How to become a private investigator

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly
  • a specialist course offered by a professional body


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

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

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

More Information


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.

Direct Application

There are currently no set entry requirements to become a private investigator.

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

Other Routes

You can do a private Investigator course through a professional body or private training organisation.

More Information

Career tips

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.

Further information

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

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

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

Restrictions and Requirements

You'll usually need to have a driving licence.

Although private investigator licensing is subject to approval, the government's intention is to regulate this industry, by making it a criminal offence to operate as a private investigator without a licence.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

In your day-to-day duties you could:

  • monitor people
  • investigate fraudulent insurance or accident claims
  • trace missing people or pets
  • hand legal documents to people, known as process serving
  • investigate commercial piracy, like copying software illegally
  • make background checks on employees

Working environment

You could work in an office or from home.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

Career path and progression

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

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

We can't find any apprenticeship vacancies in England for a private investigator right now.

The Find an apprenticeship service can help you with your search, send alerts when new apprenticeships become available and has advice on how to apply.

Courses In England

Principles of Providing Security Services

  • Start date: 26 April 2021
  • Location: Gloucester

Principles of Providing Security Services

  • Start date: 23 November 2020
  • Location: Gloucester

Jobs In the United Kingdom

The Find a job service can help you with your search for jobs and send alerts when new jobs become available.

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