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Private investigator

Private investigators (PIs) make enquiries on behalf of their clients to find out information and check facts.

Annual Salary


Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

46 to 48 irregular

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; as customers demand

Future employment

There will be 0.3% more Private investigator jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • monitoring people
  • investigating fraudulent insurance or accident claims
  • tracing missing people or pets
  • handing legal documents to people, known as process serving
  • investigating commercial piracy, like copying software illegally
  • making background checks on employees

Working environment

You could work in an office or from home.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly
  • a specialist course offered by a professional body

You could do the Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Private Investigation.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
For more information

If you're already in the police force you could be selected to complete the National Investigators' Examination and be a private investigator for the police.

Direct application

There are currently no set entry requirements to become a private investigator.

Experience working in an enforcement or investigative role, with the police, armed forces or local authority, would be useful.

Other routes

You can do a private Investigator course through a professional body or private training organisation.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

  • You'll usually need to have a driving licence.
  • Although private investigator licensing is subject to approval, the government's intention is to regulate this industry, by making it a criminal offence to operate as a private investigator without a licence.

More information

Career tips

If you want to be self-employed, you'll need the ability to run your own business and have some legal knowledge around information laws and data protection.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a private investigator from the Association of British Investigators and Institute of Professional Investigators.

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With experience, you could become a senior investigator or team manager, or set up your own agency and have other investigators working for you.

You can find out more about becoming a private investigator from the Association of British Investigators and Institute of Professional Investigators.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • customer service skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • active listening skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • persistence and determination
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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