Private Investigator

Private investigators are hired to discover the truth about specific events. The duties of private investigators or detectives and members of the police force differ only slightly. Private detectives are employed and paid fees by clients, while police officers receive salaries paid by the police force.

Private investigators (PIs) do have a choice as to whether to take on a particular case or not, whereas police officers must investigate whatever comes their way. Most cases handled by private investigators and detectives are those such as missing persons, stolen goods, divorce proceedings and the occasional crime such as assault, accident, arson and, in rare cases, murder.

PIs usually have their own offices and advertise their services to the public. The working conditions depend on the type of case accepted. If a client reported a missing person to the police but hires a PI to investigate further, detailed notes need to be taken about the events leading to the disappearance, photographs obtained of the missing person and all the parties who might have been involved before deciding on a plan of action.

If one partner of a married couple suspects infidelity on the part of the other, a PI would follow the suspect and obtain photographic evidence. In the case of stolen goods, PIs look for leads and follow these up.

Everyone has watched detective movies and most are aware of the kind of work involved with this career. There is a great deal of walking involved and at times it can be an extremely frustrating career. PIs sometimes are required to give evidence in court. Thus, any evidence collected on any case, has to be as fully documented as possible should it be needed for court presentation.

Personal Requirements

  • special kind of mentality
  • able to think extremely logically
  • able to look at events as objectively as possible
  • not jump to hasty conclusions
  • dedicated, persistent, patient and very intelligent
  • better than average memory for faces and facts

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate

What to Study

Diploma: Policing - VUT, UNISA

Some private investigators and detectives are retired police officers, thus have undergone police training and gained experience on the force.

College: Police students receive training at the following South African police training colleges: Pretoria, Hammanskraal, Bishop Lavis, Wentworth.
The training lasts 6 months. The training period for graduates is approximately 3 months.

Prospective police officers must:

  • undergo a strict selection procedure
  • be a South African citizen
  • be between 18 - 25 years of age (men)
  • be between 18 - 35 years of age (women)
  • be a minimum of 1, 67 metres tall (men)
  • be a minimum of 1, 62 metres tall (women)
  • have no mental or physical handicap
  • have no criminal record
  • be in possession of a 08 driver’s licence
  • be able to speak two official languages
  • take the oath of office


  • SA Police Service
  • self-employment, with own private investigation office

Further Information

From the nearest police station

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a community centre
  • arrange to speak to private investigators and police officers about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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