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The average private investigator salary

A private investigator digs up the facts and risks encountering danger along the way.

Private investigators help clients in personal or legal matters.

Tasks may range from spying on a suspected cheating spouse to stopping thieves from stealing merchandise at a retail store.

Private investigators use searches and surveillance to dig up the cold hard truth. Some jobs may simply require them to log onto a computer to conduct a background check.

National Salary

The mean hourly wage for private investigators and detectives in the United States was £14.70, and the mean annual salary was £30,634, as of May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median annual wages for private detectives and investigators ranged from £16,055 for the lowest paid 10 per cent, to £49,380 for the highest 10 per cent, according to the BLS.


The PayScale website lists the annual salary of private detectives and investigators according to their years of experience. In October 2010, private detectives with less than one year of experience earned £16,641 to £25,548; one to four years, £18,875 to £29,066; five to nine years, £22,850 to £38,085; 10 to 19 years, £26,488 to £43,955; and 20 years or more, £24,337 to £45,552.

High Employment

The investigation and security services industry employed the largest number of private detectives and investigators with an average annual salary of £27,989, according to the BLS in May 2009. Other industries employing large numbers were depository credit intermediation, paying an average £29,172; local government, £32,890; management of companies and enterprises, £33,696; and legal services, £35,698.

Top-paying Industries

Management, scientific and technical consulting services paid the highest average annual salary above all other industries to private detectives and investigators, at £58,519, according to the BLS in May 2009. Other industries that offered high pay were natural gas distribution, £54,002; computer systems design and related services, £51,597; architectural, engineering and related services, £50,557; and telecommunications, £48,620.

Top-paying States

Private detectives and investigators in Virginia received the highest average annual as of May 2009, at £44,473, according to the BLS. Other states offering high pay were New Mexico, £42,074; New Jersey, £40,137; Alaska, £38,772; and Delaware, £38,629.