How Much Does a Private Investigator Earn?

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How Much Does a Private Investigator Earn?
A private investigator may travel considerably. (man looking into binoculars image by Sergejs Nescereckis from Fotolia.com)

A private investigator deals in information. He may assist individuals, businesses or legal services in criminal cases, civil liability, insurance fraud, child custody and missing persons, among other things. A private investigator may also conduct pre-employment checks for firms, compile background profiles or uncover marital infidelity. His salary varies according to his employment situation.

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Average Salary

In May 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics synthesised wage data collected from about 31,250 individuals working as private investigators and detectives across the country. The mean yearly salary for the profession was £30,634, equivalent to an average of £14.70 per hour. The median salary--that earned by the middle 50 per cent of earners--was £27,371. The top 10 per cent earned £49,380, and the bottom 10 per cent received an average wage of £16,055.

Salary by Industry

The type of employment a private investigator has affects her earnings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists investigation and security services as the largest employer of private investigators, but the sector's average annual salary--$43,060--is lower than some other employers. Local government agencies, for example, offer wages of £32,890, while legal services are listed at £35,698. A private investigator employed by a company concerned with computer systems design may receive £51,597, and an individual within other telecommunications can expect £48,620.

Salary by Location

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists Virginia and New Mexico as offering the highest average wages for private investigators--$68,420 and £42,074 respectively. Alaska and Delaware offer £38,772 and £38,629. Minnesota and Missouri's rates are at £25,870 and £25,122 respectively. The single metropolitan area with the best pay rates is the Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario district of California, at £53,521.

Job Prospects

The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees a bright future for private investigators in the job market. It expects opportunities in the profession to increase by about 22 per cent from 2008 to 2018. Heightened security concerns, increased litigation and the need to protect confidential information and property of all types will be the primary fuel for this growth, as well as increased criminal activity conducted online, such as identity theft and e-mail harassment. However, competition for vacancies will be fierce. Salary levels, therefore, will be competitive, without excessive gains.

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