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How do I Become a Hostage Negotiator?

Nicole Madison
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

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.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a Practical Adult Insights writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By JimmyT — On Oct 20, 2011

I have seen video before of a hostage situation and listened to all the things that the hostage negotiator said. From what I gathered the hostage negotiator was a very smart individual, who had a great poker face, and was a good actor.

He was able to assess the entire situation, and made sure to keep the hostage taker in sight. He was able to read the hostage taker effectively and was absolutely uncanny in saying the right things to the hostage taker in order to keep him calm.

While all this was going on he was being given word on what was going to happen and how the police were going to attack. I found this to be the most amazing thing that he was able to distract the hostage taker to the point that the police could eventually find their window of opportunity and subdue the situation.

The hostage negotiator was the one leading the charge and had to be part cop, part politician, and part actor in order to successfully subdue the situation.

By jcraig — On Oct 20, 2011

I imagine that being a hostage negotiator is a very stressful job and it requires a certain type of individual in order to make a career out of it.

Being a hostage negotiator requires almost absolute success and it is a very complicated job. Hostage takers are usually unpredictable and desperate people and the hostage negotiator has to be able to reason with them and keep in mind many factors in order to ensure the safety of the hostages. This can be incredibly stressful for someone that is not capable of handling all the responsibility involved.

With all things considered anyone who wants to become a hostage negotiator has to be able to handle all these factors and make quick, calculated decisions in order to be effective at their job. I imagine it takes a very qualified, special type of individual in order to become someone with this job title.

By cardsfan27 — On Oct 19, 2011

@kentuckycat - You are totally correct. A hostage negotiator's main job is to gain the hostage takers trust and attention. If the hostage negotiator is effective they can keep the hostage taker calm and distracted while the police can formulate a plan of attack.

I will say though I think that the hostage negotiator's main job is to make sure the suspect is calm and does not hurt any of the hostages. The suspect is in a situation where he or she is trapped and they are probably going to be stressed, paranoid, and possibly unpredictable. Keeping the suspect calm is probably the hostage negotiator's main job and this definitely requires a level head and quick thinking in order to correctly make sure everyone makes it out safe.

By kentuckycat — On Oct 18, 2011

If anyone wants to become a hostage negotiator they have to keep in mind that they have to be convincing and sincere to the person they are negotiating with.

A hostage negotiator is in essence stalling until the police can formulate a plan of attack in order to quell the situation. A hostage negotiator needs to be able to be convincing in listening to the demands of the hostage taker and be able to also think fast on their feet to make sure this person is calm and does not do anything drastic that could harm the hostages.

Most importantly the hostage negotiator needs to be able to have great speaking skills and be able to gain the attention of the hostage taker. If he gains the hostage takers attention and he or she is able to have their attention on the hostage negotiator it makes the situation easier for police and a lot safer for the hostages.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a Practical Adult Insights writer, where she focuses on topics...
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