Private detectives investigate personal and business matters for individuals and organizations. They provide a range of services, including locating people of interest, performing background checks and investigating people's personal activities for clients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 26,080 individuals were employed as private detectives and investigators in May 2011.

National Salary Statistics:

As of May 2011, private detectives and investigators reported an average annual salary of $48,610 and an average hourly wage of $23.37. Half of all private detectives earned a salary of between $33,040 and $59,290 per year. The lowest paid 10 percent of all private investigators reported incomes of $25,940 or less per year, while the highest paid 10 percent reported yearly compensation of $75,860 or greater.

Pay by Employment Sector:

Nearly half of all private investigators employed in May 2011 were working in the investigation and security services industry and earned an average of $44,350 per year. P.I.s employed by local government earned an average of $51,790 per year, those employed in legal services earned $54,600 per year on average and those working in depository credit intermediation earned an average annual salary of $53,260. The highest earnings were reported in the management, scientific and technical consulting services industry and earned an average of $92,850 per year.

Pay by State:

Private investigators working in Washington state reported higher earnings than those in any other state, an average of $65,460 per year. Those in Virginia earned an average of $61,930 per year; in Texas, $61,810 per year; and in California, $61,130. Other high-paying states for this occupation include Delaware, New Jersey, Alabama and Arkansas. The lowest wages of any state, an average of $25,560 per year, were reported in Idaho.

Job Outlook:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts job growth for this profession at 21 percent for the next decade, meaning that approximately 7,100 new jobs will be available for private detectives between 2010 and 2020. The BLS expects that competition will be strong and that applicants who have work experience in law enforcement or other related professions will be top candidates. With technology an ever-increasing part of our daily lives, applicants with computer skills may find themselves especially employable.

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