Ryan, a Junior attending Estrella High School in Avondale, AZ, interviews Private Investigator Joshua Bridge about the various aspects of the industry including day-to-day activities, career growth, and the necessary skills and mindsight required to be an investigator in today’s world. During the interview a list of questions was posed by the student, and answered by Privin's Lead Investigating Agent.
Thank you Mr. Bridge for having me, What training and education did you receive in order to get your job?
In Arizona specifically, you do not need a law enforcement or education background in order to obtain a PI License. In fact, you need to be working for an investigation agency, who will then help you get your ‘PI Employee’ license through their agency. This occupation was actually a career change that I shifted into after getting laid off from my position as a Foreman at an Oil Re-Refinery.
What are your job responsibilities?
I primarily operate as a Case Manager for the agency, meaning I handle scheduling, research, and client matters pertaining to their files. Occasionally, I also go into the field for things like surveillance and bug sweeping.
How does your job connect with the operation of the overall company?
Due to our limited office personnel, company operations are split pretty evenly between the agency owner and myself. They handle bringing in clients, paying the bills, marketing, and also some occasional casework. I handle the day-to-day scheduling, interactions with our field agents during surveillance, helping create operational documents, and the bulk of research and case work.
Why did you choose this occupation?
It seemed like a great opportunity to get into a new career path on the ground floor of an operation, especially considering that at the time it was the height of the pandemic.
What's the best/worst aspect of your job?
I would say that working from home, my own self-designated hours, and overall fulfillment of the work I do are the best parts of my job. Some of the cons would be the unpredictability of a subject or case, the need to be self-motivated, and the attention to detail at times can be most crucial. In any case, we try not to miss any fine details, and it's important that a Client shares those details with us in order to provide a thorough service.
What previous experience did you find useful for this job?
I myself have no formal education, and everything I have learned and the methods I utilize were either self-taught or taught to me by my partner. There is a lot you can learn by listening to the advice of experience colleagues in the field. I’ve always taken a great personal interest in our legal system, which has definitely helped me to be a more effective investigator.
What skills or knowledge do you use while at your job?
- Organization - My client load ranges from 12-25 people at any given time.
- Critical thinking - Knowing when to keep asking questions. Not ending your efforts after getting the ‘easy answer’.
- Effective communication - How to express your findings to clients, explaining tasks to field agents, etc.
- A knowledge of legal jurisdictions - when looking for records, you will find that there are many, many possible places that they may be held, and a lot of the infrastructure for these records is outdated.
What other people do you work most closely with?
Primarily my partner, field agents, lawyers, paralegals, clients, and interview subjects.
What do you think the demand will be for this job in the future?
This is certainly an industry that ebbs and flows with the economic climate. When ordinary citizens are doing well, they have the expendable income to retain an agency for a “domestic” investigation. Before insurance companies pay out on an injury policy, they often will have some “claims surveillance” performed to try and verify that the claimant is legitimately injured. In today’s work from home climate, there are many corporations who look to PI services in order to stop their employees from working multiple jobs at the same time.
Do computers play a large role in your job? If so, how much?
The computer is my primary tool that I use in the day to day. Emails, research, and even my phone calls get routed through my computer. I am thankful that I learned how to type quickly when I was in school.
What do you do in a typical day?
When I start in the morning, I take stock of all of my clients, and where I am at with their investigation. Once I do this, I then organize it by task type (Scheduling, Intake, Write Report, etc.). Certain tasks are better to take care of earlier in the day, as we are an international agency and time zones have to be accounted for when trying to reach out to people. From there, it’s just a matter of wise time management, and varies every day.
What are your five most important job tasks?
1. Communicating with clients
2. Designating work for field agents
3. Reaching out to different courts and police departments for records requests.
4. Online research
5. Report writing
What impact does this company have on the local community and/or environment?
As we are an international agency, our local outreach is minimal. Due to the nature of our work, we also do not have much of an effect on the environment.
How could I get the training and education required to do your career?
Make a good resume and write a letter to a PI agency! If you think that formal training would benefit you, I would recommend pursuing a criminal justice or law degree, enough to gain an understanding of how our legal system operates. There are also many agencies that offer online courses to learn how to do investigative work. Heck, YouTube can even be a valuable resource nowadays, just be critical about who you are willing to learn from as not every investigator is made equal.
What is the salary range for a career like yours? Does your company provide a benefit/retirement option? Can you briefly explain?
According to salary.com, the average salary of an investigator in Phoenix is $48,702 per year. Depending on your level of experience, the agency you work for, and the type of cases they take on, you can expect a salary range of $35,000-$75,000. Benefit and 401k plans would also be dependent on the agency.
What opportunities are there to move to other jobs in the company?
It depends on your expertise level and the agency. Sometimes it’s less about a job title change, and has to do more with a change of responsibility and a relevant salary increase.
If you had the opportunity to return to high school would you do anything differently to help you prepare for a career?
I moved around a lot as a kid, so it’s harder for me to answer this question than it may be for some others. I think if I could do it again, I would focus on law-based and foreign language elective courses.
What best piece of advice would you give me if I wanted to pursue this career?
Spend some time reading articles from other PI’s who do this work. Try and really understand the needs facing the industry, and specialize in that. There are many, many types of investigative work. Domestic cases, insurance, corporate, bug sweeping, real estate work, arson investigations, etc. From there, find a mentor! Send out some letters and emails, go out and shake some hands, whatever you have to do to get peoples attention. You’d be surprised how helpful many PI’s are. I also have some friends who got into the industry by doing process service. If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone willing to take you under their wing. A great entry-level job that’s adjacent to what we do is process service. Many PI’s start off doing that and branch into formal investigations after getting a taste of how this all works. I would say that rather than worrying about a specific way to get into the field, it’s more important to just start somewhere.