Fancy yourself a pretty good judge of character? Keen to know if someone’s having a lend of you or shooting straight? Well, you might just have the making of a polygraph examiner. Combining elements of physiology, psychology, and criminology with a pinch of good old critical thinking, this could be your exciting new career path.

If this tickles your fancy, you’re in the right place. This post will guide you on your way to becoming a certified polygraph examiner. We’ll also give you a taste of what to expect from a career in the field.

Table of Contents

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.

How Do I Become a Polygraph Examiner?

If you’re itching to be a polygraph examiner, you’ll need specialised training and education from a reputable polygraph school. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting you qualified.


Attend a Recognised Polygraph School

The American Polygraph Association accredits polygraph training programs. To bag a qualification as a certified polygraph examiner, you’ll need to register with an accredited training centre.

Training programs usually take about 18 months to complete. The curriculum includes an internship, independent study requirements, and field experience. Depending on the school, you might need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like behavioural sciences. Alternatively, having experience in a related field such as law enforcement can do the trick.

The theory part of the training, which is usually eight to ten weeks, requires full-time commitment. The educational component covers ethics, test question formulation, and legal issues relating to polygraph exams.

Students learn how to conduct interviews and use polygraph hardware and software to monitor examinees’ physiological reactions. The training also covers analysing 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 align with the APA’s minimum training and education standards. The APA ensures accredited programs maintain these standards throughout the accreditation period.

Note that the APA doesn’t certify polygraph examiners graduating from these programs. Instead, graduates receive a certification directly from the school.

The APA accreditation standards require a minimum of 400 hours of training, completed in fewer than 10 to 17 weeks. The training and education must take place in an accredited facility. It 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.

PEAK Credibility Assessment Training Center

PEAK Credibility Assessment Training Centre, a fully-owned offshoot of Lafayette Instrument Company, proudly holds accreditation by the American Polygraph Association (APA) and is recognised by the American Association of Police Polygraphists (AAPP).

In a series of remarkable accolades, the Centre’s own Director, Ben Blalock, was honoured with the distinguished 2017 John E. Reid Award from the American Polygraph Association. This award was in recognition of his significant contributions in the field of polygraph research, teaching, and writing. Adding to his illustrious career, Mr. Blalock was the recipient of the 2018 Holly S. Canty Memorial Award from the American Association of Police Polygraphists, bestowed for his outstanding leadership and unwavering service. In 2020, the Region V Richard O. Arther Director’s award, chosen and presented by each Regional Director based on a notable case or contribution within the respective region, was also awarded to him.

PEAK Basic Training Courses

Endorsed by the American Polygraph Association (APA) and recognised by various state and national associations, PEAK’s Basic Polygraph Examiner’s Course provides participants with a comprehensive 400 hours of training. This course, flexible in terms of schedules and timelines, adapts to meet the specific needs of each cohort and the availability of instructors.

Generally, PEAK completes most of its Basic Polygraph Examiner’s Courses within a ten-week consecutive cycle. However, adhering to accreditation standards, every basic course is designed to conclude within a span of 10 to 17 weeks.


Topic Hours
Law and Human Rights 8
Ethics, Standards of Practice and By-Laws 4
Introduction to the History and Evolution of Credibility Assessment 8
Scientific Testing 8
Mechanics of Instrument Operation 16
Credibility Assessment Techniques 40
Pre-Test Interview 32
Post-Test Interview 8
Psychology 20
Physiology 20
Test Question Construction 32
Test Data Analysis 40
Countermeasures 8
Information and Results Reporting 2
Practical Application of Credibility Assessment/Mock Examinations 80
Education and Training Program Elective Instruction 74
Law and Human Rights

Trainees will learn about laws and pertinent human rights related to credibility assessment in Australia.

Ethics, Standards of Practice and By-Laws

Trainees will grasp the connection between the APA and AAPP Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice/By-Laws, and other ethical considerations relevant to the practice of credibility assessment.

Introduction to the History and Evolution of Credibility Assessment

Trainees will recognise those who have made significant contributions to the early and contemporary history of credibility assessment, demonstrating their understanding of the evolution of credibility assessment instruments, techniques, and test data analysis, the development of related professional organisations, and alternative credibility assessment methods.

