If you’re becoming a private investigator, make sure you talk to working detectives. These tips are from a private investigator whose mother started their family-owned PI business more than 20 years ago.
Here, a detective shares career tips and answers the “How do I become a private investigator?” question – with answers that may shock you. This job isn’t as easy or glamorous as it seems on TV or in the movies…
”People interested in becoming private investigators are surprise to learn how physically challenging it is to obtain winning surveillance video,” says Jason M. Frasca, Vice President at Davis Investigations, Inc. – a second generation family business. “We stand on cold rainy street corners for six hours straight, because it’s the only way to keep your eye on a door on a busy New York City intersection. We have trouble staying warm in winter because we’re in our vehicles, and can’t turn them on because it’ll alert the target. We have to be able to run after targets on a second’s notice to an unknown destination.”
Frasca’s mother started their private detective agency 21 years ago; he and his brother have been in the business for seven and nine years respectively. Here, he gives us the inside scoop on PI work – including career tips for aspiring private detectives.
Becoming a Private Investigator? Tips From a Detective
A private investigator’s job isn’t just about obtaining evidence that a spouse is cheating, despite what the Hollywood movies depict! As you’ll learn, Frasca’s most and least favorite parts of PI work have little to do with incriminating evidence in matrimonial or divorce cases.
“The best education for this career is experience,” says Frasca. “There is no minimum education requirement to be a private investigator.”
That said, however, Frasca has a college degree – a BBA from Hofstra University. He has encountered private investigators from all educational backgrounds and training: High School graduates, former police officers, college graduate students. “To qualify for your Private I. License in NY State, you need a minimum of three years field work under the tutelage of a licensed P.I.,” says Frasca. “For Video Surveillance, you need at least that to become proficient.”
If becoming a private investigator isn’t your cup of tea, read How to Know if You Should Become a Financial Advisor.
How Much Does a Private Investigator Make?
Private I wages vary widely; investigative services are usually billed by the hour with a range of $15 an hour for a new P.I. to well over $100 an hour for an experienced detective, depending on experience, type of case, and expertise.
The Best Parts of a Detective’s Job
”I really enjoy catching someone committing insurance fraud and recording it on video,” says Frasca. “Surveillance can be a very slow process, sitting and watching a door for hours on end, day after day when suddenly the target emerges and begins to perform all the tasks they claim they can not do. It is very satisfying to expose the insurance fraud – I know I am one of the good guys as insurance fraud is costly to us all in one way or another.”
Frasca says he experiences a similar thrill when clients win a defense verdict because of the evidence his private detective agency acquired during their video surveillance. “For example, many people go after doctors for Medical Malpractice,” he says. “We’re hired to obtain the video surveillance on the claimant/patient who, in many cases, is falsely accusing the doctor of medical malpractice. The claimant sees this lawsuit as their winning lottery ticket. After obtaining damaging video that counters the claims, we are asked to testify to our video in court, we’re considered expert witnesses. More often than not, once we testify it leads to a defense verdict – and we have saved the reputation of a doctor who is very grateful for our efforts…not to mention the millions of dollars we save our insurance clients.”
The Downside of Investigative Work
Frasca says one of the more challenging aspects of video surveillance are the last minute changes to schedules. “You need to be flexible, as there often last minute requests for surveillance because a case may be coming up for trial or deposition,” he says. “Or, a target may be in from out of town for an Independent Medical Exam (IME). The hours vary (average start time is 6 am on site, which means you leave you house around 4 am) and you have to be available to work night or day, weekends and holidays. The days can be very long and you never know where you will end up once you start following someone.”
Another challenging aspect of becoming a private investigator is sitting in your car for 14 hours straight. Sometimes you leave your house at 4 am and when you get back home at 6 pm, it may be the first opportunity to get out of your car. “Your knees get awfully stiff,” says Frasca. “People ask me where I go to the bathroom when I’m in the car for 14 hours – and they reconsider a private investigation job after I tell them!”
Career Tips for Aspiring Private Investigators
Frasca encourages aspiring detectives to remember that it’s not as easy at it seems. “Following a plaintiff or cheating spouse sounds like something people can easily do on their own,” he says. “But, you often only get one opportunity to do surveillance without getting ‘made’ or losing someone in traffic.”
If you’re considering a private investigations career, be open to what your mentor is teaching you and realize it takes commitment to become really good at it. “Also, remember that no two surveillances are alike,” Frasca adds. “Each has its own unique set of circumstances. Private investigators need exposure to all kinds of surveillance to be successful in this line of work.”
If you’re changing careers, read 7 Cautions for a Career Change at 40.
Do you have any thoughts on this detective’s job description, or becoming a private investigator? Please comment below.
Davis Investigations, Inc. is a New York private detective agency that also serves Connecticut. They are dedicated to Video Surveillance in Medical Malpractice investigations, Personal Injury investigations, Disability Claims, Matrimonial / Divorce Cases and other types of insurance fraud. For more information, visit Davis Investigations, Inc.