Most private investigator “schools” are interested in selling you a “certificate of completion”, a piece of paper which means nothing. A certificate of completion from some website just doesn’t mean anything in this industry.
If you want to say that you’re a certified investigator, go right ahead. Eventually, someone, especially someone who’s trying to hire you, is going to call you out on that and say, “Where are you certified?” What are you gonna’ say? “This website, he sent me some PDF files and a certificate of completion”. Maybe they didn’t even send you a certificate of completion. Maybe he just sent you a thing you print out on your own printer!
So these “schools” are selling you a “certificate” and they’ll sandwich it in with a bunch of PDF files that propose to teach you the skills and the tricks of the trade. Basically they’re just glorified book reports about the basic skills P.I.’s use.
I’m not really sure that counts as training. I’m not really sure you’re going to learn what you need or even learn it well. But if that’s what you want, to pay literally $700, $800, $1500 for a “certificate” that says you bought something from that website’s “school”…. well, more power to you. You can do that.
Remember, these guys are not running an ‘.edu’ It’s a ‘.com’! It’s commercial! They want to sell you stuff. Colleges and universities are selling you as well but at least they’re selling you a real education. They’re not just trying to sell you a bunch of PDF files from some website!
IMPORTANT: Real “schools” are ACCRDEITED by the state in which they’re located!
Online website private investigator “schools” are (99.9% of the time) NOT accredited!
Of course they try to make themselves sound like they’re accredited by the state. They say things like “state authorized” and “state approved”, but that’s not “accredited”!
HUGE TIP: The biggest giveaway that the “school” is not the real deal is that they issue a “certificate” and not a “diploma” or “degree”. But, even then, some of them try to be super sneaky and will use the phrase “diploma” but add modifiers to it like “ersatz diploma”, “titular diploma” or some other (presumably) official sounding words so the state won’t bust them for claiming it’s a real diploma.
I actually taught at a state accredited college. (Notice: The term “state accredited” is important because it means something!) That college was registered with the state and you actually got a real degree. You got an associate’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on private investigation. You could take that and build on it to go to a 4-year school if you wanted!
HUGE TIP: Ask the online “school” if their “certificate” can be applied to getting a college degree. Ask if this counts as credit towards an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree. If not… be sure it’s what you really want. And if you’re satisfied with that, more power to you. At least you know what your buying.
Location and Geography Matter
Also, beware of these private investigator “schools” because a lot of them are not going to help for your location. There are a lot of private investigator training courses (and they may be good ones) for the United Kingdom. But if you’re in the United States, that’s not going to help you!
A possible exception… Surveillance may be the one thing that will translate from place to place. Following people is a pretty universal skill.
However… things like skip tracing and background checks are totally different in the UK and the United States. The privacy laws are completely different. What’s considered “public” record is completely different. You have to really be aware that what an investigator can do in California or Texas will be different from what one can do in London or Paris!
I got an email from an investigator in Australia the other day and we talked back and forth about some of the differences. In Australia, there’s a lot of things you legally cannot do that in the United States are perfectly fine. Things we U.S. private investigators do everyday!
When you’re looking at these “schools” make sure you at least get one that’s “teaching” things that work in your country!
Is the “School” Guaranteed?
Another thing about these “schools” is they don’t offer any kind of guarantee. One website I’ve seen does offer a two week guarantee. But here’s the problem with that… they have 35 (or so) lessons in private investigations. And the “lessons” (really just pdf files) are trickled out to you over a period of time.
Here’s what ends up happening. You’re a few “lessons” into it and your two weeks are up. Now you have to make a decision based on partial information!
Maybe they’ve given you the first lesson on “The Overview of What a Private Investigator Does” and a lesson on “The Fundamentals of a Background Check”. Can you really make an informed decision on whether or not his course is worth $800?!?
By time the two weeks is up, you haven’t learned much and you certainly haven’t received their “certificate”. And that certificate is what you want after all. So you say, “Well, this is okay so far. I guess I’m picking up a little bit. And I really want that certificate.” So you continue on past the guarantee’s deadline. In my opinion, they trick you past that two weeks because they know you want to get their “certificate”.
And the certificate they offer is something like a “state authorized certificate” which sounds really official… until you start to think, “What does that mean?”
It doesn’t mean they’re registered with the state’s Department of Education. It doesn’t mean that it counts as college credit. It doesn’t mean that their “school” is accredited! Personally, I can’t figure out what it means!
I think they could make the argument that their company is registered with the state, as all companies are. (Cockroach exterminators are registered with the state!) And since they’re registered with the state and they are giving out a certificate, it’s sorta’, kinda’ like the state authorized the certificate. Really?!?
