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How do I Become a Surveillance Investigator?

Starting a career as a surveillance investigator requires a blend of education in criminal justice or related fields, and hands-on experience. Acquiring a private investigator license, honing observational skills, and mastering surveillance technology are also crucial steps in this exciting career path.
Patrick Roland
Patrick Roland

Private investigation often requires that a subject be watched constantly by a surveillance investigator. If you want to become a surveillance investigator, you will need to know the tricks of the trade and acquire a license. There are four primary duties that investigators performing surveillance must master, including surveillance, interviewing, reporting and testifying. With that, you can go out and get a variety of interesting jobs and work on cases such as divorces and insurance fraud.

Education and licensing should be your first step if you want to become a surveillance investigator. Many countries offer classes to teach the finer points of being a private investigator. If school isn't for you, you can ask a private investigator if they will help you learn the trade. After you feel comfortable with all of the techniques, you must have a private investigator's license, because without it you could be considered to be stalking a subject. Every country has different regulations for this license, but it generally involves an ethics and procedure test.

A surveillance investigator may observe a person who is seeking compensation for an injury.
A surveillance investigator may observe a person who is seeking compensation for an injury.

If you want to be successful after you become a surveillance investigator, you must be undetectable. Following a subject on foot or in a car is crucial, and you must do it in a way that will not draw attention. Usually, you will need documentation of the subject through photos, video or audio evidence. You must have a great deal of patience for surveillance investigation, because it often means sitting in one place and waiting for many hours at a time.

One role of a surveillance investigator is to testify in court.
One role of a surveillance investigator is to testify in court.

Interviewing is another technique that you must master to become a surveillance investigator. An investigator usually will not interview the subject, in order to maintain anonymity, but will ask questions of neighbors and associates. You must know how to deal with different personality types and ask questions in a way that ensures that you receive answers.

Your writing skills also must be sharp in order to become a surveillance investigator. Almost every job will conclude with some sort of written report, detailing the subject's actions and transgressions, if any. You need to craft a concise document that clients can understand and use in court if necessary.

If you become a surveillance investigator, you often will be called to testify in court. Your work makes you a witness, and you therefore could speak in court about your surveillance. You must be comfortable talking to attorneys and must think quickly and have a good memory to answer questions about what you witnessed.

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Discussion Comments

anon85040

I already have my bachelor's degree and I want to go into insurance fraud investigations. Can you tell me where to start?

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    • A surveillance investigator may observe a person who is seeking compensation for an injury.
      By: Luis Louro
      A surveillance investigator may observe a person who is seeking compensation for an injury.
    • One role of a surveillance investigator is to testify in court.
      By: Stephen Coburn
      One role of a surveillance investigator is to testify in court.