Lie detectors are so cool, right? They are often presented in movies as a way to force the bad guys to tell the truth against their will – good always wins. While it doesn’t work exactly like that, the lie detector, or polygraph exam, is certainly an important tool used to help law enforcement sort out probable truth from probable falsehood. If the idea of administering polygraph exams excites you, here’s how to get yourself into that field:
The Education You Need
If you want to be a polygraph examiner, you’ll usually need an associate’s degree. You might be able to get by with a bachelor’s, however. Degrees in criminal justice, psychology, forensic science, or criminology will really help too. Most of the time, agencies will appoint current officers to the position and arrange for the officer to be trained – rather than hiring from the outside. A masters degree for federal law enforcement would also be of high consideration in this field.
Polygraph examiners often attend an academy where they learn how to conduct the exams. You’ll need 200 hours of industry-specific training. You’ll also need to conduct 200 exams before you can be certified by the APA.
Your first application is a simple one. All you have to do is give the agency you’re applying for some basic information like your name, social security number, address, and a few other details. Most of the time, this initial application is just to qualify you for the job. There are many things that can disqualify you from employment like a past criminal history, drug use, gang affiliations, domestic violence, bad driving record, poor credit history, and poor work history so this process is designed to filter candidates out.
The Background Check
Your agency will conduct a thorough background check. The background check consists of a criminal background check, a review of your previous employment, and a character screen using current and past neighbors as references.
You may also be asked to provide professional references. These people should be your close and personal acquaintances and friends. They should be able to comment intelligently on your strength of character, honesty, and integrity.
Job growth for all forensic and polygraph examiners is expected to grow at a rate of 19 percent through 2020. There’s plenty of room for you, but it’s not a free-for-all. Still, it’s higher than the national average. Because polygraph examiners receive specialized training, and their skills are routinely used in background checks, you can be assured job security.
As an examiner, your job would be to work for the public law enforcement agencies, intelligence services, and criminal investigative entities. You may also work as a private consultant. The bulk of your work is performed in an office setting. Examiners prepare subjects for testing, conduct the test, and they analyze all results. Tests may take several hours, and a large part of the job requires effective communication and dealing with nervous subjects.
You will also have to prepare reports about the results of the exam and submit them to your superiors. While you generally do not make recommendations on how to deal with any of the results, you may be called upon as a witness in a court proceeding. You may also be asked your professional opinion about any deception uncovered through the test.
Darryl Adkins is a longtime polygraph examiner. When he’s not working, he enjoys sharing his know-how by posting on various websites.