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. 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. 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 experience. This is where proper Private Investigator training will help you.
It is odd that The UK does not require a license for you to work as a PI. However, in many states across the pond it is quite similar. In many states, 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).
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 practicing. 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.
To learn the complexities of the private investigation 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 a Private Investigator License in the UK (not required)
You must be 18yo or older
You must be legally allowed to work in The UK
Complete the program: the IQ Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators
You cannot have a criminal history (Fit and Proper person test)
You will have to pay a £220 licensing fee
Private Investigator Jobs: How to Get Hired?
UK Licensing Authority
PO Box 74957
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.
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 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/ circumstantial evidence, The Evidence Document, The Desk Investigators Mindset, Google Basics for North America, and social media search basics for North America. 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 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. 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.
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 and 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 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.
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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
Computers, tablets and peripherals
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
Google as an investigative tool, such as UK reverse phone lookup
Open Source Investigations
Daily Gear Protocol
Data & evidence security
UK Clients perspective
Active mobile surveillance two or more investigators
Skill vs, luck and circumstances
Risk vs. reward
Understanding & managing Heat
Driving methods for different areas or environments
Filming best practices
Transitioning to foot surveillance
Transitioning back to a surveillance vehicle
Mobile foot surveillance
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
About the Author
Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 14 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.