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How to Become a Private Investigator in the United Kingdom

Finding out how to be a Private Investigator in the UK is not too much of a hurdle, at least in the regulatory sense. There are no Private Investigator requirements in the United Kingdom or need for official Private Investigator training.

United Kingdom PI in black suit

For a nation so steeped in government rules and regulations, it is surprising that the UK does not require anything of you to become a Private Investigator in the UK. You do not even need to take a UK Private Investigator course. You can simply work as a PI if you are legally allowed to work in the UK.

UK Private Investigator License

However, the UK does issue a United Kingdom Private Investigator's license but you can still work without one. Since there are no requirements to become a PI in The UK, your employers are going to want you to have PI experience.

Getting Hired By a UK Private Investigator Agency

To work as a UK Investigator you need to be hired by an agency. Getting hired as a PI requires experience. If you do not have UK investigative experience, you should take a PI course that focuses on practical skills: Intro to a Career as a PI 100.

UK Security Industry Authority: PI Licensing

It is odd that The UK does not require a license for you to work as a PI. However, in many jurisdictions across the pond it is quite similar. In many places, you can work under a licensed Private Investigator while having no PI license. The government body that issues PI licenses in The UK is the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

Getting UK Private Investigator Experience

Becoming a Private Investigator is not the same as getting a PI license. It is typically easy to obtain a Private Investigator license, at least a beginner’s license.

However, getting a job as a Private Investigator and successfully working investigations is a tough journey. So, when you are asking “how do I become a Private Investigator with no experience?” you are really asking “how do I get hired as a Private Investigator and stay hired?”

  • The answer to this is to obtain proper Private Investigator education.

Furthermore, you can expand on this by working as an apprentice United Kingdom PI and practising. However, a proper PI education will always be the most important first step.

So, your first step will be obtaining proper Private Investigator education. Not through the short UK government licensing course, but through at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator education.

Government licensing courses typically focus on legal matters, mostly privacy laws, which is useful but you still need to learn practical investigative subjects.

This can be online Private Investigator training classes or in an in-class training environment. In order to become a Private Investigator with no experience, you need to become educated on the complexities of the private investigation industry (this will also help you decide if you want to pursue the PI career) and how to set yourself up to become a successful Private Investigator.

Secondly, you will need to become educated on how to perform investigations.

UK detective following man and woman

To learn the complexities of the UK private investigation job industry you will need to understand a few Private Investigator industry topics:

  • Regional licensing requirements for Private Investigators will teach you what you need to obtain your Private Investigator license.

  • To help you decide if you want to enter the career of private investigation you will have to learn the common misconceptions about the Private Investigation industry.

  • Understanding the learning curve of a Private Investigator will set you up to become a successful PI.

How to Get Hired as a UK PI

  1. You must be 18yo or older

  2. You must be legally allowed to work in The UK

  3. You must have PI experience or you should take a PI skills course: Intro to a Career as a PI 100

How to Get a Private Investigator License in the UK

(not required)

  1. You must be 18yo or older

  2. You must be legally allowed to work in The UK

  3. Complete the program: the IQ Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators

  4. You cannot have a criminal history (Fit and Proper person test)

  5. You will have to pay a £220 licensing fee

UK Licensing Authority

PO Box 74957


E14 1UG

Before entering the UK PI industry, it is useful to know the challenges encountered as a Professional Private Investigator. This will also help you make career decisions.

Then you need to learn what you will be doing as a Private Investigator.

Learning the areas of specialization as a Professional Private Investigator and types of clients and corresponding file requirements will help with this.

You will need to learn how Investigators obtain assignments and hours of work to determine if this work environment is right for you.

UK PI in car following another car

If you are concerned about your ability to perform as a UK Private Investigator, learning what factors will determine your aptitude as a Professional Private Investigator and what makes a “good” Professional Private Investigator will be essential.

It is also important to know the physical and health requirements and health considerations.

Then there is equipment:

  • Learning about equipment needed in order to get started in a career as a UK Professional Private Investigator is a must.

  • Furthermore, you will need to educate yourself on communication devices and their role in private investigation.

Lastly and most importantly, you must learn “The Investigative Mindset.” This will teach you how to think like a Private Investigator.

After you learn these concepts, you will be well on your way to becoming a Private Investigator even without experience.

After learning the complexities of the private investigation industry, you will need to develop practical skills in various areas:

  • The most important areas are Desk Investigations, Pre-surveillance, surveillance, mobile vehicle surveillance, on-foot surveillance, obtaining evidence, and litigious reporting.

To learn Desk Investigations you will need to understand what is a Desk Investigation, Desk Investigation nomenclature, corroborated and circumstantial evidence, The Evidence Document, The Desk Investigators Mindset, Google Basics for North America, and social media search basics for North America.

UK Surveillance

Surveillance will be the largest subject to learn.

  • Under this field you should learn about setting up a proper surveillance vehicle, surveillance spot checks, and surveillance set ups for various investigative operations.

As a Private Investigator, you will spend the majority of your time performing investigations solo. This is why learning single person surveillance is crucial.

Furthermore, you will occasionally work in UK surveillance teams, so you will need to lean how to perform surveillance with two or more surveillance operatives.

Private Investigators perform a lot of their surveillance from a surveillance vehicle, but also on foot, you will need to learn this also.

