Do you think a career as a polygraph examiner would be a good fit for you? If you have a passion for uncovering the truth and enjoy working with people face-to-face, it might be worth considering for your profession.
A polygraph examiner is a sought-after service in both the public and private sectors. You’ll get the chance to move around with your work, and it’s in high demand in all states throughout America and Canada.
As a polygraph examiner, you’ll have several duties and responsibilities to your clients. However, you’ll need an education, certification, and experience before you can get behind the screen and start questioning examinees.
This post looks at what it takes to qualify as a polygraph examiner. We’ll unpack the education and certification requirements to get you into the field.
Understanding the Job – Polygraph Examiners Explained
A polygraph examiner is responsible for the accurate administration of polygraph tests. You’ll need to work with complex computerized systems, understand body language and deceptive behavior, and have the training to do so.
Polygraph technicians work in the public and private sectors. You can find work in public institutions like the CIA, Department of Defense (DOD), the FBI, and local branches of law enforcement. You’ll administer tests to prospective and current employees for various reasons, including background checks, suspect interrogation, and more.
In the public sector, polygraph technicians work with private companies for pre-employment screening and specific or random employee testing. However, you’ll be working within the confines of “The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988,” instituted by former president Ronald Reagan and enforced by the US Department of Labor.
Whichever way you decide to go, a career as a polygraph examiner is a rewarding and financially lucrative position, highly valued in the business and government communities.
What Is the Role of the Polygraph Examiner in a Lie Detector Test?
The polygraph examiner plays a significant role in lie detector tests. They conduct the test on-site and return to their office to analyze the results and make recommendations. Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a polygraph technician include the following.
- Preparing the examinee for the testing procedure.
- Initiating examinees and conducting lie detector tests.
- Preparing reports outlining your analysis and conclusions of a polygraph exam.
- Working with law enforcement and private security or investigation firms.
- Testifying in court regarding your conclusions of polygraph exams surrounding criminal and civil cases.
- Gathering and submitting reports to your clients and superiors regarding the accuracy of the lie detector exams you conduct.
The role of the polygraph examiner extends to more than setting up the equipment, initiating the examination, and conducting the test. You must also make yourself available to examinees before they take the test. You’ll have to answer their questions on the process and work with employers or public sector clients, explaining the methodology used in polygraph exams.
Polygraph examiners must also adhere to a code of ethics, and you’ll need to be a trustworthy person with the ability to remain impartial and subjective when conducting your exams.
Essential Skills and Qualifications for Polygraph Examiners
Polygraph technicians require a specific skill set to make them effective at their work. We already discussed your need to remain impartial to the test outcomes and your ability to adhere to a strong moral code of ethics.
Beyond that, you’ll need excellent written and verbal communication skills. Examiners work with highly nervous and anxious individuals before and during the exam process. You’ll need to understand how to communicate with the examinee and know how they feel when taking the exam.
Being authoritative is not the way to handle a nervous examinee. You’ll only make them more anxious, affecting the test process and results. The communication skills of polygraph examiners also extend to testifying in court, writing reports, and working with law enforcement officials on criminal cases.
Polygraph technicians also require excellent analytical skills. You’ll have to have the intuition and training to analyze examinee behavior during the lie detector test and in your later analysis of the test results and recordings.
Polygraph examiners also require top-notch decision-making skills. You’ll need to know when to stop a polygraph exam when it’s going wrong. You’ll also require time-management skills, working with clients and employees, and ensuring you are on time for exams and court proceedings.
Above all, polygraph examiners need next-level critical thinking skills. It’s up to you to make judgments on others’ behavior and how they act during the exam. You must understand the nuances of body language and how they impact the person’s behavior.
As a polygraph examiner, you can hold an examinee’s career in your hands or be a piece of the puzzle that convicts a criminal. As a result, you’ll need strong conviction and clarity in your decision-making and critical-thinking processes.
Do I Need a University Degree in Polygraphy to Become an Examiner?
Yes, you’ll need higher education to qualify as a polygraph examiner in most cases. There are instances where individuals earn accreditation through military learning institutions and don’t require a degree. However, for the bulk of private and public sector jobs, applicants will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or BSc to move into polygraph examiner training.
The choices you make in your higher education classes and subjects also make a difference in your acceptance to polygraph examiner school training. Most organizations prefer it if you have a background in subjects like English, criminology, psychology, biology, science, or mathematics.
In general, a four-year college degree is preferred by prospective employers. Still, there are polygraph training schools that permit applicants with two years in university to study criminal investigation, accompanied by five years of criminal investigative experience.
Polygraph training, otherwise known as “Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Programs,” usually occur at approved and accredited training institutions, with courses lasting anywhere from four to 18 weeks.
You’ll also have to undergo a polygraph test yourself, and your employer may require you to undergo further polygraph exams during your career. These practices ensure you operate within the stringent code of ethics necessary to have a career in polygraphy.
