To become a licensed Private Investigator in Virginia does not require investigative experience.
The state of Virginia will issue you a Virginia Private Investigator's license if you meet the basic Private Investigator requirements and take a government Private Investigator licensing course.
Learning Private Investigation in Virginia
When you get your Virginia PI license, you'll need to know how to perform investigations fit for Private Investigations, such as surveillance (the government PI course won't teach this). After learning how to perform investigations, you can simply work as a Private Investigator in Virginia. To become a Private Investigator in Virginia that can perform, it is recommended that you first learn how to work investigations relevant to the PI industry, such as surveillance for insurance fraud files.
Virginia PI Experience
The fact that Virginia does not have experience requirements does not mean that the quality of investigations is less in Virginia than in other states. In fact, due to poor state industry standards, having a PI license in general does not make you a qualified Investigator regardless of experience/ education requirements. The poor industry standard come from the non-relevant experience most, if not all, states require of you to become a licensed Private Investigator. This non-relevant experience can be education degrees and non-PI investigative experience.
Virginia Private Investigator License Requirements
Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services
You must be 18yo or older.
You need a clean criminal and personal record.
You must be legally allowed to work in Virginia.
You need a high school diploma/ GED.
You need to be finger printed. The DCJS will be notified once your fingerprints have been processed.
You will need to complete a 60hr government approved PI course. You will need to search for an approved Virginia PI course provider.
Virginia Private Investigator Industry
An industry standard flaw most states have is regulations regarding law enforcement experience. Most states allow you to obtain a PI license if you have law enforcement experience. Some states also accept non-PI investigative experience to obtain a PI license. The problem with states requiring previous investigative experience is that there is no such thing as equivalent Private Investigator experience. Sure, a career in law enforcement will gain you some transferable skills to bring to the PI world. However, an investigative career outside of PI work will not provide you the skill-set to perform what we do the most:
single person surveillance for Virginia insurance fraud investigations.
Furthermore, PIs typically obtain all evidence via quality and litigious video. This is uncommon for most other investigative careers. Being a police officer will not make you a good PI the same way being a PI will not make you a good police officer.
Some states also require you to take an approved PI licensing course/ test, such as Virginia. However, these courses/ tests typically focus on what laws you need to be aware of. This is of course useful, but new Private Investigators still need to learn how to perform investigations. The required tests/ courses do not focus on what we do most: single person mobile surveillance. Often, these tests/ courses do not not even mention single person mobile surveillance. If you are becoming a PI, you need at least 100 hours of surveillance experience to be able to perform safely and meet client's high standards.
Another requirement issue is the acceptance of post-secondary degrees. These degrees that are accepted for PI licensing are typically in the criminal justice field. However, some states accept any post-secondary degree. The issue is, having an educational degree will offer almost no help to you in the Private Investigation industry.
Novel Data Investigative Learning offers the only Private Investigator education courses that focuses on mobile surveillance and understanding the PI industry. For more information on PI education, click here.
Thinking of Becoming a Virginia Private Investigator?
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To date, this online 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.
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Get a certificate that "actually" matters. When you get certified by Novel Data in the 100 Level course, Virginia 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!
Become a Great Virginia PI
Yes, you can become a great Virginia Private Investigator. How? Through Private Investigator education. Not through the short Virginia government licensing course, but through at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator education. This can be online Private Investigator training classes or in an in-class training environment. In order to become a successful Virginia Private Investigator and meet Private Investigator requirements, 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 Virginia 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 Virginia 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.
Before entering the Virginia 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 Virginia 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 Virginia Private Investigator and how to be a Private Investigator that is successful, 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 Virginia 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 Virginia 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 learn how to perform surveillance with two or more surveillance operatives. Virginia 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 Virginia Private Investigators are hired, is to obtain evidence. Obviously, learning how to obtain evidence, mostly in video form, is a must. As a Virginia 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. After you learn all of this, you will have no trouble becoming a successful Virginia Private Investigator.
