Background investigators perform an extremely important function for employers. The number of employers using background investigators increases the need for qualified, home-based investigators. Flexibility is one of the key qualifications for people in this field. You must be capable of adjusting to different work conditions, interacting with various types of people, and able to maintain information in strict confidentiality. In addition, conducting background investigations from your home office requires equipment, a private and secure office space, and access to databases that contain information helpful to your employer or clients.
Conduct research pertaining to education, credentials, experience and licensing requirements for background investigators. Expand the focus of your research so you learn what it takes to be qualified under federal, state and local laws. Some jurisdictions require background investigators to become licensed through their local police departments or county governments; however, some federal agencies require specific certification. For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Commission offers training for individuals who want to conduct employment and background investigations.
Check with state and local law enforcement agencies, your insurance provider and possibly your homeowners' association for rules pertaining to home-based businesses. Determine the types of background investigation services you intend to offer and inquire about certain licensing requirements for operating out of your home. The type of business may have an impact on your insurance coverage. Your employment as a home-based investigator may require additional coverage for computer and network security, as well as the type of information you may have to store in your home office.
List your qualifications, skills and credentials. Construct a resume that focuses on your ability to conduct investigations for private sector employers and public agencies. Consider forming a business or registering as a sole proprietorship. Contact the appropriate division within your state government offices for information about the requirements. Though you are seeking employment as an individual, some background investigator opportunities are open only to registered businesses on a contract or freelance basis. Your qualifications should address your respect for confidentiality and your secure workspace. Consider complementing your portfolio with a schematic of your home office workspace that demonstrates your attention to security, fire and water prevention measures.
Search job boards for advertised background investigator positions both near your residence and outside your commuting area. Subscribe to newsletters and professional associations for opportunities not advertised to the public. Most government agencies have links to business opportunities for potential vendors; subscribe to regular announcements from agencies seeking background investigators. While some agencies require business license information, others permit individuals to register for business opportunities and requests for proposals.
Join professional associations for investigators and attend networking events. Interact with other investigators for possible job leads and career opportunities. Read trade journals and news articles about background investigation careers or ask an experienced investigator to be your mentor. This builds credibility and exposure which are key to finding employment in a close-knit field. Evaluate software applications and subscribe to relevant databases that improve your ability to access data not available to the general public. Examine trial versions of applications marketed to background investigators; ask about referrals and testimonials about usefulness of these applications.
Ask your current employer if there are opportunities within the company for background investigators. If you feel comfortable sharing your career goals with a human resources staff member, she may be your most valuable resource, since employers routinely hire background investigators or engage the services of companies providing investigation services. Due to potential conflicts of interest, you may not be offered an opportunity to work on current investigations for your employer. However, your employer can certainly provide you with contacts and information that will help in your search. Your employer may be able to provide you with guidance related to configuration of home office equipment and network security.
2016 Salary Information for Private Detectives and Investigators
Private detectives and investigators earned a median annual salary of $48,190 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, private detectives and investigators earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,710, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $66,300, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 41,400 people were employed in the U.S. as private detectives and investigators.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition: Private Detectives and Investigators
- California Association of Law Enforcement Background Investigators: CALEBI - Membership Information
- Indeed: Background Investigator Jobs Forum
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Private Detectives and Investigators
- Career Trend: Private Detectives and Investigators
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition, she is a certified facilitator for the Center for Creative Leadership Benchmarks 360 Assessment Suite, and is a Logical Operations Modern Classroom Certified Trainer . Ruth resides in North Carolina and works from her office in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.