Do you have a knack for knowing when people are telling the truth or lying? Why not use your sixth sense to launch your career as a polygraph examiner? This profession blends physiology, psychology, and criminology with critical thinking skills. It’s a challenging career and plenty of fun.
If you think you’re interested in the field, this post provides you with all the information you need to start. We’ll unpack the specifics and strategy you need to qualify as a polygraph examiner and what you can expect from a career in the field.
How Do I Become a Polygraph Examiner?
If you feel like a career as a polygraph examiner is for you, you’ll need training and education from a specialized polygraph school. Here’s the basic step-by-step requirement for qualifying for the job.
1. Attend a Recognized Polygraph School
The American Polygraph Association is responsible for accrediting polygraph training programs. You’ll need to register with an accredited training center to receive a qualification as a certified polygraph examiner.
Most training programs with these institutions take around 18 months to complete. The course of study includes an internship, independent study requirements, and field experience. Depending on the school, the applicant may need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as behavioral sciences. Or they need experience in a related work field, such as law enforcement.
Typically, the theory part of the training is around eight to ten weeks, requiring the candidate to attend full-time. The program’s educational component covers ethics, test question formulation, and legal issues relating to polygraph exams.
Students learn interview techniques and how to use the polygraph hardware and software to monitor the physiological reactions of the examinee. The training also involves the analysis of the test results and preparing reports for clients or the courtroom.
APA Accredited Polygraph Programs in the United States
There are several APA-accredited polygraph schools in the United States. These programs comply with the APA’s minimum training and education standards. The APA ensures accredited programs maintain the minimum training and education standards throughout the accreditation period.
Additionally, the APA doesn’t certify polygraph examiners graduating from these programs. Instead, the graduate receives a certification directly from the school.
The APA accreditation standards include a minimum of 400 hours completed in fewer than 10 to 17 weeks. The training and education must take place in an accredited facility. The training and education is a six-day per week program, with a minimum of six hours of study each day, under the instruction of an APA-qualified faculty member.
Here are the APA-accredited facilities available for training in the United States.
Texas Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Polygraph School
The DPS and Texas Police Association (TPA) offer polygraph training and accreditation for those examiners that want to enter polygraph training specifically for use in law enforcement applications. This organization cosponsored the first TPA basic polygraph school in 1995.
Today, the Texas DPS Law Enforcement Polygraph School is a nationally recognized faculty, accredited by the American Association of Police Polygraphists (AAPP). It’s also recognized by the Texas Association of Law Enforcement Polygraph Investigators (TALEPI).
You must meet the following eligibility requirements to qualify for training in the Basic Polygraph Examiners Course.
- Be a US citizen.
- Complete a Texas DPS Polygraph School Application.
- Have no felony offenses or misdemeanor offenses, or convictions.
- Be a full-time employee of a law enforcement agency.
- Have a minimum of five years of law enforcement investigative experience or a four-year degree.
The Texas DPS Law Enforcement Polygraph School is a ten-week course offering a fast-paced, intense learning environment comparable to a full-time college summer class at university.
The Advanced Polygraph Training Course is offered by Texas Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Polygraph School faculty members. The course is conducted at Texas DPS Criminal Investigations Division in Austin, Texas.
Academy for Scientific and Investigative Training
The Academy for Scientific Investigative Training offers professional, comprehensive education in deception detection. Students learn history, theory, and psychophysiology through lectures and assignments.
Students receive instruction in various polygraph instruments, from old mechanical polygraphs to modern computerized systems. The course includes the study of all major examination techniques. Several methods of numerical scoring and chart interpretation in a classroom facility while observing ongoing testing and mock examinations.
The course provides the examiner with various testing situations, from business pre-employment analysis to criminal investigations. The Academy offers education in the Morgan Interview Thematic Technique (MITT), with its educational concept aiming for involvement in theory, techniques, and instruments.
Eligible candidates complete comprehensive study over eight weeks, graduating as professionally trained forensic psychophysiologists. The Academy’s classrooms are in the Rittenhouse Square area in Philadelphia.
American International Institute of Polygraph
The ten-week AIIP Examiner’s Basic Course provides students with the skills, knowledge, and ability to conduct crime or incident-related polygraph examinations and pre-employment screening for the private sector, law enforcement, and criminal defense practices.
AIIP utilizes a successful curriculum and instructional methods based on experience from the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute. This Federally-recognized training program gives students exposure to analog and computerized polygraph equipment.
International Academy of Polygraph
The International Academy of Polygraphs offers a training program providing complete coverage of polygraph techniques instructed by highly competent professional examiners in polygraph methodology, psychology, physiology, and law.
They offer comprehensive training accredited by the American Polygraph Association, the Florida Polygraph Association, the American Association of Police Polygraphers, and the Virginia Polygraph Certification Board.
Marston Polygraph Academy
Marston Polygraph Academy offers a ten-week Basic Polygraph Examiner course, covering 400 hours, and a one-week Post-Conviction Sexual Offender Testing course covering 40 hours. The system comes with access to the latest Stoelting Elite Polygraph Instrumentation.
