How to Become a Private Investigator: A Conversation With PI Liz Brock

How to Become a Private Investigator: A Conversation With PI Liz Brock

Perhaps you’ve always been intrigued by law enforcement but never knew which field to enter. You thought about working for the local police department but somehow it didn’t seem right for you. Maybe you’re more interested in choosing your on cases and conducting detective work instead.

If so, becoming a Private Investigator (PI) just may be the line of work you’re looking for. PI Liz Brock, founder of Root Investigations located in Long Island, NY, sat down with us and shared her journey of how she became a successful Private Investigator. Here’s part of our conversation.

The Path to Becoming a Private Investigator

Liz’s decision to pursue a career as a PI wasn’t that conventional. “I was going to school for event planning because prior to getting my Bachelor’s degree, I worked as a development assistant at a museum,” she recalled. “At that point in time, my goal was to become the head of the development department at a museum or in a nonprofit setting.”

After moving back home to reapply to a museum she worked at previously, she discovered that they were cutting back employees’ hours to four days a week. She knew she had to look for a new job.

“In the newspaper, I found a secretarial job in the area which said the word “detectives” in the email. The entire job listing did not mention it being a private investigation firm… which intrigued me,” Brock said.

“I landed the job as a secretary and within one year, I grew to become their case manager & marketing director. I also started to do cases both internally and in the field.”

Experience And Education of a Private Investigator

Although the requirements to become a PI differ from state to state, Brock was able to give us more information regarding the PI qualifications in New York.

“In NY, you need to be 25 years or older and have 3 years of experience. To become licensed, you also need to be fingerprinted and be a principal in the business entity,” she said. “Additionally, you must have passed the private investigator examination within the two years immediately prior to your application date…”

She also stated that “Each state varies by what type of license they provide and how long you need to be practicing… You basically ‘apprentice’ under the business owner’s license and then… obtain your own.”

Opening a Private Investigation Business

After some time, Liz decided to open her own private investigation firm by focusing on her marketing background. “I pivoted again and focused on my marketing background, working for one of the largest law firms in the country doing their marketing,” she said.

“I learned how to rank high online and how to maximize marketing my business. I noticed a lot of PI’s are not maximizing their online presence to the full extent.”

After her job moved locations, she decided to forgo the long commute and turned her attention to working for herself.

“My true passion was helping people get to the root of their problem and solving cases… By working at two different PI firms in my past, I also saw what each was lacking and how I could open my own firm and improve from there.”

The Lifestyle of a Private Investigator

Liz expressed how different her life became once she pursued PI work. It significantly changed her lifestyle.

“It makes you more aware of your surroundings and makes you slightly more paranoid about everything you see. From what you post online to trusting people in your life, it makes you just very acutely aware of everything vs living passively.”

She also explained that “You learn how to problem-solve better and also how to deliver painstaking news. As a PI, you need to not take sides and just deliver the facts so it can take a toll.”

“It also is a lot more research then one would expect. A good PI becomes extremely resourceful and learns how to conduct research from multiple angles.”

Tips for Becoming a Private Investigator

As we wrapped up our conversation, we asked Liz to offer some tips on how someone can pursue becoming a PI. “I would suggest obtaining a criminal justice degree or business degree and then obtaining a job at a PI office.”

“When I hire someone, there are two types of people I typically look for. Either those with an extensive resume conducting investigations or someone I see can wear a few different hats (investigative included),” Brock said.

“If they are organized or have an extreme interest in PI work, I will hire them and see if they are able to help first in the office and then in the field.”

She also mentioned the option of getting into law enforcement and then obtaining a PI license upon retirement, but this would certainly take much longer.