How To Become a Forensic Interviewer in 6 Steps (With FAQs)

Updated January 26, 2023

Forensic interviewers are criminal justice professionals who facilitate interviews with children involved in crimes. They specialize in using specific techniques and procedures that help children feel comfortable while asking them questions and gathering information regarding the incident. If you're interested in pursuing a job in the criminal justice field, learning about becoming a forensic interviewer may be helpful for you. In this article, we discuss what a forensic interviewer is and provide a list of steps that you can take to become one.

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What is a forensic interviewer?

A forensic interviewer is a criminal justice specialist who conducts interviews and gathers information for crimes that involve children. They provide legal teams and government agencies with the information that they collect, which legal professionals can use in court proceedings. Forensic interviewers specialize in interviewing children in a friendly and compassionate manner to help them feel comfortable. These professionals can work for law enforcement, legal agencies or specific government sectors that specialize in crimes involving children.

Related: 16 Jobs To Pursue With a Forensic Psychologist Degree

What does a forensic interviewer do?

Here are the duties that a forensic interviewer completes:

  • Conduct interviews: They conduct interviews with individuals who have knowledge of a crime involving children. They may meet with suspects, witnesses or victims of a crime.

  • Communicate with legal teams: Once they conduct interviews, they communicate with information they gathered with legal teams so that they can create a strong case to use in court.

  • Create documentation: They create documentation regarding the content of the interviews, which may include transcribing conversations with victims to pass along to legal teams.

  • Write case summaries: Forensic interviewers often write case summaries that provide through details about crimes. The details in these case summaries include the location of the crime, the date that it happened and the names of the individuals involved in the incident.

  • Present case information: Forensic interviewers create presentations that include information about a case. They may present this information to legal teams or victim's families, or they may present it during court proceedings.

  • Use case tracking software: They use case tracking software that allows them to input information about their case, along with details obtained from their interview, which helps other legal professionals track updates regarding the case information.

Forensic interviewer certification and training

Forensic interviewers need to acquire the proper certification and training before they can begin working in the criminal justice field. First, you must complete a forensic interviewing training course, which many child advocacy organizations or law enforcement agencies offer to individuals pursuing a career in criminal justice. These courses teach professionals how to conduct an interview that puts children at ease and obtains the necessary information from them. Here is the information that you may learn during these training courses:

  • Which questions to ask to acquire necessary details

  • Which location may help children feel most comfortable

  • How to help children feel safe during the interview

  • How to respond to children's questions regarding the interview

While it's not necessary to gain certification to become a forensic interviewer, becoming certified may expand your knowledge and grow your forensic interviewing experience. A common certification is the Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI) certification, which the International Association of Interviewers offers. The goal of this certification is to increase the effectiveness of interviews while ensuring that victims remain comfortable.

Related: What Are Certifications? Definition, Benefits, Types of Certifications and Examples

How to become a forensic interviewer

Use the following steps to guide you in becoming a forensic interviewer:

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree

To begin, first obtain a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field, like criminology or forensic science. During your education, try taking courses that may help you while working as a forensic interviewer, like child psychology or communications courses. You may also try to build your network by participating in clubs or organizations while attending school.

2. Attend a training program

Once you obtain a bachelor's degree, attend a training program that teaches you the proper forensic interview techniques and protocols. This training program may also develop important skills that you can use while working, like communication, empathy and legal knowledge. To find a training program that works for you, look online or contact your local law enforcement to see if they offer any formal training for forensic interviewers.

3. Gain experience in forensic interviewing

After your training program, try finding a job in forensic interviewing that allows you to gain valuable experience. You might find a position as an entry-level forensic interviewer, which often involves administrative work, like filing court documentation or creating case summaries. During this position, you can observe forensic interviewers while they work, which can help you identify the skills and techniques they use while conducting interviews. If you see a specific technique that works well, you may adopt that in your own interview procedures.

4. Consider certification

Consider gaining certification in forensic interviewing to help you gain more knowledge and possibly help you achieve career advancement. Certifications may also set you a part from other forensic interviewers. With certification, you may learn about effective interviewing skills or helpful advice that may allow you to enhance your skills.

Related: Certificates, Certifications and Licenses: Differences and Jobs That Require Them

5. Earn a master's degree

Earn a master's degree in criminal justice to further your knowledge of forensic interviewing. During your master's program, you may gain experience working with more complex cases. Having a master's degree may help you achieve career advancement, which may help you become a supervisor in your organization or a lead forensic interviewer.

Related: What Master's Degree Should I Get? A Guide To Making the Best Choice

6. Stay up to date on field advancements

The criminal justice field often has new advancements and research, so it's important to stay up to date on updates in forensic interviewing. For example, research may give insight into new interviewing techniques or communication methods that may help you interview children more effectively. You may read journals, attend seminars or take part in criminal justice conferences to help you stay updated on new advancements.

Related: 20 Professional Development Topics That Can Help You in the Workplace

Forensic interviewer salary and job outlook

The salary for a forensic interviewer varies depending on experience, skill level, education and location. For example, a forensic interviewer with a certification may have the chance to earn a higher wage than one without a certification. While Indeed doesn't have salary information for a forensic interviewer, here are the national average salaries for related positions:

  • Family advocate: $37,444 per year

  • Interviewer: $28,574 per year

  • Social worker: $57,923 per year

While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics doesn't provide job outlook data for forensic interviewers, they predict employment for detectives, who are also law enforcement professionals who conduct interviews, to grow by 5% from 2019 to 2029.

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Forensic interviewer FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding forensic interviewing:

What are the benefits of becoming a forensic interviewer?

As a forensic interviewer, you have the chance to provide assistance to children in the criminal justice system. You can help children feel empowered by listening to their stories and advising them. You may also help legal teams and court systems solve crimes and bring justice to victims.

What skills do you need to become a forensic interviewer?

Here are some skills that you may use as a forensic interviewer:

  • Communication: Forensic interviewers use verbal and written communication while conducting interviews. They use verbal communication to ask questions and discuss information about a case, and they use written communication to write down details about the interview and transcribe conversations.

  • Empathy: Forensic interviewers may handle sensitive cases, so it's important that they have a high degree of empathy that helps them express compassion and kindness towards victims.

  • Legal knowledge: Forensic interviewers must have knowledge of the legal system in order to understand which questions to ask. They should have insight into laws, regulations and legal proceedings that take place so that they can obtain the proper information from victims.

What is the work environment for a forensic interviewer?

Forensic interviewers typically work in an office setting. They may travel to a courthouse to testify in court or to provide information to court officials. Though, they typically work in an enclosed office that allows for private interviews with victims. They often work a standard workweek, though they may have to work late nights or weekends if management calls them to assist in a case. For example, if a crime takes place on a weekend, a law enforcement may call a forensic interviewer to communicate with children involved in that crime.

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