This elite polygraph examiner course is accredited by the American Polygraph Association (APA), the California Association of Polygraph Examiners (CAPE), and the American Association of Police Polygraphists (AAPP).
2. Complete Independent Study Requirements of Fieldwork
After completing your study in polygraph through one of the above schools, you’ll need to conduct fieldwork or internship requirements. Interns must complete a set number of supervised polygraph examinations under a working polygraph examiner.
The intern must maintain files on these test cases for examination by their school. In some cases, research papers are submitted to fulfill internship requirements. Each accredited polygraph school determines the exam requirements for completing its program. Typically, this number is between ten and 25 case files for accreditation.
3. Take The Voluntary Certification Exam
After graduating from an accredited polygraph school, you’ll need to apply for American Polygraph Association (APA) membership. Polygraph examiners in the field may apply for professional certification through a participating regional or state polygraph examiners’ association.
Membership in these professional organizations requires applicants to have completed at least 200 examinations. The applicant must also meet the ethical requirements set by the association. The association also offers specialized exams for those examiners focusing on specific components of the polygraph examination process.
For instance, applicants may specialize in post-conviction sex offender and domestic violence perpetrator exams, or they can qualify for a ‘Certified Forensic Law Enforcement Polygraph Examiners’ certification.
Police polygraph examiners can join the American Association of Police Polygraphists (AAPP). The American Polygraph Association offers a Certificate of Advanced and Specialized Training, which requires additional classes over the standard course.
4. Pass the State Licensing Exam
Some states require polygraph examiner trainees to hold a trainee license and complete a specific number of polygraph examinations or internship requirements before taking the licensing exam. State licensure often includes a polygraph examination simulation and multiple-choice questions.
Some states may require the applicant to complete an oral interview with its advisory board or council. Most state licensing agencies require applicants to submit background checks and fingerprinting before registering.
5. Continuous Participation in Polygraph Training
After qualifying as a polygraph examiner, you’ll need to keep up to date with industry events and changes to polygraph exam practices. In some states, a polygraph examiner license renewal requires the applicant to complete continued training every year.
Professional polygraph examiner associations also require members to take continuing education courses to maintain their professional certification and position of good standing in their organization. Polygraph examiners meeting these continuing education requirements can access services like journals and hob listings offered by organizations like the American Polygraph Association.
What is a Polygraph Examiner?
Polygraph examiners are professionals in implementing polygraphs, otherwise known as lie detector tests. The examiner undergoes specialized training to understand how to operate the hardware and software used in the process.
The polygraph examiner also has the training required to interpret the data collected in the test. There are several use cases for polygraphs in the private and public sectors. For instance, companies or government agencies may polygraph new employees before hiring them.
What Type of Personality Suits the Job?
Polygraph examiners make decisions that can dramatically change people’s lives. The examiner must remain impartial to the situation during the test to ensure there is no bias in the outcome of the exam. The examiner must be neutral, pragmatic, and ethical with their approach to their work.
Being articulate and perceptive is a major requirement, and the examiner must understand how to detect deceptive or truthful behavior in examinees. Polygraph exams occur face-to-face, with only the examiner and examinee in the room.
They must have a neutral bias to the situation and rely on the data to guide them through the interview and analysis. Polygraph examiners must be able to create a comfortable position for the interview, gaining their trust.
If a polygraph examiner is aggressive or strict with the examinee, it makes them uneasy and affects the exam results.
What Does a Polygraph Examiner Do?
The primary task involved in a polygraph examiner’s job description is to conduct polygraph exams. However, they also have several other responsibilities outside the exam room.
- Preparing the examinee for testing.
- Analyzing test results and preparing reports.
- Preparing a judgment on the truthfulness or deception of the examinee.
- Testifying in court on the exam results.
- Submitting reports for management or clients regarding the accuracy and efficacy of the exam.
What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Polygraph Examiner?
Typically, polygraph examiners require a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences like criminology, psychology, or the law. Many examiners also have experience working in law enforcement or private security work.
Polygraph examiners must complete a specialized course with a recognized polygraph institute covering how to use the hardware and software involved in an exam. Other beneficial skills for examiners include interviewing and public speaking, basic law, or political science classes.
The prospective examiner will also need to gain experience in the field under the supervision of a qualified polygraph examiner. At the same time, they learn how to utilize the hardware and software and execute the test parameters with the examinee.
What Does a Typical Day Look like for a Polygraph Examiner?
The polygraph examiner travels to client offices, conducting polygraph exams on their premises. For instance, the examiner may spend a few hours at a client’s building to interview their prospective employees.
Or, the examiner may interview detainees at prisons or detention facilities. They may also have to visit courtrooms to testify on exam results. So, it’s a mobile-based job requiring a decent amount of travel.
The examiner will conduct interviews with examinees and return to their office or home office in the afternoon or evening to analyze the test results. The polygraph examiner then submits their findings to the client or prepares their statement for the courtroom.
A polygraph test can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to complete, depending on the requirements involved with the situation. The process requires the examiner’s undivided attention on the examinee and the hardware and software performance during the test.
