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What is the difference between a private investigator and a private detective?

The terms “private investigator” and “private detective” are often used interchangeably. In fact, there is absolutely no difference between a private investigator and a private detective.

Some state licensing organizations, such as those in ConnecticutGeorgiaMinnesotaNew Jersey, and Wisconsin, refer to the term “private detective” or “private detective agency,” while states such as CaliforniaMontanaNew YorkVirginia, and Washington refer to the term “private investigator” or “private investigator agency.”

In the end, however, there is absolutely no difference between the two terms other than how each is referenced by the local state.

According to PI Magazine, an industry trade publication, historically the profession of non-law enforcement investigations started back with Pinkerton in the late 1800s, but beginning around 1960, many states did not want the public to confuse a private detective with that of a police detective.

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1 reply
  1. Michael Belk
    Michael Belk says:

    You are right as long as the check is the for the same work, I guess it does not matter.

    Just like my ex job, some states call us prison guards, but we prefer correctional officer.

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