Do I Need a Degree in Criminal Justice To Be a Private Investigator?

Private InvestigatorIndividuals who are interested in doing private investigation work might ask, “Would I need a criminal justice degree to be a private investigator?” Learning about the law, what qualifies as breaking it, and how to gather that evidence would surely be helpful when you’re out in the field, and a degree in criminal justice covers that and more. Private investigators dig up facts about people and analyze them in order to solve crimes and provide answers to unanswered questions, so they need specialized knowledge and skills in order to succeed at the job. Is having a degree in criminal justice a universal prerequisite for getting a job in private investigation?

A Criminal Justice Degree Is Helpful but Not Necessary

Private investigators are not required to have a criminal justice degree in order to get hired, but having one should prove to be very useful. Criminal justice, the study of criminal law and how the justice system works, is closely tied to the field of private investigation. In fact, private investigators do just about the same type of work as police detectives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private investigators interview people to obtain important details, watch and follow people to collect info, do research to validate their findings, and more. In order to think and act like a detective, it’s important to learn how police work is done. If you’re ignorant of the law, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law while trying to do something good for someone else.

As far as educational requirements go, private investigators must have at least a high school diploma, but most employers will require a two-year or four-year degree. Degrees in police science, criminal justice, and accounting are preferred, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but backgrounds in psychology and other social sciences also build valuable people-skills that are crucial for interviewing and withdrawing information from others.

Having the Right Experience and Skills Matters More

It’s very possible to land a job as a private investigator without having a criminal justice degree if you already possess the right work experience and skills. There are several major characteristics that a private investigator should have: meticulousness, persuasiveness, analytical thinking abilities, investigative abilities, and awareness. Being meticulous means paying attention to small details that most other people would not notice. It also means doing everything carefully as to not leave a trail. Being persuasive means knowing how to say or do the right things in order to get others to reveal the information that you seek. Having analytical thinking means being able to put small pieces of information together in order to see the bigger picture. Having investigative abilities means knowing where to look and what to look out for when you’re in the field. Finally, awareness refers to being constantly conscious of your surroundings so that you can obtain time-sensitive data or protect yourself from harm. Previous work as a police officer, soldier, federal agent, forensics technician, psychologist, computer specialist, paralegal, or business owner can be extremely advantageous.

Related Resource: Police Officer Traning

Licensure Is Required in Most States

Currently, 42 states require private investigators to obtain a license for practice. In some areas, a city license may also be required. Licensing requirements vary depending on location. Certification is recommended if you want to appear more credible to your clients.

If you’re the curious type, a career in private investigation could prove to be very fulfilling. However, you need to have the right education, experience, and skills to succeed at the job. Obtaining a degree in criminal justice would be a good idea, but you don’t need a criminal justice degree to be a private investigator.