A private investigator's job can be lucrative, but is dependent upon many factors and a private investigator salary will vary based upon the type of work, difficulty, and expertise needed.

Today's private eye needs to be educated and diverse. Licensing, certification, and liability insurance requirements differ from state to state. Knowing your state's requirements is simply a matter of contacting the appropriate licensing bureau. Some states also require an apprenticeship under a currently licensed private investigator. This can prove to be invaluable because it provides a trainee with exposure to local private investigator salary pay rates and sample contracts.

Before doing any work, a good private eye will have a contract in hand. This contract will outline to the client the hourly rate to be charged and what expenses might be required.It will also establish a budget for the job. Anything unforeseen, or outside the scope of this private investigator salary agreement in terms of cost, should be communicated to, and approved by, the client. It is also wise to obtain a retainer (for example, the equivalent of four billable hours worth).

Samples of reasonable expenses would be mileage, rental car fees, copying fees, lodging (if required), meals, and other travel expenses. These are generally predictable, and would be agreed upon in advance between the private investigator and the client.

Because the work of the private detective is varied, so is the range of a private investigator salary commanded for the work delivered. There are investigators who specialize in domestic work(divorce actions). It is unfortunate that this is the stereotype springing to mind when the general public hears one is a private eye. These activities normally involve surveillance (following, or sitting at a vantage point allowing one to observe the activities of a subject) of subjects in a divorce proceeding. The idea is to catch one of the parties in a compromising situation. The domestic is the lowest level of the investigator's profession.

The steady jobs for the average P.I. are done on behalf of insurance carriers. However, the primary tool of insurance investigation is surveillance.Most surveillance consists of long hours of simply sitting and waiting. These hours are often billed at a much lower rate than(e.g., pretext, background, interviewing) gumshoe work, as little as $30 per surveillance hour.

At the mid-range of activity is attorney work product. Attorneys often contract private investigators to perform routine background checks on potential witnesses, conduct field interviews, and gather information. The hourly rate and allowable expenses are negotiated with the attorney. The resultant information is privileged as an attorney work product, but it can compromise a large percentage of a private investigator salary on an annual basis for those employed by a law firm.

Corporate security consulting is another area wherein expertise, education, and experience pay well.This sort of work can average, per contract, about $1000 per day.

At the highest end of the private investigator salary range are investigations involving copyright and trademark infringement, and proprietary and intellectual property investigations. These require a level of detail and expertise not always found in the less experienced. Rates for work on such cases may require the hiring of a subcontractor (a forensic documents examiner, or a forensic accountant, for example), and fees for such work can easily exceed $200 per hour.

Due to the many factors involved, the average private investigator salary covers a wide spectrum, differing by about $50,000 per year from the low to the high end. Recent US Government statistics reflect averages from about $25,000 per year to about $76,000 per year. The reported median salary is about $42,000 annually.

Thus, the private detective's wages rely heavily upon his experience, his education, and his ability to deliver. This is a great career choice. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics cites a potential growth of more than 20% in this field in the coming decade. There are many books and reference material for those interested in becoming a private detective.