Though glamorized by television, a career as a private investigator is often a stressful, somewhat dangerous and irregular one. Private detectives are freelance professional investigators hired by individuals to assist in legal proceedings and other private matters. Quite often, a private investigator or private detective provides surveillance, run background checks, trace missing persons, investigative research and interviewing services to the general public, attorneys or businesses.
Bullets flying and speeding cars are typical fare for the life of the Private Investigator in a Hollywood movie. While Hollywood movies often glamorize private detective work, most investigators work in relative obscurity. Unfortunately, many people think that this career of high adventure is the same in real life. It’s not.
You’ve seen them on television and read about them in books. Whether it’s Sam Spade or Magnum P.I., they seem to go from adventure to adventure. They often get the girl, laugh through harrowing car chases, and seem calm when pinned down by gun fire.
I’ve got good news and bad news for you. It’s nothing like that. That’s good news if you have no desire to speed through the hilly streets of San Francisco in your minivan while villains shoot at you from the back of their speeding car.
That’s bad news if you do have the desire to speed through the hilly streets of San Francisco in your minivan while villains shoot at you from the back of their speeding car!
Remember the popular movie series about Indiana Jones? Many people clamored to get into archeology after those movies only to be sadly informed that they’ll spend more time in libraries and dusting bones with a dry paint brush than making exciting escapes with a beautiful girl on one arm and a revolver in the other.
It’s the same way with Private Investigation. While Magnum P.I. (and many other investigation stories) tops the charts on TV or in bestseller book lists, they don’t do a lot to tell you what Private Investigation is all about.
This isn’t to say that private detectives don’t face a certain amount of risk in their workday. Private investigators are not sworn law officers, so they only have the same powers of arrest as any other citizen. Private detectives may have to interrogate hostile witnesses or ask inflammatory questions on behalf of their clients. Getting people to admit self-incriminating behavior requires a certain combination of psychological manipulation and self-confidence, which successful private detectives often have in abundance.