How Much Money Does a Private Investigator Earn?

How Much Money Does a Private Investigator Earn?

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Private Investigator Salary Information

Private Investigator salary and earnings vary greatly by employer, investigative specialty, and geographic area. Many private eyes are self-employed and operate as an independent small business. As a result, they typically do not earn a regular paycheck or salary. In addition, independent P.I.’s usually don’t get benefits and insurance provided by a single employer.

For those who are self-employed, pay is usually associated with the job and varies greatly from a flat fee to an hourly wage. Both forms of payment are always negotiable. It is wise to negotiate based on the amount of risk involved, with higher pay for greater levels of risk.

Payment usually includes reimbursement for expenses incurred during the case. Examples of expenses incurred are: gas / mileage, hotel stays, equipment rental, fees associated with reports or legal documents, notary fees, etc.

Detectives who work for a corporation or as a full time employee of a law firm or investigation agency may have a salaried position that includes benefits.

If you are interested in becoming a private detective and are in the process of researching the salary of a private investigator, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  • Contact several P.I.’s and agencies in your local area and inquire about the approximate annual salary, hourly rates, the type of expenses they incur, etc.
  • Do a Google search for the keywords
  • Use online salary research companies such as Salary.com to determine the most likely private investigator salary in your area

Salary Data

According to 2012 data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, investigators earn approximately $45, 740 per year, or $21.99 per hour. According to the same report, the outlook for jobs in this area are expected to increase 11% over the next 10 year period. This is considered to be about average for any industry.

Generally speaking, the profession is not highly paid. Agencies in high-volume markets such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles may command higher pay due to the higher level of median income. In addition, these markets are filled with celebrities, who provide the opportunity to get involved with high profile cases.

Additional Information


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