Skip to toolbar

The role of private detectives and investigators involve investigating potential infractions or unlawful actions by analyzing data, collecting evidence and creating reports for organizations and people who hire them. This work is usually done on a contractual basis and could involve undercover work to build a thorough profile of a person or to monitor an organization’s day-to-day activities. Just as important, these professionals are expected to possess exceptional interviewing abilities as it pertains to crucial witnesses with regard to their cases because private investigators might be requested to testify at court trials and hearings to deliver evidence for the client. They also have to be efficient communicators when dealing with customers and those they’re inquiring about. Likewise, they must cooperate with law enforcement agencies and insure their private cases don’t obstruct authorities’.  Depending on the state, vocational school training, an associate’s degree, or certification may be needed for employment in this professional area.

When considering the wages of a private investigator or detective, it may differ considerably depending on the case he or she has been hired for and can also depend on the company they work for. Salary can also depend upon years of expertise or years an investigator has spent in the business.  Geographic location may also affect the salaries of private investigators as well.  It is clear that competition can vary and be extremely high for this type of career and especially if you are veteran with military experience or retired police officer.

Private Investigator Salaries

Based on our estimations, we’d say the typical wages of a private investigator can range from $25K to $85K with a nationwide average of about $47K.  From a consumer standpoint, the most costly or expensive service detectives charge for is usually surveillance.  Most private investigators charge on an hourly basis for all their services, but their prices may exclude travel costs, gas, and miscellaneous expenses that can be added on at the end of your investigation.  Hourly rates can also vary case-to-case but a good benchmark to go off of is about $50 to about $150 per hour with a retainer of about $1500.

These prices may change significantly depending on the company your looking to apply to.  The most secure jobs to become an entry level private investigators tend to be at agencies working directly with insurance firms and attorneys who provide private investigators with a more consistent flow of investigations.  

A Shifting Industry to Online Markets

Currently, the private investigator industry is going through a major shift.  As the market transitions more to business being generated online through background checks and information request, the demand for field agents and surveillance private investigators will inevitably change, as will the laws governing these services.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the private investigation business will grow about 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, but there are global indications that this will be taking place online as a result of cyber-security issues becoming more frequent and prevalent.