qualifications and experience. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate – keep the content simple to read, and absolutely accurate. Bear in mind that your prospective employer, better than anyone else, will be able to check its accuracy.

Third, consider offering your services on a freelance basis. Let local investigators know that you are available for work. There may come a time when they need untrained but enthusiastic manpower for relatively simple work. Don’t dismiss such an opportunity. This industry is very much one where what you can do, and your willingness to do it, can influence your future career prospects.

Don’t restrict yourself: Private investigation is a term covering a wide range of investigative work. Credit reference agencies, charities, banks, etc, all use investigation staff in-house. Consider approaching them for career opportunities.

Don’t expect adventure and excitement. This is not a romantic profession. But it IS an interesting one.

Consider getting a few years experience, and some training, by seeking employment with police, HM Customs, HM Forces, local authorities or other agencies. Learn the trade, and get paid for doing so.

Important: The Private Security Industry Act 2001 will shortly impose licensing requirements on investigators providing their services to clients on a contracted basis. Such licences are likely to be issued only to persons with clear police records.

It will therefore be incumbent upon any licence applicant that he, or she has no relevant prior convictions.

Starting an Investigation Business
In order to start an investigation business, a prospective investigator must consider what services he is going to provide, e.g. debt collection, tracing, process serving, internal theft investigation – the list is extensive.

Professional standards dictate that an investigator should not offer services he is unable or unqualified to provide, UNLESS he can provide those services on an agency basis. Membership of a trade association or professional body allows investigators a nation-wide network of agents who can act on his or her behalf in such situations.

Notwithstanding the event of licensing, investigation businesses should also comply with Consumer Credit Act licensing, if applicable; registration under the Data Protection Act, which is a legal requirement and applicable to ALL businesses; professional indemnity insurance (not compulsory but advisable); and any other professional qualifications applicable to the services provided (e.g. bailiffs, accountants).

It is also strongly suggested that investigators seek membership of a professional or trade body in order that they keep themselves up to date with legislation and practices pertinent to their profession. Larger companies can provide their own training facilities, but small businesses should take advantage of the services on offer from such professional associations.

Once these factors are addressed, the investigator needs to consider premises, advertising, and investigative equipment, and the other ‘normal’ business considerations. To seek a parallel template, we would suggest working along the same lines as legal service providers, including advertising in local and national legal publications.

Investigation Training
The Institute of Professional Investigators provides the following training facilities for those seeking employment in investigation and for those already working in that industry, but who are seeking recognised professional qualifications in Investigation.

Foundation Course In Private Investigation: This is an online course that students can undertake at their own pace.

Subjects addressed include – general investigation methodology, interviewing, basic surveillance advice, legal issues, report writing, and so on. Keep note of the IPI website for details, or contact the office.

The Institute’s Distance Learning Course leads, on completion of the relevant assessment, to the achievement of the IQ Level 3 Award in Investigations, which currently remains the expected qualification standard for SIA Private Investigation licences.

National Vocational Qualifications: The Institute has been responsible for setting and agreeing NVQ Standards with and through the Security Industry Training Organisation (SITO) over the past decade.

Seminars: The Institute regularly holds instructional seminars on various investigation subjects, and upon legislation changes that affect the way investigations are undertaken.



The Institute's online Foundation Course provides an excellent start point for a career in professional investigation.

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