The Real Poop
When most people think about private detectives, they think of somebody in a trench coat and fedora, dusting for fingerprints and saying stuff like this is my town, see?—super-cool stuff. Totally melodramatic, of course, but the whole in-character thing has to be a big part of the dream.
In reality, the private detective business is relatively serious and PDs spend more time analyzing databased telephone records and managing credit reports than they do creeping around in sweet disguises.
Don't get us wrong: you can still wear sweet disguises if you want. You'll just be sneaking around your office all day scaring your receptionist. Sounds like a good time to us.
You'll probably have to do some actual work as well though, and more than just running around town trailing people and digging around in their garbage. People in this field collect evidence to be used in court, verify employee backgrounds, investigate computer crimes, locate missing persons, interview complete strangers, and work on fraud cases.
Many private investigators work for attorneys, insurance companies, and banks. On average, they make about $45,000 a year (source). Not exactly Bruce Wayne numbers, but to be fair, he was a billionaire way before he was a vigilante.
Before you start practicing your best, "Just the facts, ma'am," line of questioning, you'll have to get a state issued license (source). States have their own distinctive requirements for a private investigator's license.
For example, California requires that applicants must be at least eighteen years old, have at least 6,000 hours of investigative work experience at a law enforcement agency or business, earn a degree in criminal law, pass a written exam, and undergo a background check (source). For some reason, states want private eyes to still be on good terms with the law.
Much like a cowboy, an investigator's work is never done. Private detectives are on call at all times of the day and night in many situations, such as:
- Finding those who have skipped out on paying the debts they promised to pay.
- Tracking down the people behind foreclosures.
- Assisting creditors in securing collateral used on defaulted loans.
- Serving court documents.
- Conducting in-depth background checks on company employees.
- Helping to prevent financial fraud and investigate unauthorized access to secrets.
- Finding falcons that may or may not be Maltese.
Think you can follow in famous private law man Allan Pinkerton's footsteps? Private detectives must have excellent communications skills for getting out of tough jams or interviewing suspects, superb problem-solving skills (more tough jams), and the ability to be resourceful and quick on their feet when their fake moustache falls off (worst jam ever).
PDs also have to have pretty great powers of deduction. The tiniest inconsistency in a witness's story or a scrap of evidence may make all the difference between doing your job and looking for a new one. So sharpen those reasoning skills and polish that magnifying glass—and if you haven't figured out what PD stands for, this probably isn't the best career choice for you.