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What does a Private Investigator do?

So, what does a PI do? There are many different fields an Investigator can work in. However, the most common area a Private Investigator would work in is surveillance regarding insurance fraud.

Private Eye noir

This would entail static surveillance in a vehicle and mobile surveillance, both in a vehicle or on-foot. But this is not the only field an Investigator will work in. Some other common fields are,

  • Undercover Investigations

  • Labor Disputes

  • Court Injunctions

  • Covert Video (CCTV) Installation & Monitoring

  • OSINT Investigations

  • Locates or Skip Tracing

  • Background Investigations

  • Videographer

  • Counterfeit, Trademark, and Patent Investigations

  • Interviewing and Statement-Taking

  • Executive Protection

  • TSCM (Technical Surveillance Countermeasures) - eavesdropping & bug detection

  • Network & Data Cyber Security

  • Forensic Investigation

  • Theft Investigations

  • Loss Prevention

  • Security Consultation

  • Accident Investigations & Reconstructions

  • Asset Recovery Investigations

  • Process Serving

  • Arson Investigations

Most Common Fields a PI Works in

  1. Surveillance

  2. Cyber investigations

  3. Background investigations

female PI looking out of window

Thinking of Becoming a Private Investigator?

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

ICPI 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 training and investigative methods so that you can jump-start your journey towards having the meaningful career you’ve always wanted, immediately.

This training system will provide you, a successful 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 two weeks 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!

Become an Amazing Private Detective

Yes, you can become a great Private Detective. How? Through Private Detective training. Not through a short government licensing course, but through at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator education. This can be online Private Detective training classes or in an in-class training environment. In order to become a successful Private Detective and meet PI requirements, you need to become educated on the complexities of the private investigation career (this will also help you decide if you want to pursue the Detective career) and how to set yourself up to become a successful Private Detective. Secondly, you will need to become educated on how to perform investigations.

To learn the complexities of the Private Detective industry you will need to understand a few Private Detective industry topics. Regional licensing requirements for Private Detectives will teach you what you need to obtain your Private Detective license. Usually, you can work as a Detective unlicensed under an agency. 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 Detective will set you up to become a successful Private Eye.

Before getting into the 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 Detective. 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 Detectives obtain assignments and hours of work to determine if this work environment is right for you.

If you are worried about your ability to succeed as a Private Detective, 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 PI gear. 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 investigation. Lastly and most importantly, you must learn “The Investigative Mindset.” This will teach you how to think like a Detective. After you learn these concepts, you will be well on your way to becoming a Detective even without experience.

After learning the complexities of the Private Detective industry, you will need to develop practical skills/ education in various areas. The most crucial 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 Detective, you will spend the majority of your time performing investigations by yourself. This is why learning single person surveillance is crucial. Furthermore, you will occasionally work in surveillance teams with other Detectives, so you will need to learn how to perform surveillance with two or more surveillance operatives. Detectives perform a lot of their surveillance from a surveillance vehicle, but also on foot, you will need to learn this also. The entire reason Detectives are hired, is to obtain evidence. Obviously, learning how to obtain evidence, mostly in video form, is a must. As a Detective, you will need to obtain quality video that is litigious and that will satisfy the people that hire you. At the end of all this, you will need to learn how to create a report that will most likely be used in litigation. After you learn all of this, you will have no trouble becoming a successful Detective.

It should be apparent now, why and how you can become a Detective. Yes, a government licensing course is necessary but it will not set you up for success as a Private Detective. You will always need at least 100hrs of practical Private Investigator training. You will need to learn the Detective industry, as well as how to perform. In fact, becoming a Detective 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 Detective education.

The Private Detective Learning Curve

A rookie in any of the Detective fields or disciplines is an individual who has less than 2400 hours of experience and training. Once Detectives achieve 2400 hours of experience, they will have the confidence and expertise to work by themselves. When a Detective acquires over 10,000 hours of experience in a given PI field, they are considered to be proficient in that particular field or discipline. Due to the many disciplines in the Detective industry, it would take many years of hard work and effort to master them all. Most Detectives choose to specialize in a few fields rather than trying to become experts in all areas.

A rookie Detective, no matter how smart, must learn through experience. Private Detective school is an excellent way to build a solid foundation; however, to become fully capable a novice Detective will need experience. The learning curve is defined by specific skills one can only obtain by working in the professional investigative industry.

A Detective with experience will have a better ability to predict situations and know what info to lookout for. A rookie Detective is more likely to experience tunnel vision of thought and action due to stress and other contributing factors. These factors will contribute to the rookie missing details that a more experienced Detective would have spotted and leveraged to move the investigation forward.

The experienced Detective will have seen many typical situations in a particular field and will adapt their methods as they apply knowledge from past experiences.

In the Detective profession, you will never stop encountering new situations that will act as education 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 Detective 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 Detective.

At the 10,000-hour mark, a Detective 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 Detective will be able to apply the Private Eye knowledge gained from past experiences to the new situation. Furthermore, the master Detective 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

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 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 students become Private Investigators.


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