Private investigators have a long and storied history in the movies and on television, but they are much more than the fictionalized portrayals we see. Private Investigators are skilled at digging up facts and clues that help in all sorts of investigations. They evaluate evidence, document cases, and analyze information. But not everyone can be a Private Investigator. State and local jurisdictions require candidates pass various tests or adhere to certain licensure requirements. What does that entail? What study materials are best to help prepare for this test? This guide will help you.
Do all states require a Private Investigator to hold a license?
All but a handful of states now require Private Investigators to hold a license. Some states may not require a statewide license, but location jurisdictions might. It’s best to check with your local requirements.
What are the eligibility requirements to become a Private Investigator?
Most states have minimum education and age requirements.
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Do Private Investigators have to undergo a background check?
In general, states require a background check that includes fingerprinting.
What kind of jobs to Private Investigators do?
Private Investigators can work in a wide range of professions. They include loss prevention, civil and criminal investigations, missing persons, employment screening, and undercover services. Private investigators also work in the areas of insurance fraud, terrorism, and security.
Do Private Investigators carry firearms?
They can. Some states require Private Investigators to get a license to carry and put a limit on the number of firearms they’re allowed to carry. Some states ban Private Investigators from carrying weapons unless they have the approval of local authorities. It’s best to check the local regulations.
Do I have to take a test to become a Private Investigator?
That depends on the state. Some states require Private Investigators to take a test.
What’s on the test?
States that require an exam will, in general, test a candidate’s knowledge of state laws and general knowledge as it pertains to Private Investigators. Topics can include:
- Private Investigators must show they can perform their duties in an unbiased manner while adhering to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. They must also show they can determine if an investigation request is lawful.
- Information analysis. Private Investigator must show they understand their client’s requests; can evaluate relevant information; conduct interviews; verify information; gather reports and evidence (like photographs and physical evidence), and check data sources.
- Information gathering. Candidates may be asked to show the ability to use various devices, such as recorders and video equipment in investigations; perform surveillance using different techniques, including personal observations; and perform covert operations.
- Evaluation of the evidence. Candidates may be asked to show they can analyze various documents, including depositions and reports; evaluate statements, both oral and written; determine whether evidence require additional analysis, and perform investigative scene evaluation.
- Documenting cases. Case documentation requires preparation. Candidates could be asked to show they can prepare reports based on the existing evidence; prepare reports in different ways (in writing and orally); retain case information as required by law, and can securely preserve evidence.
- Preparing for Trial. Candidates may be asked to show how they would handle case review; case strategy; testifying in court; and investigative scene recreation via diagrams, video, or witness interviews.
Is there a standard passing score?
No, though most states require a candidate to correctly answer 70 to 75 percent of the exam’s questions to pass. Some states also use a pass/fail grade.
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Where can I take my Private Investigator’s exam?
Some states use a private testing company to deliver the exam to candidates. Others deliver the test at state agencies. Your test materials will contain information on the testing location.
I’ve always wanted to be a Private Investigator but need help preparing. What materials are best?
Mometrix has the best study materials because it contains a step-by-step guide to the areas you’ll likely see on the Private Investigator’s exam. Our study guide reviews dozens of topics including robbery types, crime scene processing, conducting research, reporting writing, body language, presenting cases, presenting testimony, federal rules of evidence, and so much more. Our flashcards help you retain information through repetition, one of the best learning techniques around. These are the two tools you need to help you prepare.