Movies and TV can make private investigative or detective work look pretty glamorous -- but the modern PI is more a researcher than an action hero.
Most often, licensed private investigators or detectives round up facts, not felons.
Some investigators conduct private inquiries for clients, looking for missing persons or proof of infidelity. But far more people in this field work for stores, hotels, large agencies, or security and risk management companies. Their job is to investigate theft, fraud, and other crimes involving money.
Their tools are computers, phones, and cameras -- along with a persuasive manner and a knack for thinking outside the box. They need to be clever, persistent, and resourceful to gather the information their clients need… and discreet enough to do it without being noticed.
The work is becoming increasingly specialized.
A majority of investigators work for insurance companies on workers’ compensation and other claims involving possible fraud.
Legal investigators usually work for law firms to help prepare criminal defenses. This might involve locating and interviewing witnesses, serving legal documents and reviewing evidence.
Investigators may have responsibilities as varied as record searches, accident re-construction, “de-bugging,” polygraph examinations and executive protection.
There are no formal education requirements for most private detective and investigator jobs, though many in this field hold college degrees. Often they have had related experience working in the military or in law enforcement.
People in this field don't mind putting up with the drudgery for some occasional drama, and for them, “being nosy” is a virtue.