How to Become a Private Investigator in the UK?

Sometimes, aspiring investigators will ask us: “How do I become a Private Investigator?” In the UK, the barriers to becoming a private investigator are relatively low. We’ll tell all and give you a complete guide to starting a PI career in the United Kingdom.

What Do You Need To Be a Private Investigator?

Aside from equipment, you don’t need anything to become a private investigator. There are no legal barriers to becoming a PI, and there is no licensing or qualification requirement for PIs.

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is in charge of the regulation of private investigators. They hold law-breakers to account and issue fines, but it doesn’t go beyond this. This means that the SIA doesn’t have a minimum standard for investigative quality- anyone who obeys the law as a PI will be left alone.

All of this is not to say that anyone calling themself a private investigator would necessarily be any good. Additionally, the reality of becoming a PI is a bit more complex than just starting to conduct investigations.

Connections and Experience

To be a functional PI, you’ll need connections. Connections are necessary because, to begin with, you’ll need to know someone personally who would trust you to do meaningful work for them.

You will also need experience in investigation. It would be difficult for potential clients to trust you if you’ve never carried out an investigation before. This is why many investigators have a background in police, military and government intelligence.

Although these fields are valuable entry points for aspiring PIs, it’s not a requirement. Many excellent PIs have never worked as public investigators before.

How Do I Get Started As A Private Investigator?

You might be wondering how you can get this experience and these connections in the first place. Private investigator jobs are somewhat unconventional, as a simple search will probably not return many options. You will need to know someone willing to give you a chance.

Making connections can seem daunting for someone starting out as a professional private investigator. You might feel as though you don’t know anyone who’s in a position to hire you for your first case. Thankfully, there are more academic ways into investigative work.

UK Private Investigator Licences

Although it’s not a requirement, the SIA does offer private investigator licenses. To get one of these, you’ll need to:

  • Be at least 18 and have the right to work in the UK.
  • Pass a ‘fit and proper persons’ test. This kind of background check uses your personal information to ensure that you don’t have a history of criminal behaviour. It also verifies that nothing else in your past would make you unsuitable.
  • Hold the IQ Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators. This is a vocational BTEC qualification, which covers practical and legal aspects of the work.

Once you meet all these requirements, you’ll have to pay a £220 fee to get your license.

BTEC for Private Detectives

As we’ve just seen, one of the requirements for the SIA-sanctioned PI licence is to complete a BTEC qualification. This is a viable option for people who have no idea how to enter into the investigation sector.

There are some excellent private investigator courses in the UK. They all involve practical investigator training, like conducting safe and responsible surveillance. They’ll also cover legal aspects of the work, like data handling and privacy.

How do I Find a Private Investigator Hiring Near Me?

Most investigators tend not to be employed by other people. They’ll either work freelance for an agency or run their own company. It might be a good idea to register with certain trade bodies, like ABI and WAPI, to see if any agencies need help in your area. You could also reach out to PI via social media to ask for help and advice.

What is the Starting Salary for a Private Investigator?

The average private investigator salary begins at around £28,000 and goes up to £80,000. Of course, self-employed PIs and freelance investigators (which make up the majority of PIs in the UK) can earn a lot more or a lot less, depending on the amount of work they take on.

Part-time private investigators, who do investigative work to supplement their primary income, may only take on a handful of jobs a year. Their pay will be considerably lower than average.


Private Investigations UK is dedicated to providing high-quality investigative services across the country. We offer everyone free, professional advice. To discuss how we select our investigators or ask any other questions, please get in touch with us for free on 0800 002 0898. Alternatively, please fill out a contact form, and one of our agents will get back to you today.

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