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Background Investigator Jobs: 5 Types & How They Work

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Are you interested in becoming a background investigator but aren’t sure what they do or how to become one?

This guide will cover many forms of background investigator jobs and reveal what it takes to become one.


What is a Background Investigator?

A background investigator is someone who researches a company or individual’s personal and work history.

What Does a Background Investigator Do?

A background investigator performs a background check and then compiles essential information.

This can involve:

  • Collecting data
  • Sifting through documents
  • Contacting previous affiliates/employers
  • Checking a person’s online presence

They may also conduct interviews.

The purpose of these investigations is to confirm a person’s credentials.

They ensure that any claims a person makes on an application are accurate.

There are five main types of investigators, but the purpose of this line of work usually remains the same.

Investigators aren’t limited to company employment investigations, though.

Investigators can also be responsible for checking a company’s history.

They will go through the legal docs and even investigate crimes.

Average Salary of a Background Investigator

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary of a background investigator is about $55,713 nationwide.

This averages to about $27 an hour.

Hourly rates usually start between $14 and $33 an hour, and the total pay can range from $33k a year to $74k.

Employee Benefits of a Background Investigator

The employee benefits of a background investigator vary from company to company.

Generally, a background investigator can expect basic job benefits, meaning a retirement plan, health insurance, and paid leave.

The exact benefits depend on what a specific employer offers.

How to Become a Background Investigator

Aspiring background investigators can expect various procedures to pursue an investigative career.

First, they must become certified, which can be done through a state-specific application that may have varied requirements.

Background investigators need relevant experience, whether this entails work experience or educational experience.

It’s important to decide what kind of investigative career you’d like to pursue.

Each of the five main types may have different qualifications (which we will go into detail about later).

There are a few common attributes that they all share.

Requirements For a Successful Application

Three crucial components make a successful background investigator application:

  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Skills


The lowest education for an investigator is a high school diploma or equal.

The majority of background investigators have at least a bachelor’s degree.

A good percentage even have a master’s degree.

It’s safe to assume that you’ll want at least a bachelor’s degree to appeal to most companies.

It is possible to get by with an associate’s degree or even a high school diploma.

No specific type of degree is required to become a background investigator.

According to statistics from Indeed, the most popular major is police science.

The second most is criminal justice/criminal law.

Work Experience

The amount of work experience a background investigator needs may vary depending on the type of investigator, job level, and applicant’s education.

Aspiring background investigators can expect to need 2-4 years of relevant work experience.

A college degree can sometimes decrease this.

To get experience, an individual can work with certified background investigators.

Law enforcement and military investigative services are also popular means of gaining experience.

Necessary Skills

A background investigator must be efficient at digging up confidential information.

They are to be good at pinpointing important information within documents.

Investigators must complete their tasks legally, which means an investigator cannot hack into someone else’s computer.

Background investigators should have good people skills.

They will often conduct interviews with various individuals and associates.

Background investigators should also be organized.

They’re in charge of compiling and distributing reports.

Their coordination is crucial to ensuring their best work.

Finally, background investigators have keen eyes because they must be thorough.

They should be good at finding little details that others might overlook.

They can fish out points of suspicion.

Background Investigator Job Types

There are many types and sub-divisions of background investigators.

Here are the five main ones most common in the field:

Entry Level Background Investigator Jobs

Entry-level background investigators are background investigation jobs that begin at the entry level.

These jobs don’t always have a degree requirement.

That said, having one does help.

Entry background investigators are usually responsible for interviewing employees, applicants, clients, and associates.

An entry-level background investigator goes through documents and compiles information.

They will report based on personal accounts and distribute them to employers.

Federal Background Investigator Jobs

A federal background investigator does in-depth background checks on people applying for federal employment.

They are employed and screened by an official government agency.

Federal background investigators are critical.

They are responsible for ensuring the national security and safety of the public.

As such, there are many requirements set by the ACBI to become one.

A basic federal background investigator must have:

3-5 years of military, law enforcement, or federal investigative service.

A four-year college degree can replace this.

Be eligible to get security clearance from a prospective company.

A federal investigator will do background checks on individuals applying for federal positions.

The aim is to uncover potential criminal records such as tax evasion, identity theft, and insurance fraud.

Remote Background Investigator Jobs

Remote background investigators have all the same responsibilities as other types of investigators.

The difference is that they operate remotely.

Remote background investigators may also have to conduct remote interviews, which are usually done over the phone or through online meeting services.

Remote background investigators can be the other types of background investigators.

Most other types of investigators can operate remotely, allowing for a broader range of services.

There has been a recent spike in popularity for this type of background investigator, likely a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Contract Employment Background Investigator Jobs

Contract employment background investigators do background checks on potential hires for a company.

Contracted background investigators work under contract.

They are not employed by a particular company and are usually outsourced.

To pursue a career as a contract background investigator, you’ll need experience, to ensure your authenticity as a background investigator.

Reliability is what prompts companies to hire you and marks a successful career.

A contract investigator is bound to a company by contract, so the type of work they will be doing may change.

Private Investigator Jobs

Private investigators do not officially work under the police force, nor do they have the same authority as police officers.

They do have a license to operate and work as a criminal investigator.

The type of work a private detective will do varies.

It can involve performing a private investigation on cyber-based crimes or allocating legal or financial information.

They sometimes even search for missing personnel.

While companies hire private investigators, they are usually employed by independents, which usually means lawyers, small business owners, real estate agents, and property owners.

Those involved in court cases also engage private investigators to gather evidence.

Note that private investigators are usually freelance investigators.

To become one, you need a certain amount of experience.

You’ll also have to meet varied state requirements and have a valid application.

Background Investigator Hiring Statistics

Here are a few basic statistics behind background investigators.

Background Investigator Gender Statistics

According to a 2019 study by Zippia, 50% of background investigators are women.

About 46.2% are men, and the remaining 3.8% are unknown.

Background Investigator Ethnicity Statistics

Similar studies show that roughly 59.5% of background investigators are Caucasian.

About 18.7% are Latino or Hispanic, 14.5% are black or African American, and 5.3% are Asian.

Background Investigator Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

The most popular foreign language spoken in the US is Spanish at 67.2%.

The runner-up is Arabic at 4.5%, and Japanese, German, and Portuguese all at 3%.

The remaining 19.3% are various other languages with less significant numbers.

Background Investigator Degrees

An estimated 63.7% of background investigators have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Following that, 11.4% have a master’s degree.

The other 24.9% have an associate’s degree, with no college degree or degrees higher than a master’s.

Wrapping Up

A background investigator is an individual whose expertise lies in uncovering sensitive information.

They are experienced, educated, and well-tuned to their craft.

Companies need to do checks on prospective employees and other companies, making them indispensable.

They also play an essential role in the federal government, military, and police force.

There are many positions within these branches, so there are many opportunities here.

Background investigators have great versatility, necessity, and utility.

It’s safe to say that background investigators are fundamental.

They keep a balance in the world of employment, which solidifies them as an indispensable part of the workforce.

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