Although most people working as private detectives in Britain are former police officers, the industry is open to everyone. There is currently no formal qualification needed in the UK to set yourself up as an investigator, although this is set to change. Most detectives are self employed, but there are some large agencies that employ investigators. A private detective is normally someone who investigates crime while a private investigator will undertake more general investigation work.
Check the Security Industry Authority website for the latest information on licensing for private detectives. The Private Security Industry Act of 2001 states that anyone who is contracted to provide private investigation services will need a licence. As of June 2010 the licence framework is not yet in place but could start up at any time. When it does come into force, private investigators will have to be free from criminal records and be able to prove their competency in investigation practices. In the meantime, the SIA has published a code of best practice for private investigators. This is available on the Burton Reagan Detective Bureau website.
Take a course if you want to learn the basics of being a private detective and find out if it is the career for you. There are a number of private companies in Britain that offer courses. The Academy of Private Investigation awards an Edexcel BTEC qualification in "advanced private investigation" through a distance-learning course. The EDI education company has detailed information about its professional investigator course on its website. Pick a course that is based on the SIA code of best practice so that your qualification will be valid once the licencing comes in.
Apply to large private investigation companies that offer internships and on-the-job training. The Nationwide Investigations group has job opportunities on its website for people with a BTEC qualification. To start up as an independent private detective, advertise your services as a private detective on line and in local newspapers. Contact local law firms and the local council to make prospective clients aware of your services. Focus on an area of investigation where you have experience.
Consider a private detective franchise such as those offered by Bluemoon Agencies. A franchise package will include initial training and ongoing support as well as leads to customers. Buying a franchise will allow you to focus on investigatory work rather than looking for customers.