Scientific Testing

Trainees will show conceptual knowledge of sensitivity, specificity, false positive errors, false negative errors, and statistical significance in the application of these concepts to diagnostic and screening tests, the ability to review research articles and explain their methodological strengths and weaknesses.

Mechanics of Instrument Operation

Trainees will perform a proper functionality check, demonstrate proper component placement, including primary and alternate locations, in addition to positioning the examinee; demonstrate proper software operations, acceptable data collection practices, and the use of standardised annotation on polygraph examinations.

Credibility Assessment Techniques

Trainees will demonstrate a working understanding of evidentiary, investigative, and screening examinations. They will understand the crucial components of these testing protocols, including the number of presentations, number of tests, and question sequence rules.

Pre-Test Interview

Trainees will explain the rationale behind pretest procedures and demonstrate the ability to conduct a free narrative, structured, or semi-structured interview.

Post-Test Interview

Trainees will be able to explain the rationale behind post-test procedures, identify basic interview approaches and demonstrate the process of post-test interviews for various test outcomes.


Trainees will demonstrate an understanding of the cardiovascular, respiratory, central nervous, peripheral nervous, integumentary and skeletal-muscular systems, as well as pharmacology, as they relate to the credibility assessment data.

Test Question Construction

During classroom and lab exercises, trainees will demonstrate, in writing, an effective working knowledge of credibility assessment test questions for validated credibility assessment techniques.

Test Data Analysis

Trainees will demonstrate a working knowledge of the physiological response patterns used in interpreting polygraph data, in addition to an ability to identify data suitable and not suitable for analysis. They will learn to analyse polygraph data using a validated scoring system, including the appropriate use of decision rules.


Trainees will describe common types of countermeasure attempts and atypical physiology.

Information and Results Reporting

Trainees will understand the necessary information content and presentation of test results.

Practical Application of Credibility Assessment/Mock Examinations

Trainees will demonstrate basic proficiency in conducting examinations under field-like conditions.

Education and Training Program Elective Instruction

Trainees will become familiar with other credibility assessment-related content or be given additional instruction on topics at the discretion of the training centre.

For an enrolment fee of $6,000.00 (USD), participants gain access to all necessary course materials, supplies, and polygraph equipment. This fee also includes consultation opportunities with PEAK staff throughout the duration of the course. Payment is typically required before course commencement unless alternative arrangements have been coordinated with the training centre.

The International Academy of Polygraphy

The IAP is a prime choice for Aussie candidates seeking a highly-regarded training programme. In collaboration with the Broward College Criminal Justice Institute, successful completion earns trainees 19 credit points that can be applied towards other training and certification needs, including earning an Associate degree.

Additionally, the school offers advanced training programmes for candidates who’ve already ticked off basic polygraph training with institutions such as the AIPT. These specialist programmes are a ripper opportunity to gain qualifications that set you apart from others with just rudimentary polygraph school training.

The curriculum provided by the IAP delves into the following aspects of polygraphy:

– Interviewing and grilling techniques
– Exam data interpretation and countermeasures
– Numerical chart scoring
– Post-conviction testing of sex offenders

The bar is set high to get into an IAP programme. All course content covered in IAP’s programmes is greenlit by the American Polygraph Association. Candidates benefit from access to state-of-the-art facilities equipped with video learning for efficient instruction and study aids.

Applicants must provide proof of their qualifications and a sterling reputation with their referring school. The IAP also accepts applications from individuals serving in state or local law enforcement agencies or those with a minimum of 60 semester hours from a college, with certified copies of their transcripts mandatory for entry to the programme.

Courses run for ten weeks, entailing full-time on-campus study. The registration fee is a tidy $750, with the course setting you back $5,000, covering all training manuals, instruction, and supplies. Graduates receive a certificate of completion and the opportunity to qualify for membership in the American Polygraph Association.