During your polygraph training program, you’ll learn skills like operating the polygraph, reading charts, determining results, questioning examinees, and the legal aspects surrounding the administration and execution of polygraph exams.
The school also requires you to watch recordings of your polygraph exams, analyzing where you went wrong and your style of questioning the examinee.
After finishing your polygraph course, you’ll undergo an internship lasting approximately six months before earning your certification as a licensed and certified polygraph examiner. You’ll shadow experienced polygraph technicians and learn from their work on the job.
Then, you’re ready to apply for work with accredited polygraph companies in the private sector or apply for jobs with government agencies.
Training and Certification Programs for Polygraph Examiners
All polygraph examiners must receive certification through the American Polygraph Association before they start their careers. Accreditation programs vary in length, depending on the type of certification you’re seeking.
Some programs are three to four weeks, while others can take up to 18 months to complete. The purpose of the polygraph program is not only to teach you how to operate the instrumentation and computerized systems in polygraph equipment.
It also focuses on the legal requirements and issues surrounding the carrying out polygraph examinations in the public and private sectors. The programs also spend a lot of time discussing the ethical practices of the occupation.
You’ll need to learn how to interview examines and how to ask questions to receive proper responses from the examines. The examiner knows about questioning methodology and how to execute their queries during the exams.
Your polygraph training program also focuses on accurately interpreting the exam results. As mentioned, you have people’s livelihoods and freedom in your hands when making the decisions shaping the outcome of the exam.
Certification is not always required by companies when applying for jobs as a polygraph technician. However, certification separates you from those examiners that don’t have it, making you more appealing to employers.
The best course of action in your career is to become a member of the American Polygraph Association after graduating from polygraph school. You’ll apply for these certification programs through the regional or state polygraph examiners’ associations.
Since the results of a polygraph test depend on the polygraph examiner’s skillset, the American Polygraph Association ensures all examiners moving through its programs adhere to its rigorous standards to meet certification requirements.
Prospective examiners may also enroll in programs focusing on a specific aspect of the polygraph exam procedure. For instance, you could receive certification in forensic law enforcement polygraph examinations or other forms of polygraph testing.
Some states require polygraph examiners to undergo licensing procedures to make them eligible to work in their state. Applicants may need to apply for a trainee polygraph license and complete a set amount of polygraph exams before they can take the licensing exam and work in the private sector.
State licensing exams for polygraph technicians typically include the simulation of polygraph examinations and written tests involving multiple-choice questions evaluating your knowledge in the field. Some states require applicants to go through oral interviews with advisory boards or councils to qualify.
Can You Study Online to Become a Polygraph Examiner?
Yes, there are several online study programs offered by polygraph schools., However, you won’t be able to complete all aspects of qualification, certification, and licensing online. Still, taking this route might reduce your education expenses compared to going to a physical school for your studies and training.
Becoming a Polygraph Examiner – On-the-Job Training and Work Experience
All polygraph examiners must undergo a training period where they shadow experienced polygraph examiners. While you won’t sit in on the test in real-time, you’ll work with the polygraph examiner during the analysis phase of their work.
The qualified and experienced examiner shows the trainee how they analyze test results and how they carry out the aspects of polygraph exams and communications with clients and examinees. Internships and fieldwork as a trainee may take anywhere from one to two years before you’re ready to go out into the field yourself and start taking solo exams without guidance.
Some polygraph schools and certification programs require the prospective examiner to write research papers on their findings and their observations while shadowing experienced examiners.
Understanding the Career Path of a Polygraph Examiner
A career as a polygraph examiner is challenging and rewarding. When you start on your career path after receiving qualification, certification, and licensing, you’ll sometimes conduct hundreds of exams each year. Each examination is a learning experience to further your skillset and advance your understanding of the polygraph and the examinee experience.
Polygraph examiners have the option to enter the public or private sector when applying for jobs. Unlike other industries, a career as a polygraph examiner requires you to start working for an employer as a newcomer to the space. You won’t have the option to open a company and start working as a private contractor until much later in your career.
Typically, examiners that open training schools or businesses offering polygraph services have many decades of experience. They follow a career path taking them from a newbie on the job into specialized fields, such as forensic analysis, and eventually into a supervisor or managerial positions with companies.
Your career path will be a slow progression as you earn further certification in polygraph specialties and gain field experience administering exam results. During your career, it’s essential that you comply with the ethics code taught to you in polygraph school.
As mentioned, polygraph companies may require you to take random or specific polygraph tests surrounding your ethical behavior on the job. If caught in non-compliance with this moral code, it could severely damage your career and industry reputation.
However, if you do manage to earn a solid reputation as a top-rated polygraph examiner, you can expect your skills to be in high demand in both the private and public sectors. Expect companies to headhunt you for job opportunities in all states and all sectors of the economy.