Photo: Selected press items from the past 49 years of Thomas G. Martin’s career as an investigator.
For the prospective PI of the future, let me bottom-line what I see as the pros and cons of becoming a PI.Do you think you would make a good private investigator?
Do you think having women’s intuition or a man’s gut feel will help you in the world of investigations? Do other people tell you that you would make a great private eye? Do you think you are really good at being sneaky?
All of these things may be of some value at times, but in and of themselves, they are certainly no reason to pursue an investigative career.
Almost every day, someone calls my offices and asks our duty agent How do I become a PI? or How do I get a PI license? I’ve actually written a couple posts about this:
Let alone the fact you can Google this information, the point is, the practical “how to” steps to take are out there and available to anyone. (I’ll even talk a little more about getting licensed later in this post.)
I think some of these callers want to glean is something more personal… perhaps what they want to know is What is it like to be a PI? This entire blog attempts to be fairly realistic about that, so you can go through and read the past six years of posts at your leisure. There are currently over 300 posts.
If you simply want some of the bigger, more romantic cases, I’ve even made videos about those. But as I’ve written before, know that much of PI work is sheer drudgery, involving hours upon hours of surveillance, interviews and computer work.
Beyond all these things, I think I have some further perspective: I’m approaching my 49th investigative anniversary of being an investigator (12 years as a federal agent 37 as a and private investigator). So, for the prospective PI of the future, let me bottom-line what I see as…
The pros and cons of becoming a PI
- There are over 100,000 private investigators currently in the United States.
- Almost every retired law enforcement personnel gives some thought to getting their PI license.
- Many current law enforcement agents and officers are thinking about quitting their current jobs and seeking a career as a PI.
- No PI agency will put you on their payroll for three years (for most States) so you can glean enough experience to sit for your license.
- Without a PI license, you will not succeed.
- If you don’t know how to contact the Bureau in your State that licenses PI’s to obtain an informational packet, then forget this line of work.
- There are no PI schools or course that you can take that will enable you to sit for your PI license.
- Do not call the top agencies and advised them you will work for free or whether there are internships available as these are not options.
- If you have no business acumen, then seek another path.
- If you have no “street-smarts” or intrinsically don’t know what that means, then you are not a good fit for the industry.
- The work is fantastically different every day.
- When you awake in the morning, you never know where you might be at nightfall.
- There is plenty of room for new PI’s if they can crack the requirements of licensing.
- There is a tremendous void and need for females in our industry.
- You can become full-service or specialize in one of the four main genres in our world of corporations, attorneys, insurance companies or the public.
- There is no limit to your salary and you can easily earn more than lawyers, doctors and accountants.
- You will work with the top-echelon individuals throughout corporate America, the insurance industry and the legal community.
- Once established, you can choose you own hours and cases you want to work.
- The work can be very rewarding and gratifying.
- The body and canvas of what you do and where you work are only limited by your personal skills and marketing techniques.
Practical matters: Getting licensed
Let me use my home State of California as an example for one to be licensed. You first would call the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services in Sacramento and request an information packet on obtaining your PI license. That packet would basically advise that you must have 6,000 documented investigative hours (2,000 a year, 50 weeks times a 40 hour work week, for three years). If you have a degree, the requirements could be lowed to 4,000 hours.
So yes, there is the problem unless you are coming out of the law enforcement community. How do I get my hours if no one will hire me as a trainee? Your best bet is to probably consider starting with a law enforcement agency. In some States, you can work for one attorney only without being licensed to build up your hours. Most attorneys have no need for a full-time investigator. It has been my experience, that the few attorneys who will even consider this option will do so only at minimum wage.
As I approach the end of the fourth quarter of my career, I strongly encourage all of you considering a PI career to do so with all your spirit be it physically, mentally, academically, spiritually or professionally. There are many con men out there trying to get your money for schooling and the “PI Certificate.” That is why I try to be completely transparent and candid here. Although the path to a PI license is arduous and time-consuming, if you know the rules the rewards far out distance the obstacles.
Finally, my second book, Seeing Life Through Private Eyes is now available in hardcover or Kindle. It will also be out in paperback on September 15, 2018. If you want more insights on this line of work, start from the beginning: Chapter 1, The Life of a PI.
One of the reviewers of the book stated, “This book is an invaluable and fascinating comprehensive real-life guide to the life and work of a private investigator. It should be required reading for the 100,000+ private investigators in the country today and all those considering a career in this field.”