TV and movie portrayals of real professions tend to be less than realistic, and the job of private investigator is no exception. But just because you won't solve every case between 9 and 10 p.m. on Tuesdays doesn't mean that becoming a private investigator isn't for you.
What does it take to be a successful private investigator?
"You need to be intelligent, inquisitive and methodical," says Dr. David Woods, a professor of criminal justice at South University's Austin campus.
Woods, who holds a doctorate in criminal justice and has worked as a police officer and a private investigator, also cites having an open mind, being proficient with technology and learning about people.
A good knowledge of the law is another necessity. Private investigators are regular citizens who must follow the law, but because of their profession they are held to a higher standard of legal knowledge than the public.
Most states require P.I.s to obtain a license, but the requirements vary widely based on where you live. Depending on the jurisdiction, even those with a law enforcement or military background may have to prove they have the necessary knowledge and skills.
Fulfilling the requirements may involve education, training courses, an apprenticeship or all three. In some situations, the education and training requirements can be met with a bachelor's degree, such as a B.S. in criminal justice.
Working independently, as most P.I.s do, can mean a constant search for new clients.
Other drawbacks include a lack of regular hours, dangerous situations and ‹ much more often than danger ‹ long periods of inactivity during surveillance work.