The course content covers a variety of topics, including:

– History and development (8 hours)
– Instrument mechanics (16 hours)
– Maintenance and calibration (8 hours)
– Physiology (20 hours)
– Psychology (20 hours)
– Polygraph techniques (45 hours)
– Formulation of exam questions (38 hours)
– Interviewing and grilling procedures (40 hours)
– Exam data analysis (48 hours)
– Polygraph skills and practicum (80 hours)
– Ethical and legal aspects (8 hours)
– Report writing (8 hours)
– Specialised studies (16 hours)
– Elective instruction (45 hours)

In total, it’s a hefty 400 hours of study to finish the programme. The IAP requires candidates to meet the following criteria to graduate:

Trainees must pass their history, physiology, psychology, and instrumentation exams, with a passing grade of 75%. Candidates must also achieve a pass rate of 75% for their final exam. On top of that, candidates must clock up all 400 classroom hours and complete a minimum of an hour of chart study.”

Texas Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Polygraph School

This school is a choice pick for aspiring examiners keen on polygraph training specifically for use in law enforcement applications. Sponsored by the DPS and Texas Police Association (TPA), it first opened its doors for the basic polygraph school in 1995.

Today, the Texas DPS Law Enforcement Polygraph School enjoys national recognition and is accredited by the American Association of Police Polygraphists (AAPP). It also gets a thumbs up from the Texas Association of Law Enforcement Polygraph Investigators (TALEPI).

To qualify for training in the Basic Polygraph Examiners Course, you must tick the following boxes:

  • Be a Australian / US citizen.
  • Complete a Texas DPS Polygraph School Application.
  • Have no record of felony offences or misdemeanour offences 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.

This ten-week course offers an intense learning environment comparable to a full-time university summer class.

The Advanced Polygraph Training Course is conducted at the Texas DPS Criminal Investigations Division in Austin, Texas.

Academy for Scientific and Investigative Training

This academy offers a comprehensive education in deception detection. Students learn about history, theory, and psychophysiology through lectures and assignments.

The course includes 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 prepares the examiner for various testing situations, from business pre-employment analysis to criminal investigations. The Academy’s classrooms are in the Rittenhouse Square area in Philadelphia.

American International Institute of Polygraph

The AIIP’s ten-week Examiner’s Basic Course equips students with the skills, knowledge, and ability to conduct polygraph examinations and pre-employment screenings. The curriculum draws upon experience from the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, ensuring students get exposure to both analog and computerised polygraph equipment.

International Academy of Polygraph

The International Academy of Polygraphs offers comprehensive training accredited by several bodies including the American Polygraph

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).

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Communications 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.

Computer Skills

Modern polygraphs aren’t like the mechanical machines you see in old movies. Today, we use digital technology in polygraph machines, requiring the examiner to have basic computer skills.

You’ll need to know how to set up the equipment and troubleshoot the software to ensure accurate results from the examination.

Analytical Skills

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.


Polygraph examiners must be patient with the examination process. Some examinees may take longer than others to complete their test, and you must stay patient and focused on the task. Patience also applies when conducting multiple tests in a single day, and still being able to maintain accuracy in analyzing results.


As a polygraph examiner, your role can significantly influence someone’s life. For this reason, you must act with the utmost integrity in your role. You must stay neutral, ethical, and adhere to the rules and regulations governing your profession.

Critical Reasoning Skills

Polygraph examiners must display top-notch critical reasoning skills to effectively analyse exam results. There can be more than meets the eye when interviewing people.

Examinees with experience often know how to put up a deceptive front. They utilise their body language, vocal pitch, and tone to create discord between their external persona, presentation, and the actual results of the polygraph test.

It’s crucial to understand that while a polygraph test is remarkably precise, it’s not perfect. If an examinee can control their emotional reactions, it could be quite tricky to determine if they are exhibiting signs of deceit.

An examiner must have sharp critical reasoning skills to detect these inconsistencies and evaluate them in line with the digital feedback from the polygraph machine.

Pass a Character Check

When putting in your application to become a polygraph examiner, the potential employer will likely conduct a character check, a standard procedure before employment. A clean record – free of criminal activity and credit issues – is a must for consideration.

Potential employers may also request your past employment history and references to back your character. Additionally, they might ask for you to provide character references from your community to endorse your integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness.

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.

Private sector

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 is the Salary for a Polygraph Examiner?

The salary for a polygraph examiner varies depending on experience, location, and the number of tests they perform annually. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2022, the median annual salary for a polygraph examiner was about $61,000.