It should be apparent now, why and how you can become a Virginia Private Investigator. Yes, the government licensing course is necessary but it will not set you up for success as a Private Investigator. 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.
What You Need to Learn to Become a successful Virginia PI
Regional licensing requirements for Virginia Professional Private Investigators
Common misconceptions about the Private Investigation industry
The learning curve of a Professional Private investigator
Personal challenges encountered as a Virginia Professional Private Investigator
Areas of specialization as a Virginia Professional Private Investigator
Types of Virginia clients and corresponding file requirements
How Virginia Investigators obtain assignments and hours of work
What factors will determine your aptitude as a Professional Private Investigator
What makes a “good” Professional Private Investigator?
Physical health requirements and health considerations
Equipment needed in order to get started in a career as a Professional Private Investigator
Computers, tablets and peripherals
NATO Phonetic Alphabet
The Investigative Mindset
What You Need to Learn to "Perform" Virginia Investigations
How VA Desk Investigations are performed
Finding missing persons in VA
Finding missing children in VA
Finding VA people who intentionally disappear
Corroborated & circumstantial evidence
What is evidence & how to structure it
The Evidence Document
Google as an investigative tool
Background checks in VA
Daily Gear Protocol
Data & evidence security
Skill vs, luck and circumstances
Risk vs. reward
Understanding & managing Heat
VA traffic conditions
Driving methods for different VA environments
Filming best practices
Mobile foot surveillance
PI surveillance Gearbag
Required surveillance equipment
Clothing and props
The physics or mechanics of foot surveillance
Covert PI equipment & techniques
On foot following techniques & best practices
Transitioning in and out of buildings
Video framing and quality
The Learning Curve of a Virginia Private Investigator
A novice in any of the Virginia Private Investigator fields or disciplines is an individual who has less than 2400 hours of experience and Private Investigator training. Once Virginia PIs achieve 2400 hours of Private Investigator experience, they will have the confidence and expertise to work independently. When a Virginia Private Investigator acquires over 10,000 hours of experience in a given field, they are considered to be proficient in that particular field or discipline. Due to the many disciplines in the Virginia Private Investigator industry, it would take many years of hard work and effort to master them all. Most PIs choose to specialize in a few fields rather than trying to become experts in all areas.
A novice Virginia Private Investigator, no matter how intelligent, must learn through experience. Private Investigator school is an excellent way to build a solid foundation; however, to become fully capable a novice Virginia PI will need experience. The learning curve is defined by specific skills one can only obtain by working in the professional investigative industry.
An experienced Virginia Private Investigator will have a better ability to predict situations and know what information to look for. A novice Investigator is more likely to experience tunnel vision of thought and action due to stress and other contributing factors. These factors will contribute to the novice missing details that a more experienced investigator would have spotted and leveraged to move the investigation forward.
The experienced Virginia Professional Private Investigator will have seen many typical situations in a particular field and will adapt their methods as they apply knowledge from past experiences.
In the Virginia Private Investigator profession, you will never stop encountering new situations that will act as learning opportunities to increase your knowledge and skills. If you ever arrive at a point in your career when you believe you can do no wrong, be prepared to be reminded that this is a lifelong journey. The Professional Investigator draws from the past, uses that information in real time to make calculated decisions and anticipates things yet to happen. Effective experience-based decisions will benefit the client and shape your reputation as a Virginia Investigator.
At the 10,000-hour mark, a Virginia Private Investigator is considered a master in whatever field they obtained those hours. They will have encountered nearly every situation imaginable in that field and have a vast repository of experiences to work with. When a new situation does occur, the master Investigator will be able to apply the Private Investigator knowledge gained from past experiences to the new situation. Furthermore, the master Investigator will not be susceptible to tunnel vision and will be able to think clearly in new situations, even intense ones.
About the Author
Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 15 years as a Professional Private Investigator. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for insurance agencies, corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities. Peter has helped many in Virginia become Private Investigators.