How Do You Become a Polygraph Examiner? - Training & Requirements

What kind of education and training is required to become a polygraph examiner, meaning a professional who administers lie-detector tests? The information below outlines the degree requirements, special training and licensing required for this profession. Schools offering Criminal Justice degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Polygraph examiners administer sophisticated tests called polygraphs to determine the truth or falsehood of statements made by job applicants, criminal suspects and others. These so-called ''lie-detector tests'' are virtually never used as the basis for criminal convictions, but they are considered a valuable investigative tool by police and potential employers. More info on this career appears below.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree, polygraph training
Fields of Study Education, nursing, criminal justice, biology
Licensure State or federal licensing/certification is usually required
Job Growth (2016-26) 17% (forensic science technicians)*
Average salary (2019) $53,037**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Kind of Education is Required?

With rare exceptions, polygraph examiners (or polygraphers, or polygraphists) need a bachelor's degree or higher in a relevant field. The CIA, which administers polygraphs to determine a candidate's suitability for security clearances, lists the following fields of study as appropriate: political science, international relations, psychology, biology, nursing, education and criminal justice. The CIA's Polygraph Examiner Program provides training and certification to meet its hiring requirements.

What's Involved in Polygraph Training?

The American Polygraph Association maintains a listing on its website of accredited polygraph training programs throughout the United States and the world. Accreditation requires at least 400 hours of instruction at an approved facility (not online). As an example, a typical program at the Polygraph Institute in San Antonio, Texas, offers a 400-hour basic course that includes instruction in the history of the detection of deception, polygraph test question construction, validated polygraph formats, the mechanics of instrument operation, pre-test and post-test procedures, data analysis, a practical exam and research project, and more. The same institute offers a 40-hour course in ''Screening of Supervised and High Risk Clients,'' which focuses on sex-offender, parole and probation programs, plus a 40-hour advanced polygraph training course and a 6-hour continuing education course.

What Kind of Licensing is Needed?

Federal, state and local authorities often require licensing or certification for polygraph examiners. Typically, the requirements include education, specialized training, an internship with a qualified authority and a passing score on a licensing exam. ''Good moral character'' is a common requirement, and disqualifiers may include criminal convictions or the use of illegal drugs. Not surprisingly, you may have to pass a polygraph to become a polygraph examiner.

What Jobs Skills are Needed?

Polygraph examiners must have excellent verbal and interpersonal skills to interact with test subjects and parties seeking the results of the test. They must have excellent analytical skills to score their tests correctly, and written skills to describe the results. Polygraph examiners are expected to be truthful, trustworthy, law-abiding professionals who hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.

How Much Do Polygraph Examiners Earn?

Polygraph examiners earned an average salary of $53,037 in 2019, according to Payscale. Salaries at that same time ranged from $35,798 to $78,188. The CIA's posted polygrapher job openings in 2018 paid between $56,233 and $106,012.

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