What Is the Job Demand for Undercover Detectives?

by Steve McDonnell

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for private detectives and investigators, including undercover detectives, is expected to grow by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020. That's 1 1/2 times the 14 percent growth rate for all occupations. The job outlook is not as strong for undercover police detectives. The demand for police detectives is only expected to grow at approximately 7 percent. According to the BLS, the best opportunities for entry-level work exist with private detective agencies, especially for those with computer and interviewing skills.

Cyber Crime

The capabilities that technology provides and the rapid adoption of technology by users all over the world through the Internet have given rise to an increase in cyber crimes. For example, criminals hack into company databases to steal customer information for identity theft and credit card fraud. They also send spam emails to trick consumers into providing their personal information. This increase in cyber crime directly corresponds to an increased demand for private detectives and investigators to locate the people responsible.


While technology makes filing claims with the government and with insurance companies more efficient than a paper-based process, it also increases the potential for financial and insurance fraud. As the risk of fraud increases, companies investigating fraud need undercover detectives to pretend to be somebody else and to observe a suspect without being noticed. This leads to an increased demand for detectives to collect information, take photographs and videos and put together a case that proves an individual is committing fraud.

Background Checks

When you trust the care of your children to the staff at a child care facility, or you place a parent in the care of an assisted living or other health care facility, you want to be sure the employees at the facility have the qualifications they claim and that they don't have a criminal background or complaints of abuse at other organizations. With the number of health care organizations and the demand for health care workers increasing, there will likely be an increased need for detectives to perform background checks on individuals at these kinds of institutions.

Salary and Career Options

In May 2010, the average annual salary for private detectives and investigators was $42,870. Police detectives earned approximately 60 percent more than private detectives, with a median annual pay rate of $68,820. Private undercover detectives can find work with law firms to gather information for criminal trials or divorce proceedings and with private companies to help reduce theft, identify fraud and investigate drug use in the workplace. Police detectives will likely find more jobs with local police departments than with federal or state agencies, the BLS reports.

About the Author

Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.

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