How Do I Train to be a Polygraph Examiner?
If a career as a polygraph examiner looks appealing, you’re probably wondering what it takes to make it in the industry and the training involved. It’s a long path to sitting down at your first real examination, so let’s look at what it takes to get there.
This post unpacks the training involved in achieving a career in polygraphy. We’ll examine the educational requirements and the need for certification and qualification to get you out into the field.
What Can You Expect from a Career as a Polygraph examiner?
A career as a polygraph examiner isn’t for everyone. It’s not as glamorous as what you see in the movies and on TV. Most of these examples we see in the media paint the polygraph examiner as a high-level detective responsible for bringing down serial killers and high-level criminals.
While some polygraph examiners end up with a public-sector career that enables them to do just that, the majority of newly qualified examiners end up working in the private sector. That means you’ll be working in a corporate environment, tasked with the role of executing pre-employment screenings and or random or specific polygraph tests on employees.
The polygraph examiner working in the public sector takes a position with government organizations like the FBI, CIA, DOD, or state or Federal law enforcement. These individuals must undergo a thorough screening process to qualify for the job. It’s a much more challenging career path to follow compared to working in the private sector.
Those newbie polygraph technicians working in the private sector usually enter the workforce seeking employment with a polygraph services organization. They typically work in this field for five to ten years with the goal of moving up the ladder to a management position.
If you’re thinking about starting your own polygraphy firm, it could take you up to 15 years to build the experience and reputation required to open your own company. When you have enough experience on the job, you’ll find your skills are in high demand.
As a result, you can expect excellent job opportunities, and it’s possible many firms will headhunt you for positions at their organization. The entry-level salaries for polygraph technicians are good, with the median industry salary being just shy of six figures.
Who Suits a Career as a Polygraph Examiner?
A career in polygraph suits a specific personality type. You’ll need good analytical and critical-thinking skills and an ability to look at situations from an unbiased point of view. Polygraph technicians must adhere to a strong moral and ethical code during their time on the job.
O, you’ll need to be a person that plays by the rules and is comfortable working with specific frameworks set by authorities in the space. As a polygraph technician, you’ll meet people from all walks of life. You’ll need to be comfortable with talking to new people every day.
Along with meeting new people, you must keep your judgment at bay. You can’t assume anything about the person you’re meeting for the first time. That’s challenging since most of us formulate a first impression of someone in the first few seconds of meeting them.
As a polygraph examiner, you’ll need to have a mindset of avoiding creating an opinion of them, remaining unbiased and opinionated about them. You’ll need strong communication skills to help you deal with clients and examinees.
There’s no room in polygraphy for individuals with authoritarian personality types. As an examiner, you’ll need to understand that your job is to make the examinee comfortable. You’ll be meeting highly anxious people in the exam room, and you’ll need to make them comfortable with the polygraph process, calming their fears.
If an examinee what’s to quit the session, you’ll need to comply with their request without being rough with them or diminishing the value of their decision. Above all, polygraph technicians must be honest and value their integrity, holding themselves accountable to the highest standards of truth.
Polygraph Examiners – Skillset, Qualifications, Certification, and Licensing
Now that you know what it takes to be a polygraph technician, let’s look at achieving the skillset and qualifications required to get a job in the industry. You’ll need to start by entering university after completing high school.
While in high school, you’ll need to take subjects focusing on sciences, biology, mathematics, and English. After graduating, you’ll move on to college, where you’ll need to study in the fields of psychology, sociology, criminology, or criminal justice. It takes you around four years to earn a bachelor’s degree (BA) or BSc in your chosen field.
Some universities offer courses in polygraph for qualifying candidates, but most move on from their college careers to sign up for polygraph school after earning their degree. These specialist schools offer polygraph examiner training programs certified by the American Polygraph Association.
There is a range of courses available, depending on the institution you sign up with for your training. Most training programs last between six weeks to 18 months, with the longer versions being the more sought-after programs for new candidates.
The program you choose depends on your background in your studies and experience in other fields. For example, you may have studied in university, graduated, and gone on to a law enforcement career lasting several years.
In this case, you won’t need the same extensive training program as a candidate fresh out of college and looking into a polygraph training program. Regardless of the training program you join, you can expect to cover subjects like polygraph examinations, research methods, standards of practice, and the code of ethics for polygraph examiners.
After completing your course at polygraph school, you’ll need to obtain certification. Some jobs in polygraphy don’t require certification, but most do. Receiving certification also improves your viability and likelihood of an employer selecting you above other candidates, improving your job prospects.
Some states require polygraph examiners to receive certification. So, undergoing a certification program is the more pragmatic choice to extend your career prospects. The American Polygraph Association offers you a list of certification programs to develop your training.
The National Center for Credibility Assessment offers the examiner’s certification program, and it’s advisable to undergo this certification process if you want the best job opportunities.
Let’s look at two of the most common means of achieving certification in the polygraph industry.
