Polygraph Examiners


Education and Training Requirements

High School

In general, take courses that will prepare you for college. More specifically, be sure to take courses that help you understand how the body functions and how it is affected by stress. Courses in psychology, physiology, and biology will be especially useful.

Postsecondary Training

A college major in science or criminal justice will prepare you for this career. In addition, classes in English and writing will help prepare you to write reports, and classes in public speaking will help you develop the self-confidence you will need when testifying in court.

Candidates for lie-detection schools usually need four-year college degrees, but applicants with two years of college courses in criminal investigation plus five years of investigative experience may be accepted. Polygraph training, often referred to as a Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Program, in an approved school usually takes from six to eight weeks.

You must take polygraph tests upon entering a lie-detection school to ensure you have the good moral character this field requires. During your training, you learn how to operate the polygraph, how to develop and ask questions, how to interpret polygraph charts, the legal aspects of polygraph testing, and about the physical responses the polygraph measures. You observe polygraph tests administered by others, administer the tests yourself, and hear and see audio and video playback of your own performances. After you complete your study in lie-detection, you go on to an internship of at least six months before becoming fully qualified as a polygraph examiner.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

National standards for training—as well as the polygraph equipment used—are established by the American Polygraph Association. The American Association of Police Polygraphists offers the certified forensic law enforcement polygraph examiner designation to its members who complete educational and experience requirements.

Although many states license polygraph examiners, their requirements vary. Typical requirements include a high school diploma or the equivalent, either a bachelor's degree or five years of experience as a detective, completion of polygraph training at a state-approved school, a six-month internship, and successful completion of a state-administered test. Polygraph examiners must obtain continuing education credits to maintain their certification.

Other Requirements

Polygraph examiners typically need to be U.S. citizens without a criminal background.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Polygraph examiners will gain experience by working in an investigative role with a law enforcement agency before performing polygraph work.

Polygraph examiners must show good moral character and cannot have police records. You should speak and write well, have self-confidence, be alert, and be able to maintain objectivity and self-control. You must be able to communicate effectively with military, government, and civilian personnel at all echelons and perform well under pressure in a stressful environment. It is crucial to show fairness; you should not be influenced by such factors as economic status, race, or sex. You must understand the importance of protecting your subjects' rights and maintaining confidentiality.