Private Investigator Schools and Colleges with Program Information

Licensed private investigators are not required to earn a degree beyond a high school diploma, but they can benefit from studies in criminal justice, police science or a related area. Read on to get more information about education in these fields.

Aspiring private detectives can earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in criminal justice or police science, which provide relevant background for the job. Career-focused certificate programs are also available at some schools.

Criminal Justice/Police Science Schools

These schools offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in criminal justice, or other similar subjects, that will help prepare students to be private investigators.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $6,810 in-state, $13,920 out-of-state
City University of Seattle Seattle, WA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $16,500
Washington State University Pullman, WA 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $11,967 in-state, $25,567 out-of-state
Idaho State University Pocatello, ID 4-year, public Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's $6,784 in-state, $20,182 out-of-state
Texas State University San Marcos, TX 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $9,348 in-state, $20,268 out-of-state
Ohio University Athens, OH 4-year, public Associate's, Bachelor's $11,548 in-state, $20,512 out-of-state
Miami University Oxford, OH 4-year, public Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's $14,287 in-state, $30,987 out-of-state
George Mason University Fairfax, VA 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,952 in-state, $31,598 out-of-state
Florida State University Tallahassee, FL 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $6,507 in-state, $21,673 out-of-state
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's $8,050 in-state; $14,050 out-of-state

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School or College Selection Criteria

Students choosing a degree in criminal justice should consider the following:

  • Students may want to find out what the pass rate is for graduates on the state licensure exam.
  • In programs where an internship is required, students may want to find out if internships are available with working private investigators.
  • Prospective graduate students may want to find out if there are faculty members at the school who are conducting research related to private investigation, as they may serve as thesis or dissertation advisors.
  • It can be helpful to find out if the school offers formal concentration or minors that are particularly relevant for future private investigators.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs in criminal justice and related fields introduce students to the American judicial system, covering policing and the courts, as well as basic sociology and psychology principles. Students must also fulfill general education requirements in order to graduate.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

In bachelor's degree programs in criminology or criminal justice, undergraduate students receive the same overview of the field as is provided in associate's degree programs, but they also have the chance to study more advanced topics in the field, such as criminal justice ethics and criminal investigations. Students may also be required to complete an internship in the field, and they may have the opportunity to pursue a concentration in an investigation-related subject, such as intelligence analysis, information technology or data analysis.

Master's Degree Programs

In master's degree programs in criminal justice, students take high-level courses in the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. Students may be able to choose a particular specialization area, complete an internship in the field and/or conduct faculty-supervised criminology research. These advanced programs can meet the needs of individuals who want to prepare for jobs as private investigators, as well as experienced criminal justice professionals who want to advance or redirect their careers in the field.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Individuals who want to conduct advanced research in criminal justice or criminology can enroll in a doctoral degree program. In PhD programs, students take graduate-level courses in crime theory, criminal justice policy and research methods before choosing a particular focus area on which to write a research-based dissertation.

Certificate Programs

Aspiring private investigators who want to take a few career-focused courses without committing to a full degree program may choose a certificate program instead. These programs typically take less than a year to complete and prepare students specifically for the state licensure exam. Many programs are offered in the evenings or online in order to meet the needs of working professionals.

Programs for private investigators are available at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Students may want to look for schools that offer internships with working investigators.


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