Skills Required to Become a Private Investigator

Private investigator sitting at desk covered in paperwork

Private investigators may work for in private investigation services, law enforcement agencies or directly for private clients as self-employed professionals. Private investigators work is attractive to many people because Private investigators rarely find themselves doing the same kind of work constantly.

One day, a Private investigator might conduct covert surveillance, while the next day might be spent sorting through public records or interviewing witnesses. Private investigators can take on a wide variety of jobs, including background checks, missing person searches and white-collar crime investigations. Here are some of the skills and traits that are important to becoming a Private investigator.


A good private eye makes full use of all possible resources to conduct an investigation, uncover facts or solve a case. Aspiring Private investigators should consider becoming familiar with the procedure of public records searches. PIs who take on cases for corporations may need to conduct research into a company’s financial dealings, for example.


The work of a PI can sometimes be solitary, such as when conducting covert surveillance on a subject. However, Private investigators s must often interact with a diverse range of people with varied backgrounds. It is important for aspiring Private investigators to understand how to communicate effectively and courteously with people of different backgrounds. A PI may need to interview a witness to a crime, speak with family members of missing persons, collaborate with law enforcement officers or speak to the media about a case.


Many of those who turn to a Private investigator for help are going through difficult situations. For instance, a significant portion of the average PI’s client base consists of women who suspect a partner’s infidelity. It is essential for a Private detective to exhibit tactfulness or compassion and courtesy to each potential client. Even if the results of the investigation are not favorable for the client, the PI must know how to present the results in a tactful manner.

Technology Skills

Sherlock Holmes solved his fictional cases long before the age of computers, but these days, real-life PIs must have strong technology skills. In addition to navigating digitized databanks, PIs must know how to use electronic devices like GPS trackers and video surveillance equipment. It is equally essential for Private investigators to understand and abide by the laws that pertain to the use of this equipment. Every good PI understands that his or her evidence may end up in court, and information that is obtained unlawfully will be tossed out.


Professional investigators should have a confidentiality policy. If a client asks, a PI should be able to clearly articulate the terms of that policy, and explain the steps that will be taken to enforce it. Private investigators must be careful to never discuss a case or any other sensitive information with non-involved parties.

If you have a sharp, analytical mind and an eye for detail or an interest in legal matters, consider enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies degree program at Grand Canyon University. You will gain important knowledge and skills in criminal procedures, threat assessment and legal issues. To learn more about this and other programs offered by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, visit our website or click on the Request More Information button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.