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Becoming A Background Investigator


A background investigator is a detective who finds out information about people, typically by scanning records that have details about their past and interviewing friends and family.

Background investigators are employed by organizations and companies that need a reputable candidate for an important job, such the Air Force looking to hire a person who can successfully pass a security clearance. Politicians hire background investigators to ensure that they're bringing in reputable individuals to work on their team. Hiring a background investigator will ensure that there is nothing in the person's past that could put the company or an individual person at risk.

Studying a someone’s background includes looking at his or her criminal, job, and credit history. In some cases, the person's personality and temperament are also studied. The latter is typically needed when a candidate is being screened for a security clearance.

Background investigators are employed by both government agencies (police departments, military) and by large companies. They can also serve as a private investigator or as a contracted investigator. Background investigators need to be honest, independent, detail-oriented, persistent, and personable. On average, background investigators make $52,000 a year.

How Do I Become A Background Investigator?

There is no formal training required to become a background investigator. Most organizations simply require you to shadow a professional investigator before you can begin working full time. This will allow you to gain valuable on-the-job training, where you will learn the necessary techniques and methods to perform investigations from an experienced professional investigator. On-the-job background investigator training usually includes:

  • How to search databases for job records, criminal records, and credit history records
  • How to effectively interview the friends and family of a subject
  • How to present the data to the people who are seeking a background investigation

Even if your state doesn’t require licensure, you may want to pursue some formal training in criminal justice or police training to help in job placement and career advancement. Criminal justice degree programs offer extensive training in criminal investigation techniques and research methods, and offer practical experience that you would use in the field. When studying criminal justice, students take courses in criminal corrections and criminal behavior, criminology, and criminal procedure, evidence, and investigation.

Getting Licensed In States That Require It

Some states do require specific types of government licensure, and the methods for getting a license varies by state. Your state may require on-the-job experience, and some states require both that along with education in criminal justice or police science, whether it be an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or the successful completion of a police science program. Usually, the state licensing board requires that you pass a background check by the FBI as well.

In addition, many states also require you to pass a state-held private investigator exam before you can become licensed. The exam typically requires you to get at least 70 percent of the questions correct, but most states allow applicants to take the test again if they don’t pass it the first time.

Thanks To You, The Truth Comes Out

Background investigators do important work for individuals, companies, and organizations, helping prevent them from costly hiring mistakes. Your fact-finding, observation, and listening skills will be put to work every day, so if you like hunting down information and assisting others in making good choices, this is the job for you.

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