How Much Does a Private Investigator Make?

A private investigator’s salary can vary greatly depending on several factors.

Some of the most important factors that affect how much a private investigator makes are the type of investigations they are hired to carry out, their level of experience, and the geographical location where they work.

Despite these variations, there is a general range for private investigators’ salaries.

This article will explore what affects a private investigator’s salary and give tips on becoming a successful private investigator.

What Is A Private Investigator Salary Range?

A private investigator, also called a private detective or private eye, is an individual or a company that a client can hire to conduct an investigation. A private investigator’s salary can range from $45,000 to $75,000 annually, with a median pay in the $50,000 range.

Private Investigator Salary and Job Outlook

The job outlook for private investigators is positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of private detectives and investigators will grow by 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the population continues to grow and crime rates continue to rise, there will be an increase in demand for private detectives and investigators.

Completing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice program enables private investigators to obtain greater employment opportunities at higher earnings.

Many private investigators’ salaries have significantly increased over the past three years. The BLS predicts private investigator jobs to increase by 8% in 2024, the fastest growth since 1990.

What Factors Affect A Private Investigator’s Salary?

Private investigators aren’t often thought of as being wealthy, but the truth is that their salaries can vary greatly depending on several factors.

The most important factor is usually the investigator’s experience. Experienced private investigators who have worked for many years will usually make more money than one just starting.

Another important factor is the investigator’s location. Investigators who work in large cities usually earn more than those who work in smaller towns.

The type of work an investigator does is also a factor. Investigators who work on high-profile cases or specialize in a particular area of investigation usually earn more than those who do general investigative work.

Finally, the size of the private detective agency an investigator works for can also affect his or her salary. Investigators who work for large agencies generally earn more than those who work for smaller ones.

The Various Ways Private Investigators Can Get Paid

Private investigation is a field where the salary structure differs from other careers.

Many times, private investigators work as independent contractors, self-employed workers, or business owners and charge either a flat fee or an hourly charge for each assignment:

Flat Fee

Straightforward jobs are often charged with a flat fee. For example, if different private investigators were to perform background checks for an employer, they would most likely charge a set rate per task.

Hourly Fee

Hourly fees are the norm in private investigations, and the rates PIs charge may differ depending on the job’s difficulty level.

Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for PIs to charge additional fees to cover travel expenses like airfare, car rental, hotel costs, mileage, and per diem allowance, in addition to hourly pay.

Private investigators who charge an hourly fee require a retainer (a deposit) before taking on a case, which often varies according to the time the PI expects the case to take and is used to pay the PI’s billable hours and other expenses.

Billable hours include active working hours and those spent making phone calls, drafting documents, researching, printing, and traveling. PIs usually charge higher hourly rates for evening and weekend work.

Like a lawyer, hourly fees are standard, usually estimated, and billable in half-hour increments.

How To Become A Private Investigator and What Skills Are Necessary

Becoming a private investigator is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. To become a private investigator, you’ll need several key skills.

The most important skill you’ll need is investigative experience. This could come from law enforcement or any other profession requiring critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

You’ll also need to have a college degree. A degree in criminal justice is the most common route, but many other degrees can prepare you for a career in private investigation.

In addition, you’ll need to be comfortable using technology. Private investigators often use computers and other forms of technology to conduct their investigations.

Finally, you’ll need to be able to work independently. Private investigators often work alone, so they need to be self-sufficient and able to stay focused on their work.

The Different Types of Jobs That a Private Investigator Can Have

Private investigators can work for individuals, businesses, law firms, or the government.

They use various techniques to gather information, including surveillance, interviews, and public record searches.

Private investigators help their clients by searching for and verifying information, assembling evidence, finding missing persons, and looking for possible criminal activity.

Some of the daily tasks a private investigator might do include surveillance, where they follow a subject and take note of what they do.

Depending on the individual assignment, they might watch a person’s home or business, follow their movements to collect evidence and take photographs.

Desk work is a crucial part of being a private investigator. A lot of time is spent in front of a computer, researching people and hunting for clues. This involves looking through social media networks, studying contacts, checking for criminal activity, and making notes on someone’s online behavior.

They use their time to call clients, help with background checks, and confirm facts that were reported.

Other daily activities for private investigators may include meeting with clients, conducting interviews, and studying court records.

Regardless of their job duties, all PIs share one goal: to collect information to help their clients solve problems.

The Benefits of Being a Private Investigator

A career as a private investigator can be both exciting and rewarding. On any given day, a private investigator may be called to conduct surveillance, interview witnesses, or find a missing person.

In addition to the excitement of the work, private investigators also enjoy a high degree of autonomy and flexibility in their careers.

Many PIs are self-employed, so they can set their hours and decide which cases to take.

For those who enjoy solving puzzles and uncovering the truth, a career as a private investigator can be a perfect fit.

As mentioned above, private investigators can make a lot of money, especially if they have years of experience.

How to Find the Right Private Investigator Career

A private investigator’s career mostly entails field work, requiring every new employee to enroll in a course or some on-the-job training.

The profession of private investigating offers both formal training programs and informal apprenticeships.

If you do it right, your private investigator salary could be lucrative.


Private investigators are in high demand and can make a lot of money if they have the right skills. If you’re interested in becoming a private investigator, it’s important to research and find the best training program for you.

There are many different types of jobs that private investigators can have, so it’s important to find one that fits your interests and personality.

The benefits of being a private investigator include a high degree of autonomy and flexibility and the excitement of solving puzzles and uncovering the truth.

Private investigators play an important role in our society, and with the right training, you can be one of them.