If you have an inquisitive nature, or are just plain nosy, then a career doing investigations may be just the ticket for you. Whether you are filing reports for a daily newspaper or digging into the personal affairs of your clients, you’ll satisfy your craving for information while earning a decent living. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2010, private investigators, for example, earned a medium income of $42,870 a year.
Freelance journalists hire themselves out on a per-story basis. On your own, you can investigate a scandal, for example, interview all the parties involved, write the story, and then sell it to a newspaper or high-profile tell-all magazine. True-crime book writers investigate interesting crimes as well. Another avenue of self-employment is a private investigator. You need to be licensed in most states, serving an internship under a licensed private investigator for a specific number of years before earning your own license. Once you get that, you can work for private clients, attorneys and commercial operations, doing everything from employment computer background checks to insurance fraud investigations and divorce cases.
There are a slew of opportunities in the government sector for investigators. The FBI, Internal Revenue Service, CIA, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives all hire professional investigators as part of their teams. Government agencies usually require at least a four-year college degree either in criminal justice or in the arena in which they specialize. The SEC for example is a regulatory agency that requires its agents to have degrees in finance. Some agencies, like the FBI, also often have strict physical requirements and age limits for their investigators.
If you want to serve locally or regionally on a police department as an investigator or detective, you usually need to come up through the ranks and start out as a rookie policewoman. You’ll have to get accepted to the police academy in the area where you want to serve. Additional education in law enforcement and criminal justice may help you reach detective status quicker, but most departments look for initiative and on-the-job performance that shows you can cut it as a detective before you can get promoted.
Staff jobs at newspapers and magazines, television and radio stations and news-based web companies can provide you with a steady income while still fulfilling your need to know what’s going on. As an investigative journalist, you can often follow a story for a considerable amount of time and not have to worry about the bills like you do if you’re freelance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2010 that print and broadcast journalists earned a median income of $36,000 and employers prefer a bachelor’s degree.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Private Detectives and Investigators
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Careers
- IRS: Law Enforcement and Investigation
- Federal Government Jobs: Investigation Jobs
- Department of Labor: Major Occupation Categories
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Reporters, Correspondents and Broadcast News Analysts
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."