Shamshak says people who get into private investigation are puzzle solvers who tend to shun the nine-to-five lifestyle. These ego-driven, individualistic, and detail-oriented individuals are drawn to a PI career, which sports a variety of facets. “There are people who do surveillance for workers’ comp investigations [of] fraud and are into the disguises but don’t have the ability to sit in a van for extended periods of time to just do nothing but watch and be patient,” he says.

The BU curriculum Shamshak helped design mixes classroom applications with field exercises. It delves into the building blocks of PI work (researching records, interviewing, and conducting surveillance) and the different types of investigations (criminal defense, marital infidelity, missing persons, and fraud). The surveillance exercises conducted at local malls -- with paid targets in on the cat-and-mouse game -- provide good initial exposure to the difficulties in surreptitiously tracking people.

Some BU grads have shown a propensity for field work, including 27-year-old Kim Pivirotto, who previously studied film at Fitchburg State College and criminal justice at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. The daughter and granddaughter of police officers, she did video investigative work for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Washington, D.C., before returning to Boston. She now freelances for Shamshak and other Massachusetts PIs; runs her grandfather’s PI company, Northeast Inquiries, with her father; and also works for the United States Investigative Service as an associate investigator.

“[PI work] is very methodically planned out,” she says. “It’s not just hitting the streets and demanding evidence. It [requires] a lot of research and using your instincts and trying to get sources in different ways.”

“Truth is the bottom line,” stresses Triessl, who conducts records research for Shamshak. “Nothing I had been asked to do during the course or since has been unethical. It’s been very aboveboard.”

Ultimately, Murray says, a PI must get to the truth, whether it helps or hurts a client.

“You let the chips fall where they may.”