Mike Hawkins is a private investigator and the owner of Hawkins Group, a licensed private investigation agency in Washington state.
Mike holds a Juris Doctorate from Mercer Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History from Mercer University. Before he became a private investigator in 2004, Mike was a lawyer for 15 years and a federal investigator with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and U.S. Treasury for more than 10 years. In addition to his private investigative work, Mike teaches courses such as Anti-Terrorism Management, Arson Investigation and Search and Seizure to law enforcement officials.
“The most important traits for a successful private investigator are people skills and the ability to think logically.”
In your own words, what is a private investigator?
A private investigator helps solve major cases involving felonies such as homicide, rape and large-scale drug trafficking. The investigator typically works on behalf of the defense team rather than the government. I have worked as a private investigator since 2004, and I have years of previous experience as a lawyer and federal agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and U.S. Treasury.
My work as a private investigator is somewhat common for people with my background, but other professionals in my field find work in law enforcement, litigation and federal prosecution, as well. I often interact with these other professionals as a result of my work with defense attorneys.
If a student said to you, “I am interested in becoming a private investigator,” what would your response be?
I would tell the student to make sure that they show respect to everyone they meet and are prepared for the rigorous schedule of a private investigator. Demonstrating respect to people no matter their backgrounds is key for making connections and obtaining information.
Private investigation also has a demanding schedule. I may not work 80 hours every week like I did as a lawyer, but I cannot always predict when I will need to work, or for how long. For example, some clients can only meet at certain times of the day. At other times, surveillance work or travel might keep me up well into the night. Those who want a predictable, 9 to 5 schedule should look at another career.
What level of education is ideal to become a private investigator?
Private investigators have no formal education requirement to work in the field, but those who specialize typically hold at least a bachelors degree. Those with only a high school education often perform surveillance for cases involving domestic disputes or workers compensation claims. Private investigators who have formal education tend to work with major or felony criminal cases.
My own formal education is the result of my previous career as a lawyer and has been very applicable to my work. It has given me a grasp on the rules of legal and admissible evidence, civic and criminal law and the legal language used by defense attorneys.
Are there any licensing or certification requirements to become a private investigator?
Yes, there are licensing requirements to become a private investigator, but they generally apply only to those who want to open their own agencies. These requirements also vary by state. I