Private Investigator

Program Outline

Instruction Sets
Your program consists of eight Instruction Sets designed to take you step-by-step through the knowledge and skills you'll use in your new career.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need access to high-speed internet to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 10® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running macOS® or later, and an email account to complete this program.

Here's how it works
Your first Instruction Set will be accessible immediately after your enrollment has been accepted, and other courses will follow as you complete your exams. Not all courses require textbooks; some use electronic instructional material.

Here is an overview of what you'll learn and the order in which you'll access your lessons:

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal: To prepare students to gain entry-level employment in an investigative agency as a private investigator.

Program Outcomes:
Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Recognize the career opportunities that exist for private investigators, including how to become a licensed investigator and set up, manage, and market a private investigation business
  • Explain different types of laws and the steps of the legal system, including Constitutional amendments, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and court-related issues for private investigators
  • Describe the elements of effective communication and its role in private investigation practice, including various methods of reporting investigative findings to clients
  • Recognize available information sources, including using the computer, and explain how to access various records and information sources that can assist in an investigation
  • Identify various methods and sources used to locate people and conduct various types of background investigations for clients
  • Explain how observations, descriptions, and surveillance are used in investigations, and develop a systematic method for applying concepts that make an investigation successful
  • Name equipment used by private investigators, including operational, surveillance, evidence collection, and safety equipment
  • Recognize the proper methods for obtaining, recording, preserving, and analyzing evidence; explain the role of expert witnesses
  • List the steps taken to conduct an undercover investigation, and describe techniques used in undercover work
  • Explain methods of competitive intelligence collection and corporate espionage, and describe counterintelligence measures
  • Describe the relationship between homeland security and the private investigator
  • Identify procedures and techniques of conducting interviews and interrogations, including legal considerations, fingerprinting, document examination, and polygraph testing
  • Recognize the development of firearms, and describe safety practices and legal issues concerning firearms
  • Recognize the skills and techniques necessary to providing protection services, such as executive and bodyguard protection
  • Describe how retail security can help businesses curb various types of theft and fraud

Instruction Set 1

Starting Your Program
Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program. Understand how to use your Student Portal. Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers. Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.

Investigation as a Career
Various job opportunities in private investigating; how to collect and use information; how to perform private investigations; the difference between the real world of private investigations and the fictional version described by writers and moviemakers; basic knowledge of related fields you might need to call on as an investigator; personal characteristics of a private investigator.

Instruction Set 2

Legal Principles and Requirements
The principles of law related to private investigators; the basic legal system; Supreme Court cases and constitutional amendments related to private investigation; local, state, and federal laws that affect the work of a private investigator.

Communication Skills and Investigation
The importance of communication skills in private investigation; verbal and nonverbal communication; developing good communication skills; how having good communication skills helps the investigator gather information.

Investigation Business Basics
Running an investigation business; administrative procedures; record keeping; billing; writing reports; business forms; supplies; equipment.

Instruction Set 3

Sources of Information
Classifications of investigative information resources; role of the Internet in private investigation; differences between public and private records; computerized databases; field investigation.

The Computer and the Investigator
The role of the computer in investigation; personal computer technology; using online computer databases; field investigation.

Basics of report writing; how to report to clients; appropriate use of intermediate reports and final reports; how to prepare a report; when to verbally advise a client.

Instruction Set 4

Locating People and Performing Background Investigations
Shows the difference between routine and specific locates; power of the Uniform Commercial Code; methods of approaching clients; accessing public records, motor vehicle reports, and credit reports; employment verification; presenting gathered information to your clients.

Observation and Description
How the terms of observation and description are related to investigations; systematic approach to observing persons, objects, events, and places; systematic approach to asking others for their observations and descriptions in interviews; building a rapport with a witness; observing and interpreting body language.

How to plan, prepare, and conduct a surveillance; when to use foot and vehicular surveillance; how to detect and defend against counter-surveillance; the use of photographic equipment for surveillance; the techniques of covert photography; appropriate indoor and outdoor observation posts; recording in the surveillance log.

Instruction Set 5

Equipment Usage
The equipment used by private investigators, including operational equipment, surveillance equipment, evidence collection equipment, and safety equipment.

Obtaining, recording, preserving, and analyzing evidence; processing an arson crime scene; getting evidence admitted into court; obtaining dental records and identifying what records are important.

Court-Related Issues for Private Investigation
Working with the court system; the operation and procedures of both civil and criminal trials; preparing to be a witness and providing testimony.

Instruction Set 6

Sub Rosa and Undercover Investigations
The types of undercover investigators and the different kinds of undercover investigations; steps in conducting an undercover investigation; the personal characteristics of successful undercover investigators; the high stakes of drug investigations.

Competitive Intelligence and Corporate Espionage
Methods used to collect competitive intelligence; methods used to commit corporate espionage; counterintelligence measures; ethical issues associated with corporate intelligence gathering; how to implement counterintelligence measures for corporate clients.

Homeland Security
the historical and current developments in homeland security; the relationship of homeland security to private security; and private investigation; sources of valuable training material; business emergency recovery teams.

Instruction Set 7

Interviewing and Truth-Verification Techniques
Procedures and techniques of conducting interviews and interrogations; types of interviews; what's involved in planning the interview; process of conducting the interview; interrogation techniques and legal issues; the polygraph examination.

Fingerprinting and Handwriting Analysis
History of fingerprinting and handwriting analysis; fingerprint technology; biometrics; classification systems used to categorize fingerprints; fingerprinting equipment; techniques for developing latent prints; formal and informal handwriting samples collection; interpreting the findings of the expert.

Firearms and Other Weapons
The history and development of firearms, safe handling practices; moral, ethical, legal, and financial issues; major types of firearms; special licenses.

Instruction Set 8

Executive Protection
Differences between body guarding and executive protection; adequate budget and authority for executive protection; risks of protecting a person; protection techniques; relationship between a bodyguard and a principal.

Retail Security and Loss Prevention
Different types of shoplifters; how a business can protects itself from shoplifting; how vendors and delivery persons steal from their customers; how employees steal from their companies; how a business can avoid credit card fraud; check fraud; computer theft.

Marketing Yourself as a Private Investigator
Making good marketing decisions for yourself and your business; maintaining confidentiality; writing a cover letter and a résumé; professional appearance and demeanor; how to become licensed as an investigator*; private investigator certification.


Online Library and Librarian
Students in Penn Foster Career School have access to an online library for use during their studies. Students can use this library to do the required research in the courses they complete or can use it for general reference and links to valuable resources. The library contains helpful research assistance, articles, databases, books, and Web links. A librarian is available to answer questions on general research-related topics via email and to assist students in research activities during their studies with Penn Foster Career School International.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.

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Apple, Mac, and macOS are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.