Career guide: A day in the life of a Private Investigator

JOB: The high crime rate has increased the demand for  the services of a private investigator.
JOB: The high crime rate has increased the demand for the services of a private investigator.

IT'S stake-out night. He watches from his car through binoculars, then with a long-lens camera quickly snatches photographs of the unfaithful husband kissing his mistress.

Then, it's off to a client in the morning, to conduct an interview with a suspected fraudster, and then it's time to sweep out all the bugs from the office of another.

No, it's not this week's episode of the TV show Cheaters, but a day in the life of private investigator Wayne Fisher of BDI - the man clients turn to to find out the truth about events.

If you're intrepid, inquisitive, intelligent and inquiring, with a strong sense of justice, then you may just have what it takes to become a private investigator.

Wayne is one of many former SAPS detectives who have taken their policing skills and gone solo to provide private investigative services to businesses and individuals.

This service is increasingly in demand. The high crime rate forces businesses to become more vigilant in fighting fraud and staff theft. And there are always the wives - and husbands too - who need a private investigator to confirm suspicions.

But you don't need police experience to enter the field.

You can study law at university or join an established private investigating firm that may be prepared to train you on the job.

"It involves a lot of avenues, from basic cases of theft and fraud in businesses, to what the police would do, right through to murder," Wayne says.

Wayne spends long hours tracing and interviewing witnesses as well as compiling reports - the evidence - that can help win a case in court. He also spends long hours in court where he gives evidence.

"We start by interviewing the client to ascertain whether there is a case. We build up an investigative plan, detailing the reason why the client believes there is a case," he explains.

"A lot of whistle-blowers don't want to give an affidavit. You have to be very discreet about it, win them, and gain their trust."

And then there are the "crimes of passion" he investigates for wives wanting to know whether their husbands are unfaithful.

"About 90% of the time they're right in what they suspect. Most women want us to do surveillance to catch the husband," he says.

"We keep surveillance data - photographs, video footage and we put tracking devices into vehicles.

"We also do it for trucking companies to watch for theft. The wife wants to know where he has been."

He also uses spyware, like spy key-rings and pens, to catch wandering spouses and dishonest employees.

There are also programmes that allow cellphone and SMS data to be spied on, but these are illegal in South Africa.

For Wayne, this is a dream job. "I like getting all the information together. It's rewarding when you put the puzzle together," he says.

What he finds frustrating is when he has done his job and he has to take the case to court and the wheels of justice grind slowly - something clients expect him to be able to speed up.

Perseverance is vital for this career. It takes patience to complete any puzzle - not least the jigsaw leading to the right punishment being fitted to the right person - and to get there you'll have to work long and hard to present the client with the strongest possible case.

And that, for Wayne, is rewarding. - sacareerfocus