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Forensic interviewers are law enforcement professionals trained to elicit details from victims and witnesses of violent crimes, such as child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Aspiring interviewers need a background in criminal justice and psychology, as well as knowledge of interrogative techniques to approach victims in a nonconfrontational manner. Like other law enforcement careers, candidates must pass a criminal background check. Once hired, new interviewers focus on improving skills through additional training and certification.
Focus Your Education
A bachelor's degree is the minimum credential for becoming a forensic interviewer. For that reason, you should plan to take classes in criminal justice, sociology and psychology, with a goal of getting a degree in one of those fields. As the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates, you should focus on a college, junior college or university with a strong criminal justice program. If psychology is your focus, a doctoral or specialist degree is required, though a master's degree will suffice for some positions.
Pass Your Background Check
Law enforcement applicants undergo significant scrutiny, and forensic interviewing is no exception. Misdemeanor and felony convictions for character offenses such as fraud, theft or embezzlement will disqualify you from entering the field, according to the International Association of Interviewers. This standard affects your eligibility in other situations, as well. For example, getting fired for dishonesty will bar you from consideration -- as well as lying on an application, or omitting negative details about yourself, the IAI's web page states.
Get Additional Knowledge
Many organizations offer specialized training programs to help strengthen the skills of forensic interviewers. For example, the National Children's Advocacy Center offers a five-day course to help interviewers deal with children who allege physical or sexual abuse. Similarly, the FBI periodically offers short courses designed to help an interviewer build trust with child victims and ask questions in a manner that doesn't traumatize them. The programs often feature mock interview and court sessions, as well. You'll want to take as many of these courses as possible to hone your marketable skills.
Although it's not a requirement, completing the IAI's certification program can boost your career by establishing you as an expert. Applicants with a bachelor's degree or high school diploma need two to three years of investigative experience, which rises to four years for those who only have a GED. Candidates may qualify if they teach interview and interrogation techniques at an accredited institution, the IAI's website indicates. A 69.5 percent score is required to obtain the IAI certification, which you must renew every three years.
- FBI: Child Forensic Interviewers, Part 2
- International Association of Interviewers: CFI Frequently Asked Questions
- National Children's Advocacy Center: Forensic Interviewing of Children Training
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Police and Detectives: How to Become a Psychologist
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Police and Detectives: How to Become One
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.
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