The MUFON website lists a number of steps (3) someone interested in becoming a field investigator must take. First, obviously one has to become a member of MUFON.
Next, the field investigator aspirant will contact his or her state or national director of MUFON to express an interest into becoming an FI. The interview process will reveal what sort of special skills or qualifications the potential field investigator has that would qualify them for conducting examinations of UFO incidents.
The interesting thing here is that there is no objective set of skills listed that might qualify one to investigate UFO incidents. Such skills would include things like forensics, law enforcement interview techniques, and various science disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, and psychology. What constitutes useful skills and qualifications seem to be at the discretion of the state or national director doing the interview.
The third step is to purchase, for $149, a bundle of training materials, including the official MUFON Field Investigator Manual (4). MUFON also offers in its store a series of DVDs on such subjects as interviewing techniques, abduction cases, photo analysis, and so on (5).
The field investigator candidate is encouraged to study the FI manual thoroughly. Then the candidate takes an open book exam that tests his or her knowledge of a number of disciplines.
The candidate has to score at least 80 percent to pass the test and has the opportunity to take the test three times. The field investigator candidate also has to pass a background check. Once having passed the test, the field investigator has to have a number of important skill sets.
Investigative Ethics: Most importantly, the Trainee must understand and adhere to the tenet of anonymity (withholding witness identifiers from persons who are not part of the UFO report investigation or its evaluation within MUFON.)
“Interviewing Methods: Preparation, controlling the setting, the sequence of obtaining a complete account, recognizing sensory perceptions, analyzing witness body language, active listening, interpreting the oral account, and drawing conclusions are all vitally important.
“Collateral Contacts: In a given circumstance, the Trainee must be aware of which public officials and/or others to contact in order to potentially resolve the report as a misperception, determine the person’s reliability as a witness, or identify others who may have witnessed and reported the same event.
“Technical Background: A working knowledge should be conveyed to the Trainee on the subjects of weather anomalies, astronomy, conventional aircraft (especially lighting configurations), space satellites, photographic equipment and method, and the soil sciences.”
The newly minted MUFON field investigator is encouraged but not required to go on his or her first investigation with an experienced FI. MUFON also runs an annual Field Investigator Boot Camp where FIs can sharpen their skills (6).
Improving the Investigations
The inevitable question arises, is studying a manual and taking a test adequate to prepare one to be a UFO field investigator?
Law enforcement officers go to school and spend long hours of course and field work to learn how to process a crime scene, which involves things a little more mundane than UFO encounters, such as robbery and murder.
The apparent lack of thorough training, therefore, would tend to call into question the quality of work that MUFON field investigators can do.
Three ideas to improve the credibility of MUFON’s investigations would be to list objective prerequisites for becoming an FI trainee.
The training should consist of coursework, which can be done online, taught be qualified experts in various fields.
Finally, field work under the supervision of an experienced field investigator should be required and not suggested before one is certified as an FI.