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Careers in Criminal Justice: Private Detectives and Investigators


Private Detectives and Investigators


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Quick Facts: Private Detectives and Investigators
2020 Median Pay $53,320 per year
$25.64 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation Less than 5 years
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2020 33,700
Job Outlook, 2020-30 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 4,400

What Private Detectives and Investigators Do

Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters.

Work Environment

Private detectives and investigators work in many places, depending on their assignment or case. Some spend more time in offices, researching cases on computers, while others spend more time in the field, conducting interviews and performing surveillance. Private detectives and investigators often work irregular hours.

How to Become a Private Detective or Investigator

Most private detectives and investigators need several years of work experience and a high school diploma. In addition, the vast majority of states require private detectives and investigators to have a license.


The median annual wage for private detectives and investigators was $53,320 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of private detectives and investigators is projected to grow 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 3,500 openings for private detectives and investigators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for private detectives and investigators.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of private detectives and investigators with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about private detectives and investigators by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Private Detectives and Investigators, Accessed 16 Dec. 2021.

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

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