How To Become A Private Investigator (Detective) in Australia?

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Students want to know how to become private investigators or detectives in Australia.


Increasingly more individuals seek third-party assistance to recover debt, find people, or compile evidence for a court case. Pursuing a career as a private investigator is becoming a popular choice.


Australia's private investigator (detective) industry anticipates growing by more than 15 per cent over the next five years. It indicates that there will be several opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing a career in this profession.


So if you are curious, determined, and have an eye for detail, private investigation is the right career option.


In this post, you will learn everything about becoming a private investigator (detective) in Australia, including the PI licensing requirements for each state and territory, the courses you must study, and what salary you can expect.



1. What Does a Private Investigator Do?


Depending on the demands of their employer, private investigators or detectives uncover and evaluate facts and information ranging from financial and legal to personal information.


Some of their daily responsibilities are investigating financial and criminal acts against people, surveilling suspects, running background checks, obtaining and evaluating papers, and monitoring individuals' movements to acquire information.


Other duties might include recovery of lost valuables, assisting in capturing sexual predators, and helping with forensic investigation.


Also, as per the requirement of individual cases, private investigators may work behind a desk or in the field. Their work may also be physically exhausting, depending on the case. Work hours also vary, as their regular day job might differ based on their work.


Some days, the private investigator may be out in the field performing surveillance, conducting interviews, or setting up surveillance equipment. 


They may perform employee checks or conduct computer searches on different cases on other days — for example, finding missing people or gathering information about credit card fraud. They may also provide legal paperwork or locate witnesses at times.


Education requirements to become a private investigator vary widely. Some may require experience in the field, while others may need a postsecondary degree. 


Although most private investigators receive training on the job, some may have previously received training as law enforcement officers. Additionally, most states and territories in Australia require a private investigator to get a license.



2. Major Tasks and Duties of a Private Investigator


  • Investigate crimes

  • Help in the recovery of stolen or lost property.

  • Track cybercriminals.

  • Fill out necessary reports and write detailed reports.

  • Travel through local and other jurisdictions.

  • Assist victims in their quest for justice.

  • Observe the suspect's activities.

  • Find missing persons.

  • Conduct liability and asset checks.

  • Arrest suspects.

  • Conduct interviews with suspects and witnesses.

  • Investigate worker's compensation or insurance claims.

  • Track and arrest serial killers.

  • Prepare diagrams, and take photographs and notes at crime scenes.

  • Prepare cases and testify in court.

  • Collect evidence of crimes.

  • Run scientific tests.

  • Attend autopsies to gather additional evidence.

  • Follow potential dead-end leads.

  • Collect information for use in legal proceedings.

  • Exchange information with other law enforcement agencies and request assistance.

  • Assist with the effective prosecution of criminal defendants.

  • Provide advice about personal and corporate security.

  • Investigate dishonesty, theft, shoplifting, or other undesirable conduct.



3. Steps To Become a Private Investigator in Australia


You will need to undertake a private investigator traineeship or course to become a private investigator in Australia. You must complete year ten or equivalent to get admission to most courses or traineeships.


Here are some common steps you can follow to become a private investigator in Australia:



  • Step 1: Consider undertaking a private investigator TAFE course or enrolling at an RTO (Registered Training Organization) to receive a Diploma of Government Investigations (PSP50416) or Certificate IV in Government Investigations (PSP40416).


  • Step 2: Enroll in a traineeship with a private investigation company to acquire the skills you will need for private investigator jobs in Australia while receiving real-world and practical experience.


  • Step 3: Obtain a licence from the state regulatory authority and, if necessary, submit a National Police Check, depending on the state you plan to work in.



4. How To Get a Private Investigator Licence in Australia?


In most Australian states and territories, police departments work with courts to administer and grant private investigator licenses. However, other government bodies, such as Fair Trading, are responsible for issuing PI licenses in some states and territories.


The information below will tell you more about how to get a private investigator license through appropriate licencing agencies in different Australian states and territories. You should confirm the procedure and eligibility requirements with them.


In most cases, you must complete a Certificate III in Investigative Services course from an RTO (recognised training organisation) such as TAFE or ASSI (The Australian School of Security and Investigations) before issuance of a license. 


It is important to note that the rules may differ between different territories and states in Australia. 



