Online Private Investigator Schools: How to Choose

Oct 24, 2019

While no formal education is required for private investigators, online programs can prepare prospective PIs for licensure exams while building a solid knowledge base. The following provides an overview of the course preparation students will receive in certificate programs, along with a discussion of potential mentorship opportunities and licensing requirements.

How to Select an Online Private Investigator School

Students considering online private investigator schools must make their decision based on several key factors. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't list specific educational requirements for the field, many private investigators have an undergraduate degree. While undergraduate degree programs don't generally focus on private investigation, online certificate programs in this field can be found. These programs are mainly intended for entry-level private investigators, but current professionals interested in updating their skills might find the information relevant. Students must then weigh the considerations for licensure with the hands-on options and certification steps.

Licensure Considerations

All but seven states in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), require licensure to work as a private investigator, also known as a private detective ( Licensure involves passing a written exam on civil and criminal law. Some online certificate programs provide the knowledge needed to obtain a license in a student's state of residence. Most program information applies to all states, but courses in criminal law give students the opportunity to explore both national and state-specific laws. Prospective students should check on their state's requirements and be sure their program of choice will fulfill them.

Hands-On Options

Although online private investigator programs don't typically furnish hands-on experience, some certificate programs provide an opportunity for students to enter a professional mentorship program upon graduation; interested students should look for such an option.

Certification Prep

Graduates who meet specific field-experience requirements can also become certified by organizations such as the National Association of Legal Investigators or the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council. Credentials like these are accepted as symbols of competency.

Online Private Investigator Program Overview

Certificate for Private Investigation Specialist

Students in this program learn about constitutional and legal topics, including how law enforcement and investigators work together. Certificate programs emphasize the importance of clear and accurate written records, and participants learn how important it is to accurately follow legal procedures and effectively engage in court proceedings. Throughout the program, students gain skills in:

  • Criminalistics and technology
  • Crime and security in the U.S.
  • Searching public records
  • Surveillance and undercover investigations
  • Legal research

Schools with Online Private Investigator Programs

The Penn Foster Career School includes a private investigator training program that leads to a career diploma. In addition to courses that encompass evidence-gathering, surveillance and other subjects of relevance, this program offers a professional mentorship experience for no added fees. The self-paced online program has been accredited by several organizations and has been licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools.

Similar course focuses and flexible online learning opportunities are available with the Private Investigator Career Diploma program of Ashworth College. Online lessons, study guides and student support characterize this program, which includes 17 lessons and may be completed in four months.

For one of the nation's top university PI programs, students might want to evaluate the Legal Investigator Certificate from Texas A&M International University. The comprehensive nature of this program might hold appeal for students, as it is designed both for freelance investigators and those individuals who want to serve as employees of an organization or business. Working PIs may benefit from the program's information as well.

All programs note that students should understand specific state licensing requirements before enrolling.

Certificate programs in private investigation provide information on different legal topics at the national and the state level and prepare students for licensure. Students seeking a more in-depth curriculum might pursue a related degree program with specific courses relevant to the field.

Expert Contributor: Edward LaBarge Edward is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional & digital forensic examiner. He's taught cyber crime courses & worked in the US Army.

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