While there are degrees in criminal justice and political science, a high school diploma and work experience are enough to obtain a position as a field investigator. Individuals will need exceptional research and observational skills to succeed in this line of work. Licensure is fully dependent on the state's requirements.
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Field investigators, also known as private investigators, perform surveillance and research for a corporation, law enforcement agency or individual clients. With a given case, a field investigator performs interviews and observation on a given situation to determine the nature of what is happening for a client. In most cases, this career requires some prior work experience and state licensure. Postsecondary training can be helpful as well.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent; associate's and bachelor's degrees available|
|Other Requirements||Related work experience; licensure required by most states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||5% for all private detectives and investigators*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$45,610 for all private detectives and investigators*|
Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics
Field Investigator Overview
Field investigators employed with a law enforcement agency or with a corporation typically need a bachelor's degree. If a field investigator specializes in a specific type of investigation, then acquiring a degree in that area is recommended. For example, a field investigator involved with corporate espionage would benefit from a business administration bachelor's degree. If a field investigator is working in multiple fields, then a degree in police science or criminal justice may be ideal.
Field investigators usually own offices where clients are met or interviews are performed. Preparation work is done in this office, including online research or phone calls. However, once an investigator moves out to the field, the work location could be anything. Field investigators can visit bars, hotels, businesses, homes and many other settings to try and find the information they're seeking. Field investigators work nontraditional hours. If employed by a corporation or an agency, a 40-hour workweek can be typical. Mornings, holidays, evenings, weekends and nights are all common work times for a field investigator.
Field investigators are hired to go out into the world and discover information related to a client or employer's wishes. For example, if a field investigator is hired regarding an insurance fraud case, then he or she goes out to examine, follow and interview witnesses related to the case. He or she then compiles all valid information, writes up a report for the client with all the findings and supplies an overall summary of the case.
Exact job duties vary by investigation, but core tasks are usually the same. A field investigator performs research online, at libraries and by referencing creative sources to track down information or addresses. Once in the field, a field investigator can spend time following and observing a person with surveillance. The direct means of acquiring information is asking a person for an interview and questioning them to see what the person knows. A field investigator may wish to have training in self-defense due to the controversial nature and varied locations of cases.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states require field investigators involved with private investigation to be licensed, and states that do require licensure have varying requirements. Most states also have additional requirements for those who carry handguns.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
As of May 2015, private detectives and investigators earned an annual median salary of $45,610, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs for these professionals were projected to grow by 5% from 2014-2024, per the BLS.
Whether field investigators choose to start their own private practice or to work within a large agency, their primary skill set includes online research and on-site observation. They may work non-traditional hours, and the job can be dangerous. Most states require licensing for private investigators and have other requirements for carrying a firearm.