Queensland (QLD)


The Security Providers Act (1993) governs private investigators in Queensland, and the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) QLD issues licences.


Here are the standard eligibility criteria to get a PI license in QLD:


  • Successful completion of an OFT-approved training course.

  • Minimum 18 years of age.

  • Must not pose a risk to public safety and be an appropriate person to hold the license.


For further information, you can get in touch with Queensland's Office of Fair Trading. Furthermore, the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General is in charge of licencing information and applications - you can visit Queensland's Government website to get more details.



New South Wales (NSW)


The new CAPI (Commercial Agents and Private Inquiry Agents) Act 2004 governs private investigators in NSW.


Before getting a private investigator license in NSW, you must read the licencing requirements. You can visit the NSW government's website to learn about the CAPI Act and the licencing criteria.


What if you have a criminal history? Many people wonder if they can become private investigators with a criminal record. 


Suppose the applicant was found guilty within the last five years with no conviction recorded or convicted within the previous ten years of the following offences. The CAPI licence, including the Master's license application, is invalid.


Here are some crimes that will disqualify you from holding a licence:


  • Offences listed under Part 2 of the Listening Devices Act 1984, or similar sections of the Commonwealth law or other territory or state crimes that fall under the Commonwealth's Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979.

  • Offences involve the use or unlawful possession of a firearm or other weapon.

  • Offences involving dishonesty, fraud, theft, or violence are punishable by imprisonment.

  • Offences that involve the use or unlawful possession of a drug.

  • An application may also be denied if a firm, close associates, or a master licence holder listed on the application is found guilty of any of the offences mentioned above.



Western Australia (WA)


The Western Australian Police Service issues licences to private investigators under the Security and Related Activities (Control) Act 1996.


Here are the two types of licences available in WA:


  • Investigator: An individual engaged by an Inquiry Agent to carry out investigations.

  • Inquiry Agent - A person who engages investigators to do the task but cannot do the investigation themselves unless they meet licensed and qualified investigators' requirements.


The relationship between an investigator and an inquiry agent is similar to how barristers and solicitors work together. Contact the Commercial Agents Squad at 297 Hay St, East Perth, WA 6004, or visit their website for more information.



South Australia (SA)


Under the Security and Investigation Agents Act 1995, private investigators in South Australia need a Private Agents licence administered by the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs.


Contact Business and Occupational Services, Office of Consumer and Business Affairs, Level 3 Chesser House, 91-97 Grenfell Street, Adelaide, to get more information about PI licence. You can also visit the South Australia Police government website to gather details on licence eligibility.



Victoria (VIC)


Under the Private Security Act 2004, Victoria's Licensing Services Division (LSD) issues licences to Private investigators, which Victoria Police further administers.


Note: Your Certificate III in Investigative Services must be no older than twelve months to be accepted under licencing rules.


Here are the eligibility criteria for PI licensing in Victoria:


  • Investigator applicants must finish the required training.

  • You must meet the requirements for a criminal background check

  • Licences may be subject to conditions.

  • Some conditions might be related to supervision, training, or case-by-case situations.


Note: Certain offences may prohibit an individual from obtaining a PI licence.


For further information, visit the Victoria Police LSD (Licensing Services Division) website.



Tasmania (TAS)


The Department of Justice oversees the licencing and regulation of Inquiry Agents under the Security and Investigations Agents Act of 2002. 


If you meet the following criteria, you can apply for a security licence in Tasmania:


  • Complete the appropriate training.

  • Must be 18 years of age.

  • Have never been convicted of a disqualifying offence.


New candidates may also require Certificate III in Investigative Services. Visit the Department of Justice's website to view forms and other information.



Northern Territory (NT)


Under the Commercial and Private Agents Licensing Act 1979, private investigators must acquire licenses from local courts. Furthermore, the applicant must not be bankrupt or 18 years old. It is also important to note that other people may oppose the application.


The DoB (Department of Business) is in charge of licence administration in the Northern Territory. You can contact them by telephone at (08) 8999 5511 or at their office: Charles Darwin Centre, Level 5, 19 The Mall, Darwin NT 0800.


Note: In the Northern Territory, there is no obligation to complete a private investigator course in Australia to be eligible for a licence.



