How to Become a Polygraph Examiner with the Central
Intelligence Agency

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employs a number of polygraph examiners to work in its Office of Security. Polygraph examiners (forensic psychophysiologists) are trained to be proficient in the use of a polygraph machine.

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Polygraph examiners must be able to prepare a subject for testing, conduct polygraph exams, work closely with investigators, prepare written reports and, at times, provide courtroom testimony.

The general accepted definition of a polygraph examiner is a polygraph specialist who has graduated from a recognized polygraph academy and has been accredited by the American Polygraph Association.

The majority of polygraph examiners must be licensed or certified by the regulatory organization in the jurisdiction in which they practice. However, CIA polygraph examiners must be federally certified. Individuals can still become polygraph examiners with the CIA without being federally certified; however, they must complete the federal polygraph examiner certification program upon being hired.

American Polygraph Academy Accreditation Requirements

The American Polygraph Academy (APA) sets standards for its accredited polygraph academy programs. Individuals who attend an APA-accredited program must complete, at a minimum, 400 hours of in-residence study. Study must be completed in 10 to 17 weeks, and all study must be completed at a qualified education and training facility. At least 95 percent of all the instruction within an APA-accredited academy must be done by a recognized faculty member.

Courses within a typical APA-accredited program include:

  • History and development of the detection of deception
  • Mechanics of instrument operation
  • Pre-test interview and post-test procedures
  • Ethics and standards of practice
  • Psychology and human behavior
  • Polygraph basic skills development
  • Validated polygraph formats and scientific testing
  • Polygraph test question construction
  • Legal aspects related to polygraph


Requirements to Become a CIA Polygraph Examiner

Individuals who want to become polygraph examiners with the CIA must be prepared to make a five-year commitment to the Agency. They must also possess a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university.  Candidates must have earned, at a minimum, a 3.0 GPA and have an exhibited an interest in polygraph examiner work.

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Typical degree programs for individuals interested in CIA polygraph examiner jobs include:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Forensic science

Candidates for CIA polygraph examiner jobs must possess:

  • Excellent written and oral communications
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • The ability to work independently or as part of a team
  • A high degree of professional and personal integrity, trustworthiness, and loyalty
  • A broad range of interests
  • The ability to interact with people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds
  • Tenacity, confidence, and maturity
  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to manage multiple tasks

CIA polygraph examiners do not receive polygraph premium pay until they have successfully completed the federal polygraph examiner certification training program. The CIA trains and certifies all applicants through the CIA’s Polygraph Examiner Program.

Further, all applicants must be able to successfully complete a number of occupational tests, including an aptitude test, a writing test, and a personality interview.

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Other pre-employment testing includes a medical examination, a psychological evaluation, a polygraph examination, and an extensive background investigation.

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