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Private investigator

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Summary of occupation

Private investigators conduct research and obtain information for their clients about personal or criminal matters, or help them locate missing persons. They conduct surveillance in order to locate missing persons or witnesses, obtain private or sensitive information about people of interest to their case from witnesses or personal observation, and maintain records of their findings. Private investigators may also work undercover to gather specific information about, or for, individuals or companies, conduct asset and liability checks, gather information on the theft of personal or commercial property, and provide advice on security.

ANZSCO description: Conducts investigations for clients and  prepares evidence for court proceedings. Registration or licensing is  required.
Alternative names: Private Detective, Private Eye, Private Inquiry Agent
Specialisations: Corporate Investigator, Individual Private Investigator, Legal Private Investigator
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A private investigatior needs:

  • curiosity and an eye for detail
  • honesty and trustworthiness
  • discretion and confidentiality when dealing with private information
  • research and investigation skills
  • persistence and a methodical approach to their work
  • strong communication skills
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Working conditions

Private investigators are usually self-employed. They work for individual clients, companies and sometimes solicitors. They usually work in offices, but are often required to obtain information about an individual's whereabouts or behaviour by following or tracking them. They usually travel locally, but may be required to travel greater distances at times. They work whenever it is necessary to obtain information for their clients, which may include evenings and on weekends. They are sometimes required to deal with people who are aggressive, and they occasionally risk physical or verbal abuse.

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Salary details

On average, private investigators, classified under security officers and guards, can expect to earn between $1 000 and $1 249 per week ($52 000 and $64 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience.

Many private investigators run their own small business. Earnings will depend on the level of demand for their services, the ongoing details of each case, and their level of skill and experience.

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Tools and technologies

Private investigators use computers and other office equipment, as well as data management and record-keeping software. When undertaking surveillance activities they may use binoculars, microphones, and video or audio recording equipment to obtain evidence. They also handle evidence that may be used either in legal or criminal proceedings, such as financial records, bounced cheques or repossessed equipment. Private investigators usually require the use of a vehicle.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a private investigator you usually need to complete a formal qualification in investigation, accredited by the Western Australian Police.

The Certificate III in Investigative Services is offered at some registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

To work as a private investigator you must obtain a licence to either conduct investigations (Investigator licence) or to advertise and supply the services of investigators (Inquiry Agent licence). For more information contact the Western Australian Police.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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