Private Investigator Job Description

What Do Private Investigators Do?

Private investigators offer a number of services, so much so that you’d be surprised at the type of work that PIs sometimes do. These services include background checks, finding missing persons, investigating claims of infidelity, investigating fraud, and locating friends and relatives that their clients have lost contact with. Some PI’s choose to specialize in and offer one or two services. Other PIs may take a more generalist approach, offering every PI service under the sun and accepting any worthwhile job that comes their way. Most PI work is done with the use of a computer. They’ll conduct interviews, conduct surveillance, and access public records to verify facts while working a case. Because of the nature of their work PI’s must be careful when they’re collecting evidence. They must be aware of all the laws, such as privacy laws, governing the state in which they operate. If they are not, they can be sued or prosecuted for any violations they may commit while working a case.

Background Checks

Employers will often need to run background checks on applicants during the hiring process. This is used as a means of verifying that the information provided by an applicant is factual. It also ensures that the employer does not hire someone of questionable character who may later become a liability for the company. But sometimes an individual may want to run a background check on someone they have been dating. Perhaps that individual has an inheritance and may want to determine the trustworthiness or intentions of their love interest before committing to a relationship or marrying said love interest. In such cases, a PI will be brought in to access public records and gather the information that the client has requested.


Surveillance, probably the most well-known PI service, is the service that is oftentimes displayed on TV drama. Ah, fictional characters and their cheating ways, what would we do without them. Most civilians request surveillance service because they suspect their partner is cheating, and sometimes they may need evidence of this to present to a court. If a partner wishes to file for divorce or battle for custody of children they share with a partner, then evidence of infidelity may help win their case. But when PIs offer this service they have to be careful that they do not facilitate a stalker or promote aggression. So they’ll run a background check on the client to make sure everything checks out before starting the case.

Locating People

People sometimes go their separate ways and may lose touch with each other. Years later one party may want to locate and initiate contact with a long lost friend or relative. Sometimes it’s to bestow an inheritance upon them or just to re-establish contact with a high school mate. PIs who are hired for such cases will access public records and interview acquaintances in the process of tracking down that individual. PI must not, much like when offering surveillance services, facilitate a stalker or promote aggression. So it is important that they run a background check on the individual who has requested the service. And even if PIs manage to locate their target they are only allowed to disclose the contact information of that person to their client if that person gives them permission to do so.

Legal Investigators

PI’s will sometimes work with lawyers and law firms to help prepare their cases. They will verify facts, locate witnesses, and serve legal documents. They can be employed by either the defendant or the plaintiff when working on a civil case. But if they are working on a criminal case they will most certainly be employed by the defense. That’s because the prosecution has their own investigators in the form of detectives.

Business Investigators

Sometimes a business may be considering a partnership but may not know much about their potential partner. Other times a business may want to make an investment but wishes to ensure that the company they are investing in is above board. In cases where this is true, a PI may be brought in to do a background check on a business partner or company. They will use the public record to find evidence of licensing, small claim judgments, bankruptcies, state and federal tax liens, and other judgments or defaults. They may also document shady behavior such as secret meetings with competitors.

Insurance Investigators

Employees can claim insurance if, as a result of a disability, they can no longer work. Some of these claims turn out to be false. For instance, John may claim that because of a bad back he is no longer able work but may be observed happily lifting heavy objects or playing tennis. Obviously, an insurance company will want to verify the authenticity of those claims and that’s what they’ll hire a PI to do.

Although PIs do integral work that’s important for the smooth running of society, they’re not paid as much as some professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average PI earned an annual income of $45,610 in 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,190. In the next 8 years, the employment rate of PIs is expected to increase by 5%. The BLS claims that the best job opportunities will be for entry-level positions in detective agencies. It also claims that some candidate will have more opportunities open to them than other. For example, candidates with related work experience, as well as those with strong interviewing skills and familiarity with computers, may find more job opportunities than others.