Drafted By Shannon Thompson:

When I started on this career venture, it was not something I had thought about as a child, or even as an adult for that matter. I thought Private Investigators only existed on TV shows. Man there were some pretty funny ones. Like Rockford and who could forget the sexy Magnum PI?  My ex was a private investigator for many years. It was him that got me interested in the field. But believe me when I say, this is not a job for everyone.

Why? There are many reasons, but I would say the first thing you need is patience. Lots and lots and lots…….of patience.

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I took a good friend of mine on a domestic call ( ie cheating spouse ) one evening who was thinking about becoming a PI. I thought I would give her a taste of what it’s like. The first hour of sitting in my car, she was all excited and was full of anticipation. By the third and fourth hour, she was restless, and agitated. She kept asking, “Is anything going to happen??? “ And by the fifth hour, she wanted to go home lol.

Watching a subject’s residence etc, is very unpredictable. You never know what someone will or will not do. So you sit…. And you wait….. and when the client says break it off, you do. Or you don’t. The longest I have sat in my car was 10 hours. It was a rare case, but none the less, you have to be prepared to do so. In most cases you are not calling the shots, the clients are. After all, it’s their dime.

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So, the first thing you must have is a lot of patience. Second, you need to be very well versed in legal English. You will be typing your notes for the client, and it must be worded correctly and in proper English. There are many instances you might have to go to court for your file. So you must be good at legal terms.  Going to University to become familiar with proper legal terminology will help you with this task. Your notes must coincide with the video you take.

This brings me to the third thing a PI must be good at. Shooting video. The camera must be steady at all times. No jiggling or moving up and down. The video could be used in court so it has to be legible and show a definite shot of the subject doing what it is they shouldn’t be doing. It must be long and steady, and when you are in a car, van etc it has to be precise. A lot of pi’s don’t get work, because of their lack of video skills. It’s not so much a course you can take, but rather a talent. This you can’t learn in a school. A steady hand is what is needed and a good eye for the subject and what is happening.

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Schooling, “Basic Criminology”, among other courses you will need.  Learning basic criminology, behavioral sciences among other classes is key. You’ll need to have a good grasp of legal terminology for your notes and in case you are called to court. Each employer has their own preferred way of taking notes, and if you are under their wing they will teach you that. There is a crash course offered by the Private Investigators Association of BC, and that is great, but I found schooling at the Justice Institute gave me more credibility when a prospective employer was going over my credentials.

When doing this job, you must realize that all information is confidential. You are working for the government for the most part, so you can not divulge personal information to your friends or even co-workers for that matter. That could put you in a very bad position and you could lose your license.

Another thing you must be good at, is defensive driving. I am not talking about being good at skidding on ice, but rather being good at being alert to what is going on all around you at all times. In many instances and on a regular basis, I have to chase the subject while driving. I have to be careful not to break the law, but also be able to keep up to the subject while not being detected. I won’t get into this too much, but suffice to say, safety first.

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Another important part of the job is not to be seen. There is no point in being a spy, if you are following someone up close where they can detect you.  We call it “being busted, detected, or just plain stupid” lol. This would be another reason you probably wouldn’t get much work.

All of the above take time and patience. You won’t become a PI overnight. It takes time, schooling and dedication to hone your craft and become credible in a very competitive market. It is not a 9 to 5 job, so be prepared for either too much work, or not enough. There are many firms out there that are looking for good employees.  But,  in the beginning, you will need to find someone to sponsor you and mentor you. A lot of private investigators don’t want the responsibility of mentoring new hires. Firms want trained and EXPERIENCED professionals –  so be prepared to have a few doors closed on you.

In addition to formal education – when you start out in this field you will need to be sponsored as a   “PI under supervision” until you accumulate 2400 hours of fieldwork.  It took me about 3 years to gain my full license and it was tough, but if you are dedicated and really want it, you will succeed.

There are many PROFESSIONAL SPECIALIZATIONS you can explore once you are fully licensed.

You can also obtain your security licence which I have, and go work in mines up north for amazing pay, do strikes, work for the government, the private sector and corporate firms. You can become a government employee and serve papers for a fee. The list of things a private investigator can be hired to do goes on and on.

But –  you must first establish yourself within the community. That took me awhile and because I do not own my own company, nor do I want to, I have become a sub-contractor. I work for many firms on an as needed basis. That way, I am always usually guaranteed work for the most part. I work for ICBC through these firms. I also work for myself in the private sector.  One of the many rewards of this job, is the pay. You will make amazing money employed as a Private Investigator because it is a high stress job. You must be able to handle stress well in order to keep a clear and level head in this line of work. 

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