FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions
How to become a Private Investigator

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What is a private investigator? 

A private investigator is an individual who, in an official capacity, conducts inquiries into matters that are primarily of a legal nature for another individual, business, or law firm that has contracted with that investigator for those services. A private investigator can be an employee of a larger group of investigators, but cannot be employed by the individual, business or law firm and still be defined as a "private investigator". If employed by an individual, business, or law firm, the duties may remain the same, but the title of the role will change. A private investigator is hired privately, usually on a case-by-case basis, whereas an employee of another individual, business or law firm, or an employee of a government agency, can conduct inquiries only into matters specifically assigned through that employment.

What does a private investigator do? 

A private investigator gathers information and facts that are intended to give strength to a client's claim. A private investigator is often hired directly by a consumer, but more often by an attorney who represents someone who has been injured at work, in a motor vehicle accident, or while engaged in some physical activity, or who is engaged in a dispute with someone else over marital rights, property rights, or contractual obligations. Refer to the legal definitions, too. Investigators are commonly hired to

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  • Find people (called a "skip-trace", or "to skip" someone) - missing children, heirs, friends, relatives, etc;

  • Identify real property (land) - finding where it might be located, what level of ownership interest a person might have, etc;
  • Locate personal property (automobiles, furniture, lawnmowers, firearms) - that might have been removed from where it otherwise would be expected to have been kept (ie, stolen);
  • Find money (bank accounts, investments, trust funds) - by doing asset checks;
  • Locate documents (in public records, among private belongings, in the trash);
  • Father information - background investigations into a person's employment history, criminal history, driving records, marital history, litigation history, etc;
  • conduct surveillance - which goes hand-in-hand with "gathering information", although it usually involves taking photographs of someone in a compromising situation (divorce, employment, suspicious activity, criminal, etc);
Some investigators specialize in one or two areas of a "forensic" nature. For example:
 Accident reconstruction  Vehicular crash testing  Airplane safety
 Fraud detection and analysis  White collar crime  Bio-mechanics
 Undercover employment   Forensic accounting  Legal research
 Clandestine surveillance  Judgment enforcement  Computer fraud
 Maritime accident investigations
 Medical malpractice   Document retrieval

Can anyone be a private investigator in Texas?

No. To be a private investigator, you must first obtain a license issued by a state agency . Certain requirements must be met before you will be granted a license. You should check with the Texas Commission on Private Security for details. 

How does a person become a licensed private investigator?

Check with the Texas Private Security Board for details. Generally, you must work 3-years for someone who already holds a license before you can apply for a license of your own. During that time, you're expected to learn the techniques used in investigation, and will be introduced to many areas that might require a private investigator's services. After you've established proficiency, and if you want your own license, you apply to the state, buy insurance, submit to a criminal background investigation, take a test, pay the fees, and get your own license.

Does a person have to have a college degree before becoming a private investigator?

No. Anyone who is over the age of 18, is of "sound mind", has not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, and who can pass the test administered by the Private Security Board can become a private investigator in Texas. 

Are there courses I can take on how to be a private investigator?

Some community colleges offer courses on investigations, and some universities offer degrees in "criminal justice". But no Texas school of higher education offers a degree program that is specific to the field. Since the only test you have to pass is administered by the state, you can study online here by using our "Study Guide". Check your local community college to see what courses they might offer, because many of them offer classes taught by private investigators. The courses offered here at PI-CEU are primarily for those who are already licensed, although some of these courses may help you decide whether or not to become a private investigator.

Am I required to take an online course before becoming a private investigator?

No, not before you start work. Once you begin working for a licensed investigator (under his or her license), the state requires you to take 16-hours of continuing education courses every 2-years in order to retain your license. 

Can you explain about the continuing education courses?

A continuing education course is a training course that has been approved by the Private Security Board as meeting standards it has set. The course is taught by a person who is presently, or who has been a licensed investigator, law enforcement officer, or someone affiliated with some field of law, who has been "approved as instructors" by the Private Security Board. Instructors offer a wide range of courses, many of which offer excellent learning opportunities. Most instructors teach their courses in a classroom setting. PI-CEU offers its courses only online. In either case, someone who is interested in taking a course must enroll, pay the course tuition, and show up for class, after which a certificate is issued to affirm attendance and completion of the course. Each course has a value assigned to it that represents a particular number of hours (usually the length of the class) that is measured in continuing education units (CEUs, equal to one CEU per hour). Those units are credited toward the continuing education of the investigator. A certificate of proficiency issued by PI-CEU will show the number of CEUs earned (eg: "6 CEUs"), the title of the course, and the signature of the instructor.

How are courses taught at PI-CEU.com?

Students must enroll, pay the course tuition, and pick a username and password in order to gain access to the course. The course can be taken in one sitting, or the student may log in and out over a pre-determined period of time, during which he or she must complete the course. The student is not allowed to download or print any section of the course unless a section is specifically intended for that purpose, nor may they print off or save any test that may be administered. Not all courses include a testing procedure, since some simply require attendance. The student usually has several days within which to take the course and pass any tests that are administered, allowing the student to proceed at his or her own pace. Each course offered at PI-CEU.com will have its syllabus published on our website. A certificate will be issued to affirm attendance and completion of the course.

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