About The Polygraph Profession
Psychophysiological Detection of Deception (polygraph) testing has existed since the 1920’s, but the equipment and techniques have continued to improve. While the largest number of PDD examiners work in government and law enforcement, the need for private examiners remains strong. The demand for examiners will only increase as older examiners retire, technology advances, admissibility becomes more favorable, and government agencies realize the cost-effectiveness of using contract examiners.
PDD testing is used for many purposes, such as to resolve thefts, homicides, assaults, sex crimes, child abuse, relationship issues, property damage, immigration issues, use or sale of drugs, cheating in sporting tournaments, or verification of witness or victim statements. Worldwide, polygraph testing of sex offenders (post conviction) has increased significantly, resulting in an entirely new market segment with explosive growth. Polygraph is also widely used for screening of personnel both pre and post-hire, security clearance updates, counterintelligence evaluations, and much more.
The polygraph community exists in three sectors: Private, Law Enforcement, and Government. However, Law Enforcement and Government agencies often hire private examiners (contractors) to supplement their staff as needed. Independent contractors are private examiners who negotiate and secure contracts with these agencies, but remain self employed and autonomous, while still complying with the terms of their agreement/contract.
THE PRIVATE SECTOR
These examiners work for themselves or for a private company and provide testing for a fee to corporations, attorneys, therapists, members of the general public, and in many cases work under contract with law enforcement and government agencies. To work in the private sector, the examiner will be required to complete a polygraph training school accredited by the American Polygraph Association. This training typically lasts 10 to 13 weeks and requires full time attendance (link to our Recommended Schools page) . An internship may be required depending on the licensing requirements of the area where the examiner intends to provide services. Many private examiners continue to have (and develop) other sources of income while providing polygraph services. Many private examiners also provide testing as independent contractors (not employees) for police departments and government agencies.
Salary: Income is both a factor of experience and the examiner’s ability to market his or her services, so the wages for a private examiner can range from $15K to $150K. The fee charged by a new examiner will typically range from $150 to $500 per exam.
Initial Costs: Private examiners must buy their own equipment ($7K to $9K) and pay for their own training ($5K to $6K plus living expenses while attending school).
Education: A high school diploma or GED is all that is required. A college degree may be required to work as an independent contractor for a government agency.
Opportunities: As self-employed individuals, these are based on the examiner’s business savvy, ability to secure steady contracts, and willingness to travel. There will be a significant shortage of private examiners beginning 2025 due to retirement and attrition.
These examiners are employed by police departments within State, County, and Municipal/Local agencies, as well as Prosecutor’s Offices at all levels. Most departments hire examiners from within, but some do recruit from outside sources. To work as a polygraph examiner in Law Enforcement, the examiner will be required to complete a polygraph training school approved by the hiring agency. This training typically lasts 10 to 13 weeks and requires full time attendance, followed by an internship program. However, preference in hiring is usually given to those who have already completed polygraph training, even from a civilian polygraph school. In many cases the private training will be accepted by the hiring agency.
Salary: These examiners will typically earn $35K to $65K per year, plus benefits.
Education: Varies by department, ranging from HS/GED to a four-year college degree.
Opportunities: Somewhat limited, as most police departments promote from within, but there are times when an examiner is hired from the private sector.
Note: Many police departments will hire private examiners as contractors to provide testing if the testing volume does not support hiring an examiner within the department.
These examiners work directly for Government agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, DEA, DOD, NSA, Corrections, Border Patrol, and Military. Outside the U.S. many governments use polygraph to screen their higher level officials, intelligence officers, undercover agents, or anyone requiring a security clearance. Travel is almost always required for one of these positions. To work as a polygraph examiner with a U.S. Government agency, the examiner will usually be required to attend a federally approved training academy such as the National Center for Credibility Assessment. However, preference in hiring is usually given to those who have already completed polygraph training, even from a civilian polygraph school.
Salary: Working for the U.S. federal government a polygraph examiner’s wages can range from $55K to $105K per year depending on experience, plus benefits.
Education: A four-year college degree is usually required.
Opportunities: The U.S. federal government is almost always hiring new examiners, and the salaries are usually better than in other segments of the market.
Note: Many government agencies will hire private examiners as contractors to provide testing if the testing volume fluctuates seasonally, such as when there is an increase in hiring.
Some U.S. states require a license to operate as a polygraph examiner. You will need to determine the requirements for licensing in the area you wish to operate. Government and Law Enforcement examiners are also required to comply with local or regional licensing requirements. See our Licensing Page.
It is not required, but helpful, to have a background in security, law enforcement, investigations, interviewing, psychology, physiology, or some sort of medical training. To work in government and law enforcement you must be able to pass a criminal background check and often a polygraph. Even in the private sector, most polygraph schools will not admit students with a criminal record.
HOW TO BECOME A PRIVATE EXAMINER
- Determine the geographic location where you would like to be in business.
- Determine if you satisfy the general requirements.
- If required or desired, locate a Mentor who is willing to work with you. Keep in mind that most examiners will not be keen on helping their competition get started, so you should not use a Mentor that you will be directly competing with.
- Select the APA accredited polygraph school you would like to attend.
- Attend and graduate from polygraph school.
- Join either the American Polygraph Association or the National Polygraph Association. These organizations will help you obtain continuing education credits.
- Secure any appropriate licenses (polygraph and business) and insurance.
- Complete your internship program if required.
- Open your business.
TO BECOME A GOVERNMENT OR LAW ENFORCEMENT EXAMINER
- Check the websites below for polygraph examiner job listings.
- Submit an application and go through the hiring process.
- Complete the background check and other testing, as required by the hiring agency. Ironically, many of these positions will require a polygraph exam.
- Keep in mind that you will be given preference in hiring if you have already completed polygraph school.
If an internship is required by licensing or desired to develop skills, examiners must become affiliated with a Mentor. For government and law enforcement positions the Mentor will be assigned. If there is a state license to comply with, then the internship requirements are dictated by law and regulation. In the private sector it is the responsibility of the intern examiner to find a suitable Mentor that meets the license requirements. This is usually arranged prior to attending polygraph school. In areas where a license is not required, the Global Polygraph Network offers a Mentorship program.
The following websites often post job offerings for polygraph examiners.