Private investigator

Private investigators carry out enquiries for their clients to find out information and check facts.

Annual Salary


Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours


Future employment

There will be 0% more Private investigator jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

Your cases could range from personal issues, like divorce, to company issues, like suspected theft. You’ll normally do background research, which may involve asking questions and analysing information.

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • monitoring people
  • fraud investigation (for example, for insurance or accident claims)
  • tracing missing people or pets
  • handling legal documents to people (process serving)
  • investigating commercial piracy (like copying software illegally)
  • background checks on employees


You could do the Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Private Investigation.

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course

Other Routes

There are no set entry requirements.

Experience working in an enforcement or investigative role, like with the police, armed forces or local authority, would be useful. 

If you're already in the police force you could be selected to complete the national investigators' examination and be a private investigator for the police.

If you want to be self-employed, you’ll need the ability to run your own business and have some legal knowledge around information laws and data protection.

A driving licence is usually essential for this type of work.

The Association of British Investigators has more information about becoming a private investigator.

You can do a Private Investigators' Course through the Institute of Private Investigators.


Salaries will vary and can depend on many factors, like whether you’re self-employed, working for an organisation, the type of case and the length of the investigation.


Your hours of work could be long, irregular and may include nights and weekends.

You’ll work at home or in an office, but you’ll also spend a lot of time travelling and gathering information.

With experience, you could progress to senior investigator or team manager, or set up your own agency and have other investigators working for you.

You can find out more about becoming a private investigator from the Association of British Investigators and Institute of Professional Investigators.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You’ll need:

  • customer service skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • active listening skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • persistence and determination
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • analytical thinking skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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