Private Investigator vs Detective: What Are the Differences?

Many people think that a private investigator and a detective do exactly the same job. We have all watched movies and read books where a professional detective investigates a crime scene… but we might also remember movies and books in which someone hires a detective to find a missing person or solve a mystery.

Are these professionals using the same work techniques? If not, what are the differences between them? Let’s learn more about these two titles: private investigator vs detective.

Working as a private investigator vs detective

Working as a private investigator and working as a detective is not the same thing. Private investigators can be their own bosses, or they can work for an agency. They help their clients solve different matters, mostly by gathering information about people, transactions, or situations.

Detectives, on the other hand, work for the police. They investigate crime scenes, and work hard to understand what happened, and to figure out who is responsible.

Both professions require excellent problem-solving skills, as well as good communication skills. Private investigators and detectives both need to be able to interpret and evaluate evidence, and to write reports. Plus, they both need to have a strong sense of justice, since their job gives them the opportunity to solve crimes, disappearances, marital infidelity cases, and fraudulent cases, as well as to right some wrongs.

What is a private investigator?

The subject of ‘private detective vs investigator’ has been a huge debate for those who aspire to be either one. Let’s focus first on private investigator. This is a professional who has been hired by someone to solve a mystery can be called a private detective. However, private investigator is a more accurate title.

A private investigator can do different things: they can try to figure out if their client’s spouse is cheating on them, search for someone’s missing relative, perform surveillance, conduct background checks, and investigate different personal, financial or legal matters. They mostly gather information and evidence, and they can do it in an unconventional manner.

Private investigators can be self-employed, or work for an agency. They can get hired by citizens, by businesses, or even by a police department, which can get them involved in solving criminal cases.

However, private investigators can’t enter someone’s property without permission, and they don’t have the authority to arrest someone. If they find out during an investigation that someone has committed a crime, they have to inform the police.

What is a detective?

On the other hand, a detective is a professional who works for a local police department, or for a federal law enforcement agency. A detective is then a police officer, which means that unlike a private investigator, they have the authority to arrest criminals and to enter property as long as they have a warrant.

Unlike private investigators, however, detectives are expected to always work in a conventional and legal manner. Detectives are the ones who visit crime scenes looking for clues. Their duties involve investigating different types of crimes, interviewing witnesses and suspects, finding culprits, and arresting them. They also have to write official reports that contain all the evidence they have gathered.

Police detectives can occasionally hire private investigators to help them solve a case. This is because detectives and private investigators work in different ways, which makes their cooperation effective to solve different types of crimes.

How can someone become a private investigator?

Even though they don’t exactly do the same thing, detectives and private investigators have a lot in common, and need many of the same skills to perform their duties. In fact, some police detectives who decide to retire or to quit law enforcement can decide to work as private investigators instead.

However, no law enforcement experience is necessary to become a private investigator. There is also no standard program you can enroll in to work as a private investigator, although studying in criminal justice or law enforcement can be useful.

Private investigators are curious people who love solving puzzles, and who are good at it. They also enjoy doing extensive research, and they generally don’t mind working long, unusual hours.

How can someone become a detective?

Becoming a detective is usually an advancement opportunity offered to police officers who are good at solving complex puzzles, and who want to use their skills and their intuition to help bring justice to crime victims.

Those who want to become police detectives first need to become police officers, and to work their way up. They first need to enroll in a police training academy, to make it through field training, and to start working for the police department.

They then have to work as police officers for several years, and to make a name for themselves if they are hoping to get promoted to the title of police detective.

To become a detective, you first need to become a very good police officer. You need to work hard, and to prove yourself as someone who is skilled at solving problems.