Private Detectives and Investigators
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Overview
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Gather, analyze, compile, and report information regarding individuals or organizations to clients, or detect occurrences of unlawful acts or infractions of rules in private establishment.
Titles for this career often contain these words
InvestigatorDetectiveLossPreventionAgentPrivateProtectionHouseOfficerAnalystSecuritySkipUndercoverAlarmAssetBackgroundBondingCashShortageCertifiedLegalContractDistrictFieldIntelligenceInvestigationsDirectorAssociateEyeSpecialistConsultantShoppingLocatorTracerSpecialStoreSurveillanceOperator
Education
About 59% of private detectives and investigators have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by private detectives and investigators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More private detectives and investigators have bachelor's degrees than 73% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Private detectives and investigators, with 33,000 workers, form a smaller workforce than 63% of careers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for private detectives and investigators are expected to grow by 8%, and should have about 3,300 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Private detectives and investigators are less likely to be automated than 66% of other careers.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for private detectives and investigators compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most private detectives and investigators earn.
$51K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Gender
Women account for 45% of private detectives and investigators -- that's a larger percentage than 57% of other jobs.
Gender of private detectives and investigators
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For private detectives and investigators, the median men's salary was 25% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 25% of private detectives and investigators are minority, and 9% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of private detectives and investigators
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (9%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Private Detectives and Investigators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of private detectives and investigators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (89%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (34%)
  • Consequence of Error (34%)
SOURCES:
Salary and diversity
What do private detectives and investigators earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries. This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for private detectives and investigators (BLS Salary Data)
$51K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$51K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for private detectives and investigators (ACS Salary Data)
$54K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$54K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Private Detectives and Investigators: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $54KAll jobs' median $45K$60K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire private detectives and investigators.
Employers of Private Detectives and Investigators (ACS)
Private for-profit (54.1%)
Private not-for-profit (3.5%)
Local government (9.3%)
State government (13.1%)
Federal government (14.7%)
Self-employed incorporated (2.3%)
Self-employed not incorporated (2.9%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of private detectives and investigators by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$54K$50K$53K$51K$55K$42K$88K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Self-employed not incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of private detectives and investigators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$51K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for private detectives and investigators

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$58K$44K$31K$61K$64K$58K$60K$48K$58K$0$50K$100K$150K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
02K4K6K8K10K12K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Private detectives and investigators and gender

With 45% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 57% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
45%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Private detectives and investigators
Men (55%)
Women (45%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%, and the difference for private detectives and investigators tops that, with the median salary for men 25% higher than the median salary for women.

$49K$62K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men. Private detectives and investigators have one of the more significant inequity issues, with the increase in men's median salary over women's median salary even higher than that for 73% of other jobs.

25%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of private detectives and investigators

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. There is a higher percentage of minority private detectives and investigators than for 69% of other careers. While this career employs many minorities, it employs a relatively small number of foreign-born people.

Race/origin of private detectives and investigators
White (71% )
Black (16% )
Asian (4% )
Multiracial (4% )
Other (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
25%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
9%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for private detectives and investigators by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$44K$51K$55K$55K$55K$56K$61K$85K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KOtherBlackAmerican IndianHispanicWhiteMultiracialAsianPacific Islander
Distribution: Salaries for private detectives and investigators by nativity
$54K$55K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Private detectives and investigators and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 8% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 64% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
8%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time private detectives and investigators is shown following.

$22K$54K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by private detectives and investigators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private detectives and investigators typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as private detectives and investigators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for private detectives and investigators

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.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for private detectives and investigators

Most states require private detectives and investigators to have a license. Check with your state for more information; Professional Investigator Magazine has links to most states’ licensing requirements. Because laws often change, jobseekers should verify the licensing laws related to private investigators with the state and locality in which they want to work.

Candidates may also obtain certification, although it is not required for employment. Still, becoming certified through professional organizations can demonstrate competence and may help candidates advance in their careers.

For investigators who specialize in negligence or criminal defense investigation, the National Association of Legal Investigators offers the Certified Legal Investigator certification. For other investigators, ASIS International offers the Professional Certified Investigator certification.

Education attained by private detectives and investigators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for private detectives and investigators? Below we see the distribution of private detectives and investigators salaries based on the education attained.

$42K$48K$50K$59K$66K$68K$0$50K$100K$150KHigh School (10%)Some College (21%)Associate's/Cert. (10%)Bachelor's Degree (41%)Master's Degree (14%)Professional Degree (2%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click a program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.

Number of degrees awarded in 2017
Education
Education level of awarded degrees
Associate's degree or certificate
Bachelor's
Graduate
Gender
Gender of graduates
Men
Women
Race/Origin
Race/origin of graduates
White
Minority
International
College majors held by private detectives and investigators

This table shows the college majors held by people working as private detectives and investigators.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Percentage of Private detectives and investigators with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers

With the following sankey diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as private detectives and investigators, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. We hope this provides ideas for similar jobs and similar fields of study.

Police OfficersSpecialized ManagersProbation Officers and Co...Security Guards and Gambl...Lawyers, and judges, magi...Correctional Officers and...Specialized Social Worker...Detectives and Criminal I...Elementary and Middle Sch...First-Line Supervisors of...Accountants and AuditorsFinancial ManagersFirst-Line Supervisors of...Wholesale and Manufacturi...Chief executives and legi...Labor Relations Specialis...First-Line Supervisors of...Customer Service Represen...Educational, Guidance, an...Specialized PsychologistsPostsecondary TeachersRegistered NursesEducation and childcare a...Retail SalespersonsManagement AnalystsParalegals and Legal Assi...First-Line Supervisors of...Bookkeeping, Accounting, ...Financial and Investment ...Secretaries and Administr...Social and Community Serv...Personal Financial Adviso...Securities, Commodities, ...Loan OfficersMarketing ManagersCriminal Justice and FireProtectionBusiness Management andAdministrationPsychologyGeneral BusinessPolitical Science andGovernmentAccountingSociologyEconomicsFinanceCommunicationsAll other degreesThis jobTop 10 majorsEach major's top ten jobs
What college major is your best entry?

About 59% of people working as private detectives and investigators have at least a bachelor's degree. Each dot represents a college major leading to these jobs, with the dots to the right representing the majors sending the most of their grads into this career. The dots at the top are the majors who earn the most working in this career.

Darker colors have a larger percentage with graduate degreesOverall median salary0.0%2.0%4.0%6.0%8.0%10.0%12.0%14.0%16.0%18.0%20.0%22.0%Percentage with this major$30,000$40,000$50,000$60,000$70,000$80,000$90,000$100,000$110,000$120,000Median salary with this major
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for private detectives and investigators

What jobs will most private detectives and investigators hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of private detectives and investigators reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Private Detectives and InvestigatorsDetectives and Criminal InvestigatorsSocial workersSchool bus monitors and protective service workersBill and Account CollectorsFirst-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales WorkersOffice and administrative support workers, all otherCompliance OfficersEducation and childcare administratorsSpecialized Computer OccupationsRegistered nursesAccountants and Auditors
Lateral job transitions for private detectives and investigators

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 6 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as private detectives and investigators as well as 1% of respondents after working as private detectives and investigators. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Prior and next careers for private detectives and investigators: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as private detectives and investigators? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of private detectives and investigators surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most private detectives and investigators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as private detectives and investigators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Private Detectives and Investigators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.20.40.6
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where private detectives and investigators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for private detectives and investigators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for private detectives and investigators.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Location-adjusted median salary for Private Detectives and Investigators (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which private detectives and investigators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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$0$20K$40K$60K$80K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?