The American Institute of Polygraph Technology
The AIPT has a valued and respected reputation as the leader in examiner certification. Founded in 19723, it’s the oldest institution in the industry, training some of the best polygraph examiners to work in the field.
The instructors working with the AIPT have more than a century of combined experience in intelligence, security, and criminal testing. During your training, your practical work involves basic polygraph courses based on real-world examples of criminal cases and “live” training involving test subjects.
The AIPT offers the highest standard of training available, with many of its technicians moving on to careers in government agencies and academic positions at polygraph schools. Some of its more popular courses include the following.
- Basic Polygraph Examiner’s Course (12 Weeks)
- Advanced Polygraph Course and Certification (3 weeks)
- Personnel Screening Course (3 Weeks)
The training is expensive but worth the investment, with the collection of courses setting you back $15,000.00 for your education.
The International Academy of Polygraphy
The IAP is another popular choice for candidates looking for a top-rated training program. It works in partnership with the Broward College Criminal Justice Institute, and graduates receive 19 credit hours applied to other training and certification requirements, including earning an Associate degree.
The school also offers additional training programs for candidates that already completed polygraph training with institutions like the AIPT. These specialist programs are a great way to earn qualifications setting you apart from others who only have basic polygraph school training.
The curriculum offered by the IAP covers the following aspects of polygraphy.
- Interviewing and interrogation
- Exam data analysis and countermeasures
- Numerical chart scoring.
- Post-conviction testing of sex offenders.
The entrance requirements for joining an IAP program are extensive. All curriculum covered in IAPs programs is approved by the American Polygraph Association. Candidates get access to modern facilities equipped with video learning for effective teaching and study aids.
Candidates must have verification of their qualifications and an outstanding reputation with their referring school. The IAP also permits applications for individuals working in state or local law enforcement agencies or those with a minimum of 60 hours of semester work at a college, with certified copies of their transcripts required to join the program.
Course durations are ten weeks, involving on-campus full-time study. You’ll pay a $750 registration fee and $5,000 for the course, covering all training manuals, instruction, and supplies. Graduates receive a certificate of completion and the opportunity to qualify for membership in the American Polygraph Association.
You’ll cover the following subject matter in your coursework.
- History and development (8 hours).
- Mechanics of instrument operation (16 hours).
- Maintenance and calibration (8 hours).
- Physiology (20 hours).
- Psychology (20 hours).
- Polygraph techniques (45 hours).
- Exam question formulation (38 hours).
- Interviewing and interrogation procedures (40 hours).
- Exam data analysis (48 hours).
- Polygraph skills and practicum (80 hours).
- Ethical and legal aspects (8 hours).
- Report writing (8 hours).
- Specialized studies (16 hours).
- Elective instruction (45 hours).
The total of all coursework is 400 hours of study required to graduate from the program. The IAP requires candidates to meet the following criteria for graduation.
Students must pass their history, physiology, psychology, and instrumentation exams, with passing grades set at 75%. Candidates must also achieve a pass rate of 75% for their final exam. Candidates must also attend all 400 classwork hours and complete a minimum of an hour of chart study.
Apprenticeships and Internships for Aspiring Polygraph Examiners
After completing their studies, aspiring polygraph examiners must enter an internship with a polygraph firm. During this time, you’ll get on-the-job training from qualified polygraph examiners, following them in the field and shadowing their work.
After completing an internship of 12 to 18 months, you’re ready to sit down at the examiner’s desk and conduct your first polygraph exam. It’s important to note that your learning doesn’t stop after graduating from polygraph school, certification programs, and your internship.
As a polygraph examiner, you’ll have to maintain your industry knowledge through self-based learning of changes in the industry changes. You’ll need to stay on top of new polygraph instrumentation and software releases, learning how to integrate them into your work through short courses.
Preparing for Your Career as a Polygraph Examiner
So, it’s a long path to becoming a polygraph examiner, and you can expect your studies and internship to take the better part of six to seven years before you can start conducting exams yourself. Candidates looking to start a career in polygraph must prepare themselves for the lengthy study time involved and the extensive financial costs associated with qualifying and certifying them to work in the field.
The Career Path to Success for Polygraph Examiners
After you start working as a qualified and certified polygraph examiner, you’ll need to build your industry reputation. That means conducting thousands of polygraph exams. Typically, people entering employment opportunities in the public sector involving agencies like the NSA, CIA, and FBI will require some experience before the employer will hire them.
Working in the private sector will require five to ten years of conducting exams before you’re ready to enter a management or teaching role. Starting a polygraphy business and opening a company may take anywhere from 10 to 15 years of executing tests.
However, those who achieve qualifications, certification, and extensive industry experience are highly sought-after professionals. You can expect salaries at this level to be anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 per year, depending on your employer and organizational role.
A career in polygraphy is lucrative and rewarding. You could be headhunted by international companies to work in foreign countries, allowing you to see the world and expand your worldview. It’s up to you how far you want to take your career and the opportunities you choose in your career.