Job type

Private investigator

£16k - £30k

Typical salary

37 – 48

Hours per week

Private investigators (PIs) carry out enquiries for their clients to find out information and check facts.

More info

  • Carry out enquiries for clients to find out information and check facts
  • You'll need communication, analytical and observational skills, self-confidence to present information in court and empathy with clients who may be upset with your findings
  • You could progress to team manager or set up your own agency and have other investigators working for you

As a private investigator, your cases could range from personal issues, like divorce, to company issues, like suspected theft. You'll normally do background research, which may involve asking questions and analysing information.


  • Monitor people
  • Investigate fraudulent insurance or accident claims
  • Trace missing people or pets
  • Handle legal documents to people (process serving)
  • Investigate commercial piracy (like copying software illegally)
  • Make background checks on employees


Your hours of work could be long, irregular and may include nights and weekends. You'll work at home or in an office, but you'll also spend a lot of time travelling and gathering information. Your working environment might be emotionally demanding. 

You'll need

To be a private investigator, you'll need customer service skills, excellent verbal communication skills, active listening skills, thoroughness and attention to detail, the ability to use your initiative, persistence and determination, patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, and analytical thinking skills.

There are currently no set requirements to become a private investigator, but experience working in an enforcement or investigative role, like with the police, armed forces or local authority, would be useful.

You could complete the Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Private Investigation.

You could also do a Private Investigators' Course through the Institute of Private Investigators.

If you want to be self-employed, you'll need the ability to run your own business and have some legal knowledge around information laws and data protection.

A driving licence is usually essential for this type of work.

Although private investigator licensing is subject to approval, the government's intention is to regulate this industry by making it a criminal offence to operate as a private investigator without a licence.


With experience, you could progress to senior investigator or team manager, or set up your own agency and have other investigators working for you.