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Online Private Investigation Degrees

Private investigators get to the bottom of mysteries, whether it's an employment background check or a missing person search. In addition to deductive reasoning, aspiring PIs can learn the techniques of the trade at online private investigation school.

What is private investigation?

Hired as a private service by an attorney, business or interested individual, the private investigator methodically collects and analyzes information. Cases vary, but often include cyber-crime investigation, extramarital affair surveillance, individual background checks and pre-employment verification, celebrity protection and investigation of identity theft. Tools of the trade include computer database searches, surveillance, background checks and interviews.

Private investigators may hone their skills in a particular area of investigation. PI specialties include computer forensic investigator, corporate investigator, legal investigator and financial investigator.

Private investigation: education and training

Formal training in private investigation covers the skills and professional tools of the craft. Online private investigation school programs offer the following PI credentials:

  1. Private Investigation certificate
  2. Associate degree in private investigation, criminal justice or police science
  3. Bachelor's degree in private investigation, criminal justice or police science
  4. Master's degree in criminal justice

Private investigator education requirements vary by specialty. Corporate and computer forensics investigator jobs may require training or a college degree in accounting, business or computer science. Current investigators with their sights on a lucrative corporate specialty may qualify for the specialty with a master's degree in business administration, a J.D. or a CPA. Computer forensics specialists can learn these specialized skills in a brief, 15-21-credit certificate program.

Many states offer licensure for private investigators. Education requirements vary, but the most stringent require three years of formal training in criminal justice or police science, available via an investigation degree online.

Career outlook and salary

Even as demand for private investigators grows, professionals can expect keen competition for this popular job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 22 percent job growth over the 2008-2018 period, much faster than average for all occupations. Key growth areas include cyber-security, background checks and financial crime prevention. Alternative job titles for private investigators include loss prevention officer or investigator and asset protection detective. The 2010 average salary for private investigators was $47,830, according to the BLS.

What's affecting the field of private investigation?

Private investigation is going high tech, both in the nature of the cases and the tools used to solve them. Industry podcast The American P.I. covers the use of databases, polygraph testing, social media to investigate cases. In addition, data recovery, cyber forensics and GPS tracking technology is expanding the scope of private investigation.

As private investigation tools become more and more sophisticated, from surveillance to data mining, formal training becomes increasingly important. Learn the ropes of private investigation at a private investigation school online.

Private Investigation Schools

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Founded in 1946 and located in the heart of central New York, Utica College is a regionally accredited, independent, private institution that features many of the advantages of a large university — such as undergraduate and graduate degree options, excellent academics, and outstanding faculty — with the intimacy and high degree of personal attention more closely associated with smaller private institutions.


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  • Ranked among the Best National Universities in 2015 by the U.S. News & World Report.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 12:1, with an average class size of 15.
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  • 90% of faculty hold Ph.D or terminal degrees in their field.
  • Offers more than 75 degrees at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels to students from 49 states and 28 countries.
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An accredited online university, Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession. Our competency-based curriculum delivers foundational knowledge and real-world skills, so what you’re learning is immediately applicable to your career. Right now, more than 36,000 students are expanding their opportunities with Capella programs.

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  • Founded in 1951 by World War II veteran Donald Grantham to provide affordable, higher education for service members and their families.
  • Approved by all branches of the United States Armed Forces for Tuition Assistance (TA), and for benefits payments by the Department of Veteran Affairs benefits (VA).
  • Reviews applicants’ military and professional training for possible transfer credits, and honors credit earned through successful completion of Defense Acquisition University (DAU) courses.
  • Participates in GoArmyEd, Marine Corps Academic Explorer, The Air University Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative (CCAF), and many other virtual gateways.
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