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A field investigator conducts investigations in the field on behalf of an employer. Field investigators can work in a number of different industries, ranging from law enforcement to insurance. These professionals have good people skills and deductive logic abilities, working with other field investigators and office staff to gather as much information as possible about a person or situation.
In the law enforcement community, field investigators are a very important part of the investigative team. They gather information from scenes of crimes, witnesses, and references who may have useful information, preparing a report which can be combined with analysis of physical evidence to draw conclusions about the circumstances of a crime and who may be responsible. Field investigators can work for national security agencies conducting investigations into suspected security threats, along with a variety of law enforcement organizations doing everything from investigating animal cruelty accusations to solving murders.
Insurance companies also have need for field investigators. Insurance claims often involve events which need to investigated in situ, such as house fires or vehicle accidents. Field investigators can travel to the site, examine the scene, interview people, and collect information which will be used to determine whether or not the claim is valid. The field investigator may also make recommendations about how much should be paid out on the claim if the claim proves to be acceptable under the terms of the insurance policy.
Field investigators can also work for agencies which provide background checks, collecting information about subjects which may be relevant to a character profile.
The work of a field investigator starts with receiving an assignment from a supervisor which usually includes a briefing about the case being investigated. Some field investigators like to work with minimal information so that they are not prejudiced before they reach the field, while others like to have more information about the background of the case. Once the investigator is ready, he or she travels to the field, logging impressions of the things observed with cameras and collecting physical evidence which can be examined in a lab setting.
A field investigator also makes contacts with people who may be relevant, making arrangements to interview them. Interviewing skills are critical, as witnesses are notoriously unreliable, and they can also present information in a definitely biased light, requiring investigators to sift through the information they collect to find the truth of the matter. Field investigators may also consult experts in the course of their work to put the information they find in context.
Although field investigators spend a lot of time in the field, they also need to work in the office. They need good communication skills to prepare written reports about their observations and the evidence they collect. A field investigator must also be familiar with the protocols for collecting, handling, and passing on evidence.