Australian Capital Territory (ACT)


Although the ACT does not require private investigators to get a license, plans are in the works. Additionally, as insurance companies and other businesses prefer to work with licenced private investigators, you are strongly advised to get a licence under NSW law.



5. How Much Does a Private Investigator Earn in Australia?


The average private investigator salary in Australia ranges between AU$50,000 and AU$80,000, depending on how many cases they handle. However, like with many occupations, the answer to how much you may earn as an investigator is complicated.


The income depends on whether you start your own business or work for an agency. Also, it depends on your specialisation and the demand for that job.


Working for an agency or an insurance firm, a full-time private investigator with one to three years of experience may earn around AU$60,000 to AU$70,000.


Transport investigators may expect to make between AU$80,000 and AU$90,000. Besides, criminal intelligence investigators might earn more than AU$100,000 if they are in high demand.


Their actual salary depends on the following factors:


  • Education 

  • The type of investigation they specialise in

  • Work experience as an investigator

  • Track record of successfully resolved cases

  • Work location


Detectives who work for the Australian Federal Police or a State or Territory Crime Command generally earn higher salaries compared to those who are employed in a Local Area Command.


As a detective with several years of experience, you have the opportunity to advance to a senior detective role, which often comes with higher salaries and more lucrative compensation.



Salary Based on Experience


  • Early career (1-4 years of experience): AU$38.55 per hour

  • Mid-career (5-9 years of experience): AU$45.00 per hour 

  • Experienced (10-19 years of experience): AU$48.80 per hour 




6. Private Investigator Skills


You need a combination of technical skills and specific personal skills to work in this role. Some of these include:



Technical Skills


  • Good legal knowledge ensures you always investigate the case using lawful means.

  • A good understanding of the code of ethics.

  • A good understanding of technology to use investigation tools effectively.

  • Proficiency in using many technological tools, such as surveillance equipment, video and still cameras, GPS trackers, and equipment to analyse fingerprints and audio recorders.

  • Good research skills to research the background of victims, witnesses and suspects, financial history, and recent deals of businesses under examination.



Soft Skills


  • Tenacious

  • Inquisitive 

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Careful attention to detail and non-verbal cues when interviewing people

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills

  • Analytical and critical thinking to analyse the subject objectively and draw logical conclusions

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Sound judgment and decision-making skills

  • Able to manage your thoughts, behaviour, and feeling during cases

  • Patience and persistence

  • Intuitive abilities

  • Able to take Initiatives 

  • Ability to maintain the confidentiality of information till the issue resolves

  • Strong observation skills

  • Dedication

  • Good listening abilities



7. Private Investigator Qualifications In Australia


To work as a Private Investigator in Australia, it is typically necessary to complete a relevant course or traineeship and obtain a license from the state regulatory body.


Here are the steps to qualify for the role:


  • Complete your Year 10 or its equivalent. 

  • Complete a (PSP40416) Certificate IV in Government Investigations or (PSP50416) Diploma of Government Investigations via TAFE or RTO.

  • Enrol in a traineeship with a private investigation agency to develop skills and gain practical, real-world experience.

  • Undertake a National Police Check 

  • Obtain a Private Investigator licence with the state's regulatory body you wish to work in.



8. Working Conditions For Private Investigators In Australia


Private investigators may work either in office settings, handling tasks at their desks, or in the field, depending on the specific requirements of the case or assignment.


When on the field, they could be setting up equipment for surveillance, interviewing people, or performing surveillance.


On other days they could work behind the desk searching cases online concerning credit card fraud, locating witnesses and missing persons, employee checks, serving legal documents, etc.


The work hours may differ depending on the type of cases they handle. Working irregular hours to meet the deadline is expected in this profession.



9. Potential Employers for Private Investigators


Except for government agencies, Private Investigators can work for a large number of businesses, including:


  • Risk Advisors

  • Department of Housing and Community Services

  • Corporations

  • Law firms

  • Private insurers and individuals

  • Security firms

  • Identity protection services

  • Financial institutions 

  • Retail businesses


Some private investigators also work self-employed and choose who they want to work with.



10. Private Investigator Courses In Australia


The Certificate IV in Government Investigations course is suited for government officials involved in the investigation who want to enhance their awareness of fraud and regulatory compliance in the public sector.


