How to Become a Forensic Handwriting Expert
If you are interested in jobs that involve investigation, then becoming a forensic handwriting expert may be a good career choice.
The expertise provides great opportunities to work in several fields and to assist investigators make headway on their cases.
This post provides a guide to help you become a forensic handwriting expert, including the required training and certification programs you will need to complete.
Who is a Forensic Handwriting Expert
A forensic handwriting expert may be known by various names; forensic document examiner, handwriting analyst, handwriting examiner, graphologist, or even a questioned document examiner.
The forensic handwriting expert is concerned about authorship and authenticity of documents.
In other words, he/she is a professional trained to detect the authenticity of documents. This is done by examining the writings of individuals to discover useful information which is contained in the pattern of writing, and which reflects the state of mind of the writer.
Documents that which can be examined by a handwriting expert can vary from wills to credentials, and to suicide notes in the case of crimes, or even materials suspected to contain hidden marks intended to convey meanings.
Educational Requirements to Become a Forensic Handwriting Expert
Usually, a degree in psychology or forensic science or even criminal justice can put you on a good part towards a handwriting expert career, though it may not always be a criterion to be certified in handwriting.
However, a number of institutions can recommend books and materials which individuals may prefer for self-study purposes. Institutions like the American Association of Handwriting Analysts can provide such materials.
Forensic Handwriting Expert Certifications
The most widely accepted certification program is from the American Association of Handwriting Analysts which comprises passing a two-part test; the first being to test the ability of the candidate to practice the basics in handwriting analysis.
The next tests the candidate’s ability to solve complex cases in handwriting analysis. This certification program can take anywhere from two to five years to complete.
Institutions for Forensic Handwriting Expert Training
A number of institutions provide training and certification required to become a handwriting expert, and they include:
- The International School of Handwriting Sciences (ISHS) which operates on three levels; the basic, intermediate, and the advanced levels, comprising ten sessions each spanning three hours of coursework
- The International Graphoanalysis Society. IGAS is based in Chicago and runs an 18 month program which qualifies students who complete them to attach the titles of CGA or MGA to their names as long as an annual renewal of membership fees is paid and ethical standards observed. The course lasts for about 18 months and costs about $1600
- The Institute of Graphological Science (tIGS) is located in Texas, and offers a three training courses in graphology and Questioned Document examination. The levels introduce you to the basics of handwriting analysis, moving over to more specialized areas, and eventually looking at more advanced issues in graphology. Thirty six lessons are offered in all.
More schools that offer training to become a forensic handwriting expert include:
- American Handwriting Analysis Foundation (AHAF)
- National Society of Graphology (NSG)
- International Graphology Association (IGA)
- The University of Urbino, Italy offers a Master of Arts degree in Graphology
- Instituto Superior Emerson , Buenos Aires, Argentina offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphology
- International School of Handwriting Analysis (ISHA)
- British Institute of graphology also offers a diploma in graphology
- The Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain also offers a M.A in Graphology.
Notice that courses in some of these institutes have duration of between 6 months to about 18 months, depending on the levels of study.
Roles, Duties, and Responsibilities of a Forensic Handwriting Expert
The role and responsibilities of a handwriting expert is primarily to detect whether a document has been forged or tampered with electronically or otherwise; determine authorship of written documents in the case of a dispute, and attempt to predict the mood of the writer from his/her handwriting, especially where criminal offenses are involved.
Forensic Handwriting Expert Skills
A number of skills is needed to pursue a successful career as a handwriting expert and it includes: an eye for details, good analytical skills, and the ability to spot the difference in patterns that seem similar. Others are problem solving and excellent communication skills.
Report writing skills will also be essential since findings may be required to be documented.
Career Opportunities as a Forensic Handwriting Expert
Job opportunities exist for forensic handwriting experts with government and law enforcement agencies.
Handwriting experts may also decide to become independent. They are needed in a variety of professions like the academia; they are also needed by business owners, managers of companies, psychologists, lawyers, and even journalists, and work in office environments as well as in labs.
Salary Expectations for Handwriting Experts
It can be difficult to ascertain the salary scale of handwriting specialists since the skill can be incorporated into several other forms of profession where handwriting analysis is required in their work.
However, a handwriting expert can charge between $50 and $500 for each work done, and depending on clientele and agencies worked for, performing handwriting analysis can fetch between $10,000 and $100,000 annually.