Due to the amount of mental strain involved, most polygraph examiners will interview a maximum of four to five people per day. They’ll use the afternoon and evening to examine the test results.
What Skills Are Required to be a Polygraph Examiner?
Polygraph examiners need a robust set of ‘soft skills to complement their qualifications when applying for a job. You’ll need to be well-versed in the following soft skills.
Examinees are usually nervous when undergoing a polygraph. Even if they haven’t done anything wrong, the stress of the situation can interfere with the accuracy of the data collected during the exam, leading to false outcomes.
The examiner must know how to talk with people and calm them down before the exam. You’ll need to answer questions to put the examinee at ease before they start the test.
Polygraph examiners must also be able to conduct formal communications, such as testifying in court. They’ll also need excellent articulation skills and the ability to work alongside businesses and law enforcement teams.
The hardware and software involved in the examination procedure provide accurate results. However, the examiner must also be trained to identify when an examinee is deceptive.
These skills help the examiner identify discrepancies between the digital outcomes and their real-world intuition surrounding the examined behavior in session.
You’ll use your intuition and findings, along with the technical results, to complete your report on the final outcome of the polygraph test.
Critical Thinking Skills
The examiner must have excellent critical thinking skills to help them analyze the exam outcomes. Things may not always be as they seem when interviewing people.
An experienced examinee knows how to deceive the examiner. They utilize their body language, voice, and tonality, creating a conflict between the examinee’s persona, presentation, and test results.
It’s important to note that while the polygraph is exceptionally accurate, it’s not infallible. If the examinee knows how to manage their emotions, they may make it challenging to identify if they’re exhibiting deceptive behavior.
The examiner must have critical thinking skills to pick up these discrepancies and analyze them in conjunction with the digital feedback from their instrumentation.
Pass a Background Check
When you’re applying for a job as a polygraph examiner, the prospective company will likely run a background check as a prerequisite to employment. You’ll need a clean criminal record and credit record for the company to consider you.
The prospective employer may also require your previous employment history and references to support your character. The employer may also require you to list references from your community to vouch for your character, integrity, and honesty.
What are the Job Prospects for Polygraph Examiners?
A polygraph examiner’s most common career starting point is with law enforcement agencies. They’ll examine suspected criminals and present findings in a courtroom environment. It’s common for new polygraph examiners to work for local city councils during the early years of their careers.
The job prospects for polygraph examiners in local governments are great. Many face budget cuts in the wake of recessionary economic factors that limit government spending. However, there are several job opportunities in federal government organizations.
You can find job opportunities with organizations like the FBI and CIA, where polygraphs are a common part of working within that organization. You’ll be testing employees and interviewing suspects.
The biggest job opportunities for polygraph examiners lie in the private sector. Companies will contract you to conduct pre-employment exams. For instance, if a company handles precious metals, stones, or cash, they hire you to interview candidates for employment.
They may also contact you if they experience a loss, using your services to identify the culprit. The private sector offers many lucrative opportunities for polygraph examination companies and independent contractors. Yu also have the opportunity to start a business after gaining experience in the private or public sector.
What Working Conditions Can You Expect as a Polygraph Examiner?
As a professional polygraph examiner, you’ll spend time between your home office, workplace, and clients. The job entails a decent amount of travel. For instance, you might have several private sector clients requiring you to visit their premises several times a month to conduct pre-employment interviews or investigations.
You’ll have to be comfortable with traveling, and you’ll need a car to ensure the safe transport of your equipment. If you[‘re working for government agencies, you’ll likely have to spend a lot of time in courtrooms presenting the findings of your examinations.
So, you’ll need to be comfortable in these scenarios and have good confidence in your character and ability to speak in front of an audience. You may also have to interview people under custody in government institutions like county jails and prisons.
In these cases, you’ll need to be comfortable questioning criminals. You need to know how to handle these scenarios and what to expect when visiting these institutions. You won’t have to fear for your safety, as security will be present when questioning hardened criminals. However, you may experience some wild scenarios, such as people making death threats against you.
However, you’ll need to be comfortable presenting questions to the accused regarding the details of their case. When dealing with a rapist or murderer, you’ll need to know how to handle your emotions when presenting questions. You must remain impartial to the outcome, regardless of your preconceptions about the person.
The remainder of your day will be at your office or home office, compiling the data on the exam and drafting reports for your superiors. Typically, you’ll spend up to six to eight hours interviewing people during the workdays and another two to four hours analyzing the results late afternoon or evening.
In Closing – What Is the Average Salary and Benefits for Polygraph Examiners?
The average salary for a professional polygraph examiner is approximately $67,000 per year. According to data from 2019, the median salary is around $59,150 per year. The lowest 10th percentile of examiners earns as little as $35,620 per year, and the highest 10th percentile earns $97,350 per year or more.
Your salary depends on your experience and where you work. Typically, positions in the private sector and independent contracting pay the best. Working for local government agencies has the lowest income. However, working in the higher echelons of government, such as the CIA or FBI, can land you a lucrative career in polygraphy. Good luck with your endeavors.