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The 10 Most Common Specialties of Private Investigators

  • November 05, 2013
  • by Kimberly Faber

When entering the field of private investigations, many investigators will select one or multiple specialties to focus their company toward. We conducted a survey in which we asked investigators to provide their primary, secondary, and tertiary specialties. By calculating weighted totals for the number of times each specialty was listed as primary, secondary, or tertiary, we were able to establish a list of the most common specialties of private investigators. In addition, we were also able to deduce the percentage of investigators who list a particular investigation type as a service at all, regardless of whether primary, secondary, or tertiary.

The below chart displays the ten most common specialties of private investigators.


Below is an expanded look at the 10 most common specialties of private investigators. There are innumerable combinations of specialties, and because most private investigators offer multiple specialties, the resulting statistics add up to more than 100%.

1. Background Checks

Over 33% of investigators offer background checks as part of their services and specialties. It was the third most frequent primary specialty listed but the most frequent secondary specialty in the survey. Background checks examine a person's professional and personal history and are applicable to a variety of investigations.


More information on Background Checks

2. Civil Investigations

Listed as a specialty for 33% of investigators and one of the two most frequently listed primary specialties, civil investigations was also in the top four for secondary specialties and, by a large margin, the most frequently listed tertiary specialty. Civil investigations require investigators to gather evidence for trials involving two citizens and can span a variety of cases including domestic surveillance, workers compensation, asset searches, missing persons, and more.


More information on Civil Investigations

3. Surveillance

A specialty of 26% of investigators, surveillance was the fourth most listed primary specialty. For secondary specialty, however, surveillance was second only to background investigations. Surveillance is utilized in missing person searches, cheating spouse and infidelity investigations, workers compensation cases, corporate fraud, and more.


More information on Surveillance

4. Other

Falling under the category of other, 19% of investigators list one or more niche industries as specialties. Some of the listed categories: criminal defense, process service, sexual assault, probation, missing children, K-9 drug detection, interviewing, fugitive locates, child custody, construction disputes, automobile theft, and felony criminal cases. As a category, other was one of the top two frequently listed for primary specialties, while least frequent for secondary and average for tertiary.


5. Insurance Investigations

For the 19% of investigators who have insurance investigations listed as a specialty, most listed it as a secondary or tertiary specialty. There are as many types of insurance and insurance fraud investigations as there are types of insurance. These investigators utilize surveillance, records research, and interviews to look into health, car, home, life, and workers compensation insurance fraud.


More information on Insurance Investigations

6. Fraud

16% of investigators offer services in fraud investigations, but of the top ten it was listed as a primary specialty least frequently. Still, fraud was in the top four for secondary specialty. Fraud investigations can range from verifying past work experience to investigating identity theft. Sometimes defined as misrepresentation with an intent to deceive, fraud can involve a company, an individual, a nanny, a job applicant, or a number of other people, entities, and scenarios.


More information on Fraud

7. Corporate Investigations

Corporate investigations are business-centric and can involve verifying the legitimacy of a business partner, looking into loss or theft of proprietary information, identifying potential of a damaged reputation. 12% of investigators specialize in corporate investigations, and though it was listed least frequently as a tertiary specialty, it was near the median for primary and secondary specialty.


More information on Corporate Investigations

8. Accident Reconstruction

16% of investigators offer accident reconstruction as a specialty, though for most it is a tertiary specialty. During this type of investigation, an investigator will asses the cause, location, or circumstances of an accident. This can help establish or reduce liability, provide answers to involved parties, and be a means of collecting evidence for a court case.


More information on Accident Reconstruction

9. Domestic Investigations

While only 12% of investigators focus on domestic investigations, it is usually a primary or tertiary specialty. The category spans surveillance, security, background checks, divorce investigations, infidelity, drug abuse, physical or sexual abuse, and child custody. During these investigations, private investigators provide information, records, and surveillance for issues affecting families.


More information on Domestic Investigations

10. Infidelity and Cheating Spouse

Only 12% of investigators offering infidelity and cheating spouse investigations as a specialty and it was rarely listed as a primary specialty, with fraud being the only other specialty listed fewer times as a primary specialty. It is not an incredibly frequent specialty of investigators. These investigations attempt to establish whether a spouse's suspicions of infedility are valid or unfounded.


More information on Infidelity Investigations


Editor's note: The above information was garnered from a survey of investigators conducted by PInow. Weighted scores were applied to the number of times an investigation type was listed as a primary, secondary, and tertiary specialty. The top 10 was ranked based on that data. The percentages utilized in the bar graphs above establish the percent of total investigators who listed the investigation type as a specialty at all, as a primary specialty, secondary specialty, or tertiary specialty.

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