Experienced examiners or those in specialized roles can earn significantly more. For instance, polygraph examiners working with federal law enforcement agencies or in higher demand areas may earn over $100,000 per year.

Keep in mind that these figures are estimates and can vary based on factors such as your experience, location, and specialization.

Is the Job Market for Polygraph Examiners Growing?

The job market for polygraph examiners is relatively stable, with some growth expected over the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for forensic science technicians, which includes polygraph examiners, is expected to grow by about 14% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is expected due to the increased use of forensic evidence in court cases and the need for specialized individuals to interpret this evidence. As technology continues to advance, there will likely be an ongoing need for highly skilled polygraph examiners.

What’s the Career Outlook for Polygraph Examiners?

Polygraph examiners often start their careers in law enforcement. They examine suspected criminals and present findings in court. It’s typical for new polygraph examiners to work with local city councils during the early stage of their careers.

Despite potential budget cuts due to economic downturns that limit government spending, the job prospects for polygraph examiners in local governments are still promising. There are also several job opportunities in federal government organisations.

You can find work opportunities with agencies like the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, where polygraph testing is an essential part of the role. You’ll be conducting tests on employees and interviewing suspects.

However, the most significant opportunities for polygraph examiners are found in the private sector. Companies may hire you to conduct pre-employment screenings. For example, if a company deals with valuable metals, gemstones, or cash, they may contract you to assess potential employees.

You may also be hired to investigate losses within a company, utilising your skills to identify possible culprits. The private sector offers many rewarding opportunities for polygraph examiners, both within companies and for independent contractors. After gaining sufficient experience in the private or public sector, you might also consider starting your own business.

What Work Conditions Can You Expect as a Polygraph Examiner?

As a professional polygraph examiner, you’ll divide your time between your home office, the workplace, and clients’ locations. The job requires a fair bit of travel. For instance, you might have several private sector clients requiring your on-site services for pre-employment screenings or investigations.

Comfort with travel and owning a vehicle for the safe transport of your equipment is a must. If you’re working for government agencies, you may often find yourself in courtrooms, presenting the findings of your examinations.

You must be comfortable and confident in such scenarios, proficient in public speaking, and capable of holding your own. Interviews might also need to be conducted with individuals in custody in facilities like local gaols and prisons.

In these situations, you’ll need to be comfortable questioning potential criminals. Being aware of how to navigate these scenarios and knowing what to expect when visiting these facilities is important. Security will always be present during interviews with hardened criminals, but you could potentially encounter intimidating situations, such as threats being made against you.

However, you must be comfortable posing questions to the accused about the specifics of their case. When dealing with an individual charged with a serious crime like rape or murder, you’ll need to manage your emotions when asking potentially disturbing questions. Remaining impartial, regardless of your personal feelings about the individual, is crucial.

The rest of your day will be spent at your office or home office, collating the data from the exam and drafting reports. Typically, you’ll spend six to eight hours interviewing individuals during the workdays, and another two to four hours analysing the results late afternoon or evening.

In Conclusion – What Is the Average Salary and Benefits for Polygraph Examiners?

The average salary for a professional polygraph examiner is around AUD$92,000 per year. According to 2019 data, the median salary is around AUD$81,000 per year. The lowest 10th percentile of examiners earn as little as AUD$49,000 per year, while the top 10th percentile earns AUD$133,000 per year or more.

Your pay depends on your experience and your employer. Generally, positions in the private sector and independent contracting offer the highest compensation. Working for local government agencies might offer a lower income. However, working for prominent federal agencies, like the AFP or ASIO, can lead to a lucrative career in polygraphy. Good on ya for considering this career path.

A career as a polygraph examiner is a unique path that offers an interesting mix of psychology, physiology, criminology, and technology. It’s a field that demands a high level of integrity, exceptional communication skills, and the ability to stay neutral in intense situations.

With the proper training and education, along with a firm commitment to ethical practice, a career as a polygraph examiner can be a rewarding choice for those interested in a career in the forensic sciences. The path may be demanding, but it also promises a sense of accomplishment and the potential for significant professional growth.

Originally posted 2023-07-10 09:01:23.