Private investigator

private eye P.I. private detective
Security, uniformed and protective services

Career outlook for private investigator

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would carry out secret enquiries for your clients to find out information and check facts.

Your clients might include very different types of people and companies. As well as individuals, you could investigate cases for law firms, councils and insurance companies. So your work could range from personal issues, such as divorce, to company issues, such as suspected theft.

You would have to do background research, which may involve asking questions and understanding complicated information.

You might:

  • Watch people’s movements
  • Investigate fraud
  • Look for missing people or pets
  • Hand legal documents to people
  • Investigate commercial piracy (such as copying software illegally)
  • Run background checks on employees

You would need to have excellent observation skills and solid knowledge of the law.

You would probably work alone and be self-employed.

Working conditions


Your hours of work would be irregular, and could include nights and weekends.


You would work in an office, but you would also spend a lot of time out and about gathering information.


You may have to spend time away from home when investigating a case.

UK employment status





Self employed


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Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Building relationships
  • Verbal communication
  • Problem solving
  • Questioning
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Taking initiative
  • Analysing
  • Understanding

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


A good general education is useful. Some entrants have Highers, a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) or a degree.

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Modern studies

You will also need

Regulations are being brought in which will require that you have completed recognised training and are licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) before you can operate as an investigator.

You must have a driving licence.  

You must be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland to show you are suitable for this type of work. 

Helpful to have

It helps to have a basic knowledge of law, for example on trespass, assault and data protection.