This entry-level qualification provides a range of specialised skills and knowledge within the investigations and regulatory compliance environment.


The Diploma course is ideal for former or current police with military experience who have been investigating in the public sector. The course helps learners develop their problem-solving and analysing abilities to lead in a government investigative environment.




11. Possible Job Titles For Private Investigators


A Private Investigator's positions vary across industry sectors. Some of the possible job titles include:


  • Federal, State, and Local Government investigators

  • Investigation Manager

  • Compliance Officers

  • Compliance Manager

  • Investigation Team Leader

  • Fraud Prevention Supervisor

  • Fraud Investigation Manager



12. Job Outlook For Private Investigators In Australia


According to Labour Market Insights, around 700 Private Investigators (ANZSCO ID 442214) are employed in Australia. The government projects 4.9% job growth in the next five years.



Working Arrangements


Around 59% of employed Private Investigators work full-time for an average of 46 hours per week.



Primary Industries for Employment


Around 70.2% of workers work in Public Administration And Safety. Opportunities are also available in:

  • Financial And Insurance Services

  • Administrative And Support Services

  • Professional, Scientific And Technical Services



Employment Across Australia


Victoria isNew South Wales are two states with a large share of employment to their population size. Here is the employment percentage of private investigators across all states in Australia.


  • NSW - 39.5%

  • VIC - 29.9%

  • QLD - 10.7%

  • SA - 5.2%

  • WA - 9.6%

  • TAS - 2.7%

  • NT - 0.7%

  • ACT - 1.6%



Worker's Age and Gender Profile


The average of Private Investigators is 49 years, with most between 45 to 54 years. Females constitute 28% of the workforce which is 20 percentage points lower than the average of all jobs, i.e., 48%.



Education, Training, and Experience


You usually need a Certificate III or IV in investigative services and a licence with a state-regulatory body to work as a Private Investigator.



13. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



Should You Become A Private Investigator?


Having a thorough understanding of both the advantages and disadvantages of the Private Investigator profession is crucial if you intend to pursue a career in this field.





  • Diverse and fast-paced work environment

  • You learn several transferable skills

  • You gain satisfaction by helping clients and businesses in resolving their issues.

  • Flexible work hours

  • Competitive salary

  • Choice of working independently or in a team

  • Flexibility to define your rates

  • Versatile work day with varied and interesting work





  • Employers usually ask for an extensive skill set and proven experience in a candidate for this role. However, disclosing your past work experience becomes challenging due to its confidentiality.

  • Uncertain amount and hours of work 

  • You may get exposed to dangerous work environments. To save from probable risks in hazardous situations, Private Investigators require wearing a range of protective gear, including bulletproof vests.

  • You may face intimidation from those you investigate

  • You may require travel for work-related purposes, which could cost you money.

  • Working long and irregular hours, including weekends and holidays, can be stressful.

  • You aren't entitled to perks such as paid vacation or health insurance. 



Are Private Investigators Legal in Australia?


Yes. Private investigators are legal in Australia if they have a state-specific licence in the field and carry out authorised investigations.


According to the Australian Government Investigations Standards, investigators must fulfil minimum fraud control competency requirements to ensure they conduct government investigations with integrity.



Legally Permitted Tasks for a Registered Private Detective in Australia:


  • Background Checks
  • Character reference checks 

  • Perform research online or through the phone to find people and their locations.

  • Inspect potential fraud

  • Surveillance

  • Skip Tracing to locate debtors, missing persons, or witnesses for a court case.

  • Examine Legal Documents 

  • Undercover Operations to collect information or evidence to investigate fraud, theft, or corruption.

  • Provide Security Services, including asset protection, personal protection, or event security.

  • Gather facts for legal proceedings

  • Assist with property division in a divorce.



UNAUTHORISED Tasks for a Registered Private Investigator:


Besides knowing legal responsibilities, Private Investigators must also know what they are not legally authorised to do. This knowledge will save them from legal repercussions.


  • CANNOT illegally access a person's or organisation's private records, such as credit reports: medical records, financial records, or telephonic records, WITHOUT solid evidence.

  • CANNOT use illegal recording devices, such as spy or hidden cameras, to record audio or video footage. 

  • CANNOT use listening devices to spy on conversations.