Here’s the thing. Get what you want. If you want to buy a certificate, go ahead. Just know it means nothing. You’re just as well off printing one off from a novelty company website that says you’re a private investigator. If you want an $800 certificate that says you’re a “certified” private investigator. Go ahead and buy that. However…
Make sure they’re at least teaching you valuable stuff; that you’re learning things that are truthful, things that work in your location! Really make sure you’re getting the skills you need if nothing else. If you get their little certificate that’s fine with me, I don’t care. But at least I want you to be able to do the job when you’re done!
Ask yourself, “Does this school offer practical exercises?” Do they have assignments for you where you go out in the real world and practice the skills they promise to teach you? I certainly do in The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide Series! When I taught P.I. courses in the classroom (of an accredited college!) where the students got real credits and graduated with a real state accredited diploma, I gave them real world, practical exercises.
I taught a variety of college courses. I taught surveillance. I taught accident investigation. I taught pre-employment investigations and many more courses. Of course, some quarters other licensed private investigators would teach these courses as well. But here’s the key difference…
When another investigator, would teach surveillance, they would divide the class into a red team and a blue team. Pair them up with someone on the other team and have the students practice following each other around. It was very artificial practice. Doing this once may be a good way to get your feet wet; to get used to some of the fundamentals, but it was still very artificial. Not like a real surveillance at all.
But that wasn’t the assignment that I was giving to my students. I outline the assignments I gave my students in The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Surveillance. I teach you what to do so you can go out and get these skills, working real world exercises. These are not things you’re going to get paid for, but they’re real world, practical experience. Following my practical exercises you learn it and feel it in your gut like we pro’s do!
I’m not talking about just randomly picking someone and following them. First of all, that’s super creepy. Secondly, the way I teach you, you’re going to get experience in the real world and you’re going to learn, not just the skills, but how it feels to be doing something that matters. If you’re interested in that, check out The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Surveillance. But if you’re looking at these private investigator “schools”, as they call themselves, make sure they’re at least giving you these real world exercises that will get you that skill set.
Who Created the Course?
Finally, know the instructor. Who is actually teaching these things? A lot of these places, hide behind a name they desperately try to make sound official like The World Institute of Associated Investigative Specialist Academy or whatever.
But you should know who your instructor is. Know who created the material. Know what their teaching style is. Are you going to learn how to do what real P.I.’s do? Did the instructor actually do the things he or she is teaching?!?
These places that offer 35 lessons on private investigations, have they really done the things they’re telling you to do? I’m going to be honest with you, what I could teach you about industrial intelligence would fit in a tea cup. I just don’t do industrial intelligence work. So I don’t teach that!
However, skip tracing, background checks, surveillance, public records, process serving, pretexting, accident investigation, I know that stuff. I know it cold. I’ve been there and done that. I’m able to teach it to you. I’m not going to try to teach you something that I don’t know.
So watch out for these “schools” where they’ve kind of cobbled together some information into PDF files that they trickle out to you over six weeks or whatever.
The best way to show them you’re no chump.
So what’s the best revenge against a private investigator “school” that’s trying to hustle you?
Okay, I’m not a revenge guy. That’s probably the wrong word. But my point is, the best way to say, “Okay. You almost got me. I almost bought your big expensive thing that doesn’t mean anything.” The best revenge for that type of thing is to actually learn the skills and get into the private investigative business!
When I was trying to get hired by detective agencies and I didn’t have any experience (and honestly, I didn’t really even know a whole lot of I was doing) detectives turned me down – and rightly so in hindsight. Why hire someone if they don’t know what they’re doing? It’s an expensive prospect to hire someone!
But here’s the sweet thing… I did learn the skills. It was a long grueling process because I had to teach myself. There was no internet learning back then. There were no video courses you could get and learn from. But…
I finally learned the skills, got my state private investigator license and opened my own detective agency. The cool thing is, now I’m peers with the same investigators who turned me down when I knew nothing! And that feels great!
We get together and have lunch and talk about cases. Twenty years ago I was approaching this old timer trying to get my foot in the door and now I’m a peer with him and actually helping him and advising him on his cases as he helps and advises me on mine. That’s a great feeling. I hope you get to experience that someday.
So who can I trust?
So learn these skills from someone reputable. Ask yourself, “Do I trust this guy?”
I am a trusted authority and I would love it if you choose my learning materials, but wherever you learn these skills, be sure to learn them from someplace that’s reputable and has experience doing the things they’re teaching! Don’t just buy some certificate online. That’s not going to help you. It’s not going to move you forward.
Committed to your success,
Private Investigator (Ret.) &
#1 Best Selling Author
Please take a moment, right now to check out my free report: If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do Theses Three Things. Just reading my report will teach you about some of the really important basics you need to know.