The entire reason Private Investigators are hired, is to obtain evidence. Obviously, learning how to obtain evidence, mostly in video form, is a must. As a Private Investigator, you will need to obtain quality video that is litigious and that will satisfy your client.

Reporting for UK Court

At the end of all this, you will need to learn how to create an investigative report that will most likely be used in litigation in a United Kingdom court. After you learn all of this, you will have no trouble becoming a successful Private Investigator.

Gaining Experience

If you want to increase your chances of getting a PI job in the UK even more, you can apprentice as a PI.

  • However, getting an apprenticeship may be difficult. You will need to go about this as if you are applying for a regular job.

This includes sending out a lot of resumes and “pounding the pavement.” As an apprentice, your UK PI agency could give you experience in surveillance or working in the office in some capacity. Most importantly, working as an apprentice will give you the ability to put a real PI agency on your resume. This compounded with proper PI education will increase your chance of landing a job as a PI even further.


Then there is practice. You should build up practice hours in two common Private Investigator fields:

  • Cyber Investigations

  • surveillance

Obtaining experience in these two common fields will help you successfully work investigations when you get a job as a PI. It is important to practice safely. You need to hide your digital footprint when online and follow people in the field without putting yourself or others in danger. If you are unable to do both, hold off on practicing.

How to become a Private Investigator in The United Kingdom with no experience should now be clear.

  • Yes, the UK government licensing course is necessary but it will not set you up for success as a Private Investigator.

Apprenticing and practice will help, but you will always need at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator education. You will need to learn the PI industry, as well as how to perform. In fact, becoming a Private Investigator through proper education will set you up to become more successful than Investigators with many years of experience but who have not developed a strong foundation with proper Private Investigator education.

Thinking of Becoming a Private Investigator in the UK?

“ICPI Level 100 online Private Investigator Training” is the ultimate blueprint to start your exciting and rewarding career as a real UK Private Investigator.

ICPI Level 100 will help you start successfully in this amazing new career, even if you know nothing about investigations.

Our team has vetted out the best Private Investigator training and investigative methods so that you can jump-start your journey towards having the meaningful career you’ve always wanted, immediately.

This investigative training system will provide you, a successful UK detective, with all the templates that you need to succeed. A clear path on becoming a PI, understanding the PI business, becoming a successful PI, and thinking like a detective- all the tools you need to make six figures being an investigative Operative.

To date, this online PI training system consists of over 100 informational slides, videos, exercises and quizzes that provide a step-by-step path on how to achieve your dream job as a Private Investigator.

ICPI Level 100 takes about one month to complete with over 30 hours of high-quality training content that will make you a Private Investigator well on your way to becoming an expert in this fascinating career.


Get a certificate that "actually" matters. When you get certified by Novel Data in the 100 Level course, Private Investigator agencies will be aware that you understand the PI industry. This will give you a great competitive edge in the PI job market. Most PI applicants know very little about the PI job they are applying to. Not you. A PI hiring manager will not want to risk turnaround by hiring someone unfamiliar with the industry, they will choose an applicant who is familiar with what will be expected of them. With Novel Data's certification, that applicant will be you!

What You Need to Learn to Become a successful UK PI
  • UK licensing requirements for UK Professional Private Investigators

  • Common misconceptions about the UK PI industry

  • The learning curve of a UK PI

  • Personal challenges encountered as a UK PI

  • Areas of specialization as a UK PI

  • Types of UK clients and corresponding file requirements

  • How UK Investigators obtain assignments and hours of work

  • What factors will determine your aptitude as a UK PI

  • What makes a “good” UK PI

  • Physical health requirements and health considerations

  • Equipment needed to get started in a career as a UK PI

  • Equipment Map

  • Computers, tablets and peripherals

  • Common terminology

  • NATO Phonetic Alphabet

  • The Investigative Mindset

What You Need to Learn to "Perform" UK Investigations
  • How UK Desk Investigations are performed

  • Corroborated & circumstantial evidence

  • What is evidence & how to structure it

  • The Evidence Document

  • The Investigative Mindset

  • UK background investigations

  • Google as an investigative tool, such as UK reverse phone lookup

  • Open Source Investigations

  • UK reverse address lookup

  • UK Reverse people search

  • Daily Gear Protocol

  • Data & evidence security

  • Surveillance

  • Surveillance vehicle

  • Surveillance set-up

  • Pre-surveillance research

  • Communication protocols

  • UK Clients perspective

  • Active mobile surveillance two or more investigators

  • Skill vs, luck and circumstances

  • Risk vs. reward

  • Subject identification

  • Understanding & managing Heat

  • Traffic conditions

  • Driving methods for different areas or environments

  • Filming best practices

  • Organizational necessities

  • Transitioning to foot surveillance

  • Transitioning back to a surveillance vehicle

  • Mobile foot surveillance

  • Gearbag

  • Required equipment

  • Identifying the subject

  • Clothing and props

  • The physics or mechanics of foot surveillance

  • Covert equipment & techniques

  • On foot following techniques & best practices

  • Transitioning in and out of buildings

  • Video framing and quality

  • Security Consulting

  • Executive protection

  • Reporting


About the Author

UK Private Investigator Peter Sandru

Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 15 years as a Professional Private Investigator. Peter Sandru has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities. Thru NDIL, Peter has helped many UK students become Private Detectives.


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