Do I Need To Be An Ex Police Officer To Become A Private Investigator?

Private investigation is certainly not a field that can be successfully pursued by everyone. It not only requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but a PI also needs to possess some very unique sets of skills. Serving a range of clientele private investigators are often hired by banks, attorneys, individuals, and even insurance companies. In fact, the investigation needs of different clients are so far apart that most PI’s prefer to specialize in a particular field of operation. Corporate private investigators accept work from banks, insurance firms, and other businesses while there are PI’s who specialize only in matrimonial investigation.

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Lured by the promise of an exciting and adventurous work-life many people show genuine interest in becoming a private investigator. People looking for ways to get into this profession often ask one common question, “Do i need to be an ex police officer to become a private investigator?” To be completely honest being an ex police officer does have its advantages. In Singapore, all private investigators need to be licensed by the Singapore Police and having a prior police experience may work in your favor. However, that certainly does not mean that people with no police experience cannot be a PI. More so because working as a private investigator and working as a police officer are vastly different from each other. Cops, in general, are not required to be stealthy as regular police work involves making arrests and using force to counter crime. Apart from that investigative police work is only carried out by high-ranking officers and detectives. A private investigator on the other hand, needs to be discrete, stealthy, and have superior investigation skills.


As mentioned before being an ex cop has its perks in terms of private investigation but it also has its share of downfalls. Let’s take a detailed look into understanding how having a police background can act both as an advantage and a disadvantage for a private investigator.


Connection With Local Police: Private investigators often have to closely work with the local police. Having a rapport and some valued connection can certainly help in extracting valuable information.

Prior Knowledge Of Investigative Procedures:

A police officers receives a full training in investigative procedures before joining the force and are already aware of the most effective methods to find out what they want. This experience is surely a positive as it ensures a speedy and effective investigation.

Connection With Local Informants:

Almost all police officers with a good amount of experience have connections with street level informants. Once these officers start working as private investigators these contacts may prove helpful in providing valuable information.

May Face Trouble To Make That Professional Transition:

There are vast procedural differences between police investigation and private investigation. Police officers who start working as private investigators sometimes face trouble making that transition. They no longer need to be the guardians of the law because as a private investigator their only objective is to extract information for clients. They also need to discard their authoritative approach and adopt a stealthier demeanor.

May Be Recognized By Street Level Criminals:
Private investigators need to be discreet and anonymous. Cops with years of street-level experience often run the risk of being recognized by civilians and common criminals. This may prove to be an unnecessary hindrance and can even spoil an ongoing investigation.


Doesn’t really matter if you are an ex police officer or not, there are certain types of skills and traits that you need to have to be a successful private investigator. Following are a list of some of these basic skills and traits.

Computer Competency:

Contrary to popular belief, private investigation is no longer just about magnifying glasses and binoculars. A modern day investigator also needs to be a computer expert. This is mainly because there is a lot of information that can be obtained from the internet. Some private investigators even use specialized software to extract information or to keep a tab on a suspect’s online activity.

Legal Knowledge:

A PI needs to work by remaining within the boundaries of the law and thus needs to have a good knowledge of the law. For example, sensitive investigative techniques such as installing spy camera should only be done at public places or at the client’s premises. Illegal methods such as hacking social media accounts or breaking into a suspect’s house may land the client and the investigative agency into legal trouble.

Inherent Curiosity:

This is a trait that’s common in all successful private investigator. Being naturally curious fuels the investigative process and helps PI’s to dig up the truth.


From waiting hours for clients to bring in new work to following a suspect around an entire city, a private investigator needs to have oodles of patience. Being too eager or proactive during an investigation can easily compromise the stealth factor.

Superior Social Interaction Skill:

Interviewing people is one of the most effective techniques employed by PI’s to get the information they want. However, the success of this method only depends on the investigator’s ability to interact with people.

Proficient In Self Defense:

It’s not uncommon for private investigators to get involved in physical confrontations. Knowing a martial arts form in these scenarios can help keep the investigator safe.

Good Liar:

Investigators often have to change their names and go undercover using fake aliases. What this also means is they have to be prepared to lie whenever they are required to without blowing their cover.


According to Singaporean law any private investigator offering any kind of investigative service first needs to be properly trained and have license issued by the right authorities. Following are 3 basic steps that need to be followed by anyone to become a private investigator in Singapore.

Step-1 (Get Trained):

There are several accredited institutions in Singapore that offer private investigation courses to aspirants. Enrolling in one of these courses is a crucial step that needs to be followed by ex police officers and civilians alike. Most of these training programs are pretty extensive and covers everything from law to investigation techniques.

Step-2 (Get Certified):

After successfully completing the training you need to apply for the license. The government of Singapore does a thorough background check and strictly tests the participants before issuing licenses.

Step-3 (Find Job):

Once you are licensed you can start by applying for jobs in private investigation agencies. Even if your long term goal is to launch your own firm, don’t pass up an opportunity to work under an established agency as it will give you valuable industry experience.

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