A person who wants to become a hostage negotiator typically needs training and experience in law enforcement. A hostage negotiator is also expected to have excellent communication skills, the ability to speak the jurisdiction’s language clearly, and a talent for staying calm and rational in a crisis situation. Requirements may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Individuals interested in hostage negotiations typically start by earning a high school diploma or an acceptable equivalent. He or she may then enroll in college and study criminal justice, psychology, or a related subject. Such a course of study may prove helpful when the time comes to communicate with criminals, helping aspiring negotiators to understand criminal motivations and how to appeal to them. Many jurisdictions do not require prospective hostage negotiators to earn degrees, however, and in many places, law enforcement experience is seen as more desirable than a college degree.
Generally, a person who wants to become a hostage negotiator works to become a police officer first. This usually involves applying to become a policeman and submitting to a number of tests and evaluations, including psychological evaluations, background checks, and physical ability tests. In many jurisdictions, the individual must attend the jurisdiction’s police academy and graduate, preferably with high marks.
After graduating from the police academy, individuals typically work for a police department before they can move on to negotiations. In many places, a person interested in this field may need at least five years of experience at this lower level before he can move on to this job. During that time, the law enforcement official should maintain an impeccable record. If he has not previously studied psychology, this may be a good time to do it to prepare for the next stage of his career.
Once an aspiring negotiator has secured the experience he needs, he can go on to apply to become a hostage negotiator with his local law enforcement agency. If he is accepted, he typically will have to participate in special training for his new job. Training generally lasts for about two to four weeks, but some jurisdictions may have longer training programs. After completing the required training program, the individual may accompany a seasoned negotiator for a period of time, gaining hands-on experience before handling a crisis on his own.