  • CANNOT intrude onto private property or use force to enter a residential or business premise without the owner's consent.

  • CANNOT offer legal advice to his clients.

  • CANNOT carry weapons or use force to safeguard and protect people or property.



Are Private Investigators Legal in Queensland? 


Yes. It is legal to work as a Private Investigator in Queensland to perform the following for cash or other rewards:


  • Examine the character and conduct of people 

  • Examine the conduct of organisations

  • Find out private information without the consent of a person

  • Conduct surveillance to collect information about that person

  • Examine the case of a missing person.



However, you must be licensed to perform the private investigator's job in the state. To gain a license, you must:



Click here to learn more about becoming a Private Investigator in Queensland.



What is The Highest-Paying Private Investigator in Australia?


You can work in varied roles across different industry sectors as a Private Investigator.


  • Investigator: Average AU$137,728 per year (Highest paying position)

  • Surveillance Investigator: Average AU$129,718 per year

  • Fraud Investigator: Average AU$115,099 per year

  • Field Investigator: Average AU$105,981 per year

  • Private Investigator: Average AU$104,633 per year

  • Criminal Investigator: Average AU$98,409 per year

  • Crime Scene Investigator: Average AU$84,728 per year



How Do You Become A Detective in Australia?


You need to become a police officer and gain several years of experience performing general duties (as an ordinary police officer) before taking extra training to get promoted to a detective position through the department.


Here is a guideline to qualify for a detective's role:




Is Pursuing A Career as A Detective A Good Choice?


Yes. Becoming a "Detective" is worthwhile for people with curious minds and keen to solve crimes. It is a rewarding profession that offers high job satisfaction and prestige.


However, attaining this role requires years of dedication to study and gain experience via on-the-job training with the police force.



What Is The Demand For Detectives in Australia?


It is a relatively small occupation, with only a few numbers of detectives working in Australia. However, as detectives are elite members of the police force, there is a strong demand for these professionals across the country.


If you are ambitious, you can find good potential for advancement in commanding roles, such as assistant commissioners, senior assistant commissioners, commissioners/chief commissioners, deputy commissioners, or chief superintendents.



Can You Become a Detective Without Being a Police Officer in Australia?


Though you can be a detective without first working as a police officer, most detectives in Australia are former police officers. Some states grant licences to only those candidates who have worked as police officers for several years.


To pursue a "Detective" career without working as a police officer, you must first work as a Private Investigator. You will get opportunities to use your investigative skills to help private clients and build experience.


After gaining three or more years of investigative experience, you can apply for a license to work as a licensed investigator.



How Do I Get a PI License in Melbourne?


Under the Private Security Act 2004, Licensing Services Division grants licences to Private investigators in Victoria.


Investigator applicants must meet the below eligibility criteria to gain a Private Investigator licence in Victoria:


  • Must complete the requisite training.

  • Must pass the criminal background check

  • Complete Certificate III in Investigative Services. This qualification must be at most twelve months when applying for a licence.

  • You should not have committed any offence as it could prohibit you from earning a PI licence.


For more information, visit the Victoria Police LSD (Licensing Services Division) website.



How To Become a Private Investigator in Western Australia (WA)?


As per Security and Related Activities (Control) Regulations 1997 Western Australia, you need a licence to work in a Private Investigator role in WA.


As part of the eligibility requirements, you should:


  • Be over 18 years

  • Be a fit and proper person

  • Have proof of completion of a Certificate III in Investigate Services from a recognised training provider.

  • Be able to record your palm prints and fingerprints.


Interstate visitors who want to work in this role must apply for a temporary licence and have an equivalent licence in their home state or territory.



Application Process


Submit the following along with the completed application form in person to the Licensing Agency:


  • Provide 100 points of identification

  • Four passport-sized photos

  • Two references to prove your good character

  • Overseas police clearance (for those without an Australian residency for the last five years).



Approval Time


It takes 30 working days to process new licence applications. However, renewals and endorsements get processed in 20 working days. A Private Investigator licence is issued for one or three years. Once it expires, you should renew it for three years after that.


Administering agency - WA Police, Police Licensing Services


Check this link for more details on becoming an investigator in Western Australia.


Now that you know everything about becoming a private investigator in Australia, you are ready to take on the challenge and start your career in this rewarding field.


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