Hostage Negotiator: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a hostage negotiator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education, job duties, and specialized training to find out if this is the career for you.

Hostage negotiators are highly skilled law enforcement professionals employed by the FBI or local law enforcement agencies. They typically work in teams, and many hold a bachelor's degree and have undergone specialized training.

Essential Information

Hostage negotiators are law enforcement officials trained in bargaining with one or more captors for the release of people held against their will. They are predominantly employed by larger police departments and government agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Employers require a bachelor's degree and previous experience serving as a police officer or a federal agent.

Required Education High school diploma if a police officer; Bachelor's degree typically required if employed by a federal agency
Other Requirements Previous law enforcement experience and physical fitness
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (police and detectives)*
Median Salary (2015) $58,320 (police and sheriff's patrol officers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hostage Negotiator Job Description

When a potential crime scene involves hostages, law enforcement officials typically call trained negotiators to communicate with the captors. The duties of these negotiators include defusing the tension of the situation, communicating with captors in a way that is neither judgmental nor threatening, bargaining with them for the release of the hostages and/or buying time for more resources to arrive on the scene if reinforcements are needed. Negotiators, who typically work in teams, also work to safely remove the hostage taker from the situation.

To provide some salary perspective, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that police and sheriff's patrol officers in general earned a median annual income of $58,320, with the top ten percent more than $96,110 per year. Because hostage negotiation is a very specialized skill, those trained as negotiators may earn more than the average officer.

Education Requirements for a Hostage Negotiator

Most hostage negotiators have accumulated prior experience serving as police officers or federal agents in other roles and capacities. The minimum education requirement for aspiring police officers who have served in the military with no record of dishonorable discharge is a high school diploma or GED. Those with no military service could be required to have earned at least sixty college credits.

Aspiring hostage negotiators who plan to work for government agencies, such as the FBI, need to hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. They also need to meet age and physical fitness requirements, in addition to obtaining a specific amount of work experience prior to applying.

Once an aspirant has been sworn-in and has accumulated the requisite police department or agency experience, he or she may then qualify to be considered for a hostage negotiator position. The qualification process for both police and government agency negotiators typically involves a rigorous mental health and character assessment. If a qualified candidate is deemed psychologically and professionally fit to be a negotiator, he or she may then be required to undergo special training.

Specialized Training Programs and Certificates

The training process may differ between police departments and government agencies. For instance, to join the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, potential hostage negotiators undergo a highly advanced training regimen in such areas as firearms and counterterrorism (www.fbi.gov). Police negotiators, on the other hand, may be required to undergo a minimum of forty hours training in a hostage negotiations course that's been approved by the National Council of Negotiation Associations (NCNA).

Police negotiators in NCNA training programs could take courses that emphasize basic crisis negotiation, abnormal psychology and personality disorders (www.ncna.us). Negotiators have the option of repeating this 40-hour training requirement annually, in addition to attending professional conferences and undergoing joint training sessions with tactical teams.

Hostage negotiators work for the FBI or police departments to defuse situations and negotiate with hostage takers. Previous law enforcement experience is a requirement for this job, and a bachelor's degree and specialized training is required to work for government agencies. In 2015, police and sheriff's patrol officers made a median salary of around $58,000, however, hostage negotiators with specialized training may make more.


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