Bloodhounds, sleuths and PIs: An investigation into investigation

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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We all have an idea – probably the wrong one – of what it is like to be an investigator. Private detectives are a staple of books, film and television. They chase down jewel thieves and cold-blooded killers. They rescue damsels in distress, uncover international conspiracies and risk their lives in pursuit of the truth.

Real life investigation is not like a film noir. Sad but true! However, there are plenty of private investigators in Ireland. For the most part, they deal with corporate investigation, fraud and infidelity.

Why do it?

One thing is for sure – investigation is interesting work. Of course, there will be days when you sit in the office and pore over documents. This is because most investigation work is a mix of research and fieldwork.

Private investigators generally work for financial institutions, insurance companies, solicitors and individuals. Most specialise in a particular area. An investigator who concentrates on insurance fraud is unlikely to take on matrimonial work and vice versa.

What’s involved?

First off, you’ll need to learn the tools of the trade. There are part-time classroom based as well as self-paced distance learning options on a number of aspects of investigation. These include practical skills such as how to trace assets, screen employees and confirm someone’s identity.

In addition, there are also courses in subjects such as forensics and criminal psychology. PIs conducting corporate, insurance or matrimonial investigations don’t need to know these. However, if you are an aspiring investigator, learning a wide understanding of different investigative techniques is useful.

Private investigations is difficult to break into as a career. Most investigators work for legal or insurance firms, but these companies are unlikely to work with an investigator they don’t know. This means that finding clients or getting referrals can take time.

At a glance

Financial institutions, insurance companies, solicitors and individuals hire private investigators. You can study many aspects of investigation in a classroom setting or through distance learning.

Anne Sexton

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