Private Investigator

Private investigators gather information and conduct surveillance to secure evidence relating to a wide range of private, corporate and legal interests.

Also Known As:Detective, Fraud Investigator, Investigator
NOC Number(s):6465.2
Minimum Education:Education/training requirements vary
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:M I S

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


Private investigators may:

  • investigate and work to prevent loss caused by theft or fraud in corporations and businesses
  • observe disability insurance claimants to see if they are working at another job while they are claiming disability, or to see if their activities are consistent with the claimed disability
  • conduct searches for missing persons
  • gather information for lawyers about defendants or witnesses in criminal and civil court cases
  • gather material or evidence for individuals in divorce or child custody cases
  • conduct pre-employment checks
  • work with law enforcement agencies to investigate corporate or insurance crimes.

To gather the information and evidence they need, private investigators may:

  • contact law enforcement agencies
  • interview employers, friends, relatives and other sources
  • take photographs and videotape events
  • locate witnesses and obtain statements from them
  • search through public records
  • keep individuals under surveillance.

Working Conditions

No two assignments are ever the same. However, long hours and hard work are almost always involved. Much of the work is routine.

Personal Characteristics

Private investigators need the following characteristics:

  • personal integrity
  • physical fitness
  • tact and good communication skills
  • a good memory
  • the ability to stay alert while performing routine tasks 
  • an inquiring mind
  • a determination to investigate each problem in detail.

They should enjoy having work responsibilities that change frequently, taking a methodical approach to compiling information, finding innovative approaches to locating people, and working with people.

Educational Requirements

Private investigators must be licensed by the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, or employed by a licensed agency. Applicants for individual licences must meet basic licensing requirements and training qualifications before applying to receive a licence. Individuals may be licensed in the following classes:

  • security services worker
  • loss prevention worker
  • executive protection worker
  • patrol dog handler (must also hold a security services worker license)
  • security alarm responder
  • investigator
  • locksmith
  • automotive lock bypass worker.

Investigators also must be:

  • at least 18 years of age
  • a Canadian citizen or legally entitled to work in Canada
  • competent and of good character
  • no serious criminal record for which a pardon has not been granted
  • no outstanding charges and not the subject of a criminal investigation
  • fluent in English (to be able to communicate with the public and emergency responders in emergency situations)
  • successful completion of the training requirements for applicable classes (listed above)
  • successful completion of baton training, if seeking to carry a baton.

Some agencies require job applicants to have:

  • valid first aid and CPR certificates
  • a valid driver's licence
  • a vehicle.

Some related experience or education is a definite asset when seeking employment. Many agencies provide additional training programs for new employees.

In Alberta, the following post-secondary institutions offer investigation programs:

  • Bow Valley College in Calgary offers an 80 hour Private Investigation certificate program through Continuing Education. There are no specified admission requirements.
  • Columbia College, a private vocational school in Calgary, offers a 25 week (certificate) and a 50 week (diploma) Criminal Justice Professional program. The entrance requirement for the certificate program is a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 (or 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-2) or equivalent plus a successful interview.  Contact the school for the specific entrance requirements for the diploma program. 
  • Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton offers a two year Police and Investigations diploma program with majors in Police Studies or Investigative Studies. The entrance requirement for both programs, is a high school diploma or equivalent with at least 65 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, 75 per cent in English Language Arts 30-2 or the completion of the Skills Appraisal. A fitness test and criminal record check are required. The program is offered through full time daytime studies or part time evening studies.

For information about criminology, justice and police and security programs, see the Police Officer profile.

Continuing education programs may be offered on an as needed basis.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised December 2013

Related Legislation

Under Alberta's Security Services and Investigators Act and Security Services and Investigators (Ministerial) Regulation, you must be licensed by Alberta Justice and Solicitor General to be paid to conduct surveillance activities or seek information about crimes, misconduct or allegations; causes of accidents, injury or damage; the activities or reputation of a person; or the location of property or whereabouts of a person.

Section revised May 2012

Employment and Advancement

Private investigators are employed by investigation companies and security agencies. Some start their own agencies.

To open a private investigation agency, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General requires the applicant:

  • be a registered company in Canada with an address in Alberta 
  • register the agency name through Alberta Registries
  • obtain the required business or town licences and permits for their location
  • provide proof of one million dollar liability insurance
  • submit an affidavit with full criminal record check and fingerprints 
  • submit an acceptable coloured, passport-sized photograph.

In the case of sole proprietorship, applicants must meet both business and individual (see Educational Requirements above) licensing requirements.

There is a $1500 licensing fee for an agency (based on three years) and a $160 licensing fee for individuals (based on two years).

Advancement opportunities are limited.

Private investigators are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 6465: Other Protective Service Occupations. In Alberta, 80 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised May 2012


Private investigators usually are paid a commission according to the fee paid by the client. Earnings vary enormously depending on experience.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Other Protective Service Occupations occupational group earned on average from $16.99 to $24.32 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $21.53 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

Alberta Association of Private Investigators website:

Alberta Justice and Solicitor General website:

Canadian Association of Private Investigators website:

Related Occupational Profiles
Bylaw Enforcement Officer
Canadian Forces Personnel - Non Commissioned
Correctional Peace Officer
Forensic Laboratory Analyst
Insurance Adjuster
Police Officer
Security Guard

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; and Health, Recreation and Human Services (Legal Studies)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Social, Community and Protective Services

Produced June 2011
Top of Profile

For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services