A college degree and investigative experience are often necessary to become a polygraph examiner; it can also be helpful to have a formal certification. The exact specifications can depend on the agency or organization someone wishes to work for. Examiners can work in sensitive environments, so it is also advisable to be prepared to pass a background check to determine fitness for the work. People with adverse events on their police records may not be considered for positions.
The level of education required could be an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in a subject like law enforcement or psychology. National agencies may prefer people with higher degrees. Alternatively, local organizations may accept someone with law enforcement experience in lieu of a degree; for example, someone could become a polygraph examiner with a high school diploma and five years of law enforcement experience.
Specific investigative experience is also strongly recommended even with a degree. The length of experience required to become a polygraph examiner can again vary depending on the employer, but may include between one and three years. Certifications in polygraph testing are also very helpful for job applicants, which are typically administered by professional organizations that set standards and practices for members. People with certifications may be able to work in more positions and are considered more reliable witnesses in court.
In addition to training and education, someone who wants to become a polygraph examiner also needs some people skills. Administering examinations requires good communication and observation skills, including the ability to work comfortably with people from a variety of backgrounds. Examiners must also be capable of keeping information secure and working in environments like interrogation rooms. They may work as part of a team, in which case it can be helpful to be able to coordinate and communicate with other personnel over the course of an investigation.
Good witness skills may also be required for some positions. Someone who has become a polygraph examiner can potentially be called as a witness in court to discuss a specific examination or to more generally testify on how reliable such examinations can be in interrogations. This requires good communication and organizing skills, along with credentials to present to the judge and jury. These establish the witness as a reputable professional source, increasing the chance that the evidence will be accepted. People who are uncomfortable in courtroom environments can find this aspect of the work difficult.