Here’s is a review of a common question we get at The Knowledge Nook. Because many individuals interested in the career of a Private Investigator are former law enforcement officials, or active officers considering retiring from law enforcement, individuals in other careers may feel this is not the right career for them.
The question frequently asked is, “Do you have to be a police officer or involved in some type of law enforcement before becoming a private investigator?”
It is easy to see why individuals outside law enforcement may feel they do not have the professional background to enter the field. After all, private investigators conduct some activities that are similar to what a police officer might perform: investigative work, finding missing persons, and verifying background information, among others.
Because of these similarities, then it would be logical to assume that a law enforcement background is a requirement for a PI license. So is it a requirement? The simple answer is no.
Background requirements for becoming a PI
The requirements for becoming a PI vary from state to state. In Texas, in order to earn your PI license, you must successfully pass a licensing exam; however, there’s an additional requirement. A licensee must meet a combination of practical investigative work experience/ educational requirement. Below are the requirements for Texas, as published by the Department of Public Safety:
(1) Three (3) consecutive years of investigation related experience;
(2) A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related course of study;
(3) A bachelor's degree with twelve (12) months of investigation related experience;
(4) An associate degree in criminal justice or related course of study, with twenty-four (24) months of investigation related experience;
(5) A specialized course of study directly designed for and related to the private investigation profession, taught and presented through affiliation with a four (4) year college or university accredited and recognized by the State of Texas. This course of study must be endorsed by the four (4) year college or university's department of criminal justice program and include a departmental faculty member(s) on its instructional faculty. This course of study must consist of a minimum of two hundred (200) instructional hours including coverage of ethics, the Act, and this chapter; or
(6) Other combinations of education and investigation related experience may be substituted for the above at the discretion of the department or its designated representative.
The work requirement could be experience in law enforcement or some other type of investigative work experience at a law firm, financial institution or other organization where an employee might perform functions that would qualify.
So why does this common misperception exist?
As mentioned earlier, private investigators do perform tasks and activities that are similar to work done by law enforcement professionals. So, it’s a natural profession for retiring police officers to transition into after retiring or leaving law enforcement.
In fact, it’s so common that PI Now conducted a survey and posted the most common backgrounds of private investigators. In their survey, over half of the private investigators surveyed revealed a law enforcement background. Essentially every other private investigator you might meet was once in law enforcement. It’s pretty easy to see then why someone might assume that law enforcement is a prerequisite.
If the private investigations area interests you and you weren’t ever in law enforcement, it’s totally fine to pursue a career as a PI. Make sure to review the work education requirements of your state to see if you already meet the requirements and can sit for the qualifying exam.
If you have other questions about the work of a private investigator, or would like to know more about PDI's Certificate in Professional Private Investigations, give us a call!