Private Investigator

Private investigator Training

If you're resourceful and love using your problem-solving skills to figure out a mystery, our Private Investigator Training prepares you to take the first steps toward a new career today! Through flexible online classes, you'll learn the fundamental skills you need to become a private investigator on your schedule, from home.

  • Our Private Investigator Training prepares students for private investigator jobs in a variety of settings including corporations, insurance companies, and legal offices. Many private investigators are self-employed, offering you the opportunity to start your own business in the field. 
  • Online private investigator courses cover topics like surveillance, corporate espionage, homeland security, evidence collection, and more.
  • Our online programs are flexible enough for you to finish them at a pace that works for you, based on how much time you can dedicate to your coursework each week.
Self Paced

Save up to $300 Ends 7/16/2024

Cost of Program


$1,199 Save $300


$69/month, Start for as low as $20

1-800-275-4410 (10AM - 6:30PM ET)

private investigator in a car with a camera.

What You Will Learn

  1. How to understand different types of laws and the steps of the legal system, including constitutional amendments, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and court-related issues for private investigators.
  2. How observations, descriptions, and surveillance are used in investigations, and how to develop a systematic method for applying concepts that make an investigation successful.
  3. How to identify procedures and techniques of conducting interviews and interrogations, including legal considerations, fingerprinting, document examination, and polygraph testing.
  4. How to explain methods of competitive intelligence collection and corporate espionage, and describe counterintelligence measures.
Full Program Goal & Outcomes

Private Investigator Career Outcomes

Private Investigator





Our online Private Investigator Training can help students prepare for jobs as private investigators in a variety of settings. Skilled investigators can work for private security firms, background check companies, armored car services, insurance companies, financial companies, and even start their own business as a contractor.

State Licensing Requirements

Licensing and/or certification requirements for private investigator jobs are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered in the Penn Foster Program. Prospective students should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where they plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in this program.  See the State Licensing page for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

Please review your state board requirements that are applicable to your field of study. State boards may impose a variety of different requirements. Penn Foster has determined that the curriculum does not meet the educational requirements for licensure or certification in the following state: Florida.

Online Private Investigator Curriculum

  • 8 courses
  • 40 continuing education units (CEUs)
  • 23 exams
  • 1 optional work experience

Estimated completion time:

  • Fast track = 3 months
  • Average time = 5 months

With Penn Foster, you can learn at whatever pace works best for you. Some learners will be more comfortable moving faster, and dedicating more time, and the fast track estimate will apply to them. The average track will apply to most learners who can dedicate a few hours per week to completing their coursework. The estimated completion times are based on completion times for learners enrolled in this program from May 2021 - April 2022, excluding withdrawals.

In our Private Investigator courses, you'll learn the foundational skills and knowledge needed to become a successful private investigator. Your online courses include:

  • Legal Principles and Requirements
  • Locating People and Performing Background Investigations
  • Court-Related Issues for Private Investigation
  • Homeland Security


Non-US residents: This is a United States-based institution with course materials that are geared toward US job and labor standards. Learners from outside of the US may find that some information and materials will differ from the current standards of their country. Please note, the materials for this program are in English and use the Imperial unit of measurement, not the metric system.

Show Full Curriculum
private investigator working on a case.

Private Investigator Optional Work Experience

Students who complete their private investigator courses can apply what they learned to real-world situations in an optional work experience. In the work experience portion, you'll shadow or work under the supervision of a licensed private investigator. However, Penn Foster does not assist in finding a location for work experience option. If a student chooses to participate in the work experience option, they are required to find a location on their own.

This experience is optional and not required to graduate from the program. 

Private Investigator Success Stories

Penn Foster’s Private Investigator Training can help prepare you for the first step in your career as an investigator. This program has helped recent graduates find new jobs or start their own businesses while learning at their own pace. Learn more about Penn Foster graduates' experiences and how Penn Foster worked for them. 
View Student Success Stories
quote icon

Lucas T.

Penn Foster Graduate, 2023

“”I enjoyed the flexibility and ease of access.”

Looking for training for your workers?

Penn Foster currently works with hundreds of leading employers to meet their unique organizational needs.
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Private Investigator Training Tuition

Take the first steps toward a new career with our online Private Investigator Career Diploma Program. Simply choose from one of our low-cost customized payment plans below and get started today! 

Option 1: Pay in full

Save up to $300 Ends 7/16/2024

Cost of Program1


$1,199 Save $300

  • Best price. Best value.
  • Pay the full cost today
  • No monthly payments
Enroll Now

Option 2: Monthly Auto Pay Plan

Save up to $100 Ends 7/16/2024

Cost of Program1


$1,199 Save $100

  • Pay $69 per month
  • Start for $20 down
  • All major credit and debit cards accepted
Enroll Now

Option 3: Monthly Mail Pay Plan

cost of program1


  • Pay $69 per month
  • Start for $49 down
  • Mail your payments
Enroll Now

California residents please click here for Required California Disclosures.

Need more info or ready to enroll?

Looking for more information on transfer credits, military benefits, or our refund policy? Find this information and more about tuition and enrollment here.

Tuition & Payment Options

We're here to help. Call 1-800-275-4410 (10AM - 6:30PM ET)

Request Info

Our Proven Private Investigator Learning Model

Empowering students to reach their professional goals


  • Start anytime 
  • No exam due dates 
  • Self-paced 


  • Digital study guides 
  • Self-check quizzes 
  • Simulations and videos 


  • 24/7 access to online resources 
  • Online student community 
  • Dedicated Learner Center


  • Expert faculty 
  • Dedicated student services 
  • Robust learning resources

Related Programs

Private Investigator Training FAQs

How do I start a career as a private investigator?

To become a private investigator, you need at least a high school diploma, though many employers may look for additional post-secondary training like a career diploma or criminal justice degree. Private investigators must be licensed, usually by their state, so they do need to meet certain guidelines to qualify. Becoming a licensed private investigator is separate from starting a licensed private investigation firm, so it's important to look into your state requirements for both. Many states also require that you have relevant previous work experience; previous work as a police officer or in the military can usually qualify you to become an investigator.

Additionally, your state may require you to pass a criminal background check.

What are the top qualities of a private investigator?

Successful private investigators share a few qualities that help them in their role. These qualities include strong communication and decision-making skills, patience, resourcefulness, and a commitment to ethics and the law. 

What is the average salary of a private investigator?

The average salary for a private investigator was $52,120 in 2022 according to national averages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.* Salary can vary for investigators depending on whether they are self-employed or work for a corporation or agency. Additionally, salary can vary based on credentials, educational background, work experience, and the state you live in.

What is the difference between a detective and a private investigator?

The main difference between a detective and a private investigator is what they're allowed to do under the law.  A detective is usually a police officer. A private investigator does not have the authority of police power and operates under the powers of an ordinary citizen. This means that private investigators must conduct searches, interviews, and more while adhering to federal and local laws. Private investigators cannot enter property without permission, make arrests, or access some criminal files.