Criminal profiling is an investigative profession used to assist law enforcement and government agencies pursuing unknown perpetrators. Criminal Profilers typically have a background in forensic and/or investigative psychology, giving them the skills needed to recognize the personality traits and characteristics of criminals based on crime scene evidence.
"It's a combination of analyzing the physical and behavioral evidence, reconstructing a crime from the beginning to the end and coming up with the most scientific determination possible with the information available."
- The Profiler by Pat Brown
Additional background in relevant subgenres of psychology also helps criminal profilers understand the complex facets of human behavior in relation to crime and the legal system. Criminal profilers commonly work for local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Additionally, there are criminal profilers that work independent of such agencies and provide their services upon request to lawyers, police departments and government agencies such as the FBI or National Security Administration (NSA).
The job of a criminal profiler falls somewhere between the fields of law enforcement and psychology, often depicted in popular television shows and Hollywood movies. Also known as: "criminal investigative analysis" to "crime action profiling" and "investigative psychology," the job entails using the research and analytical skills relevant to the psychological sciences to better comprehend criminal behavior. When you earn your degree in criminal justice, you can open up more doors of opportunity and go further in your career. Use this site to find out more about careers in the field of criminal justice, and to contact the schools with programs that interest you. Whether you want to search by level of degree, location of school, or by career type, CriminalJusticePrograms.com is your place to start moving ahead.
Criminal Profiler Job Description
Essentially, the criminal profiler's job is to create a psychological profile of a criminal suspect, which can then be used to help catch the suspect. This is done by examining evidence from the crime, interviewing witnesses and victims, and analyzing crime scenes. Information gleaned from these investigations can then be used to help the profiler determine a pattern of criminal behavior, which hopefully can be used to find out more about the suspect (and potentially help to catch him or her). Aside from developing profiles of real-world criminals, criminal profilers may also conduct research and write reports on patterns of criminal behavior by going through old case studies and interviewing convicted criminals.
Criminal profilers with doctoral degrees may also work in academia, teaching and publishing about their work. Criminal profilers may also be called upon to testify as expert witnesses in court proceedings.
Criminal Profiler Requirements
Successful criminal profilers must possess excellent analytical and critical thinking abilities, good communication skills, and the ability to effectively analyze scientific and statistical data. Degree requirements for criminal profiling are not specifically outlined, in part because it's such a small field and there are a very limited number of degrees specific to only criminal profiling. Your best bet is to get a dual degree in psychology and criminal justice, and to then gain job experience working in law enforcement, ideally as an investigator. A master's degree in forensic psychology or the behavioral sciences can also help advance your career. Some law enforcement agencies, including the FBI's behavioral sciences unit, also provide training specific to the field, however these programs usually require you to already have advanced qualifications and job experience.
Curriculum for Criminal Profilers
Here are some courses that may be included in your criminal justice program. If you are interested in the following areas, review our school listings on our Forensic Science Degrees page to request more information. With CriminalJusticePrograms.com you have an efficient way to connect with colleges that can prepare you for career success.
Mental Health Professionals, Social Science and Law
This course examines the interaction between mental health and the criminal justice system. Criminal profiling has a strong basis in understanding the role of mental health as it relates to law and the criminal justice system. Issues such as: civil commitment, mental health testimony, and the rights of mental health patients in a legal setting. Additionally, issues such as competency to stand trial and insanity defense pleas are analyzed. Child custody outcomes and disputes are reviewed and antisocial personality cases are examined. The objective is learning the applications and limitations of mental health within the judicial system.
Research Methods and Design
The aim of this course is to understand and implement proper scientific research. Students will gain knowledge of different types of research (correlation vs. experimental) and the benefits and limitations of such methods. Research ethics will be an integral part of the course as students learn acceptable research practices. Additionally, the structure of research is explored through hypotheses testing, carrying out surveys, experimental design, evaluating programs and data analysis.
Criminal Psychological Assessment
In this course students learn how to apply and rank criminal assessment measures. Students administer, score, and interpret data results that are currently used in criminal forensic procedures. Included in these test are risk assessment, mental state during a criminal offense, competency, and psychopathology. As such, students will be able to apply diagnosis according to the American Psychological Association's updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
Human Growth and Development
This course focuses on developmental milestones that occur throughout an individual’s lifespan. Beginning from the prenatal stage through adulthood, students learn typical developmental landmarks in relation in age. Such stages include: prenatal, infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The milestones include several aspects of development, such as physical, cognitive, social and emotional. Forensic aspects are also applied, including attachment, development of conscience, self-control, and risk management and preventive strategies.
This course examines accepted theories of aggressive and criminal behavior and mentalities. Current classification models are used to analyze various viewpoints from cognitive, psychodynamic, social learning, and behavioral theories. To illustrate these theories, case studies are used to facilitate such applications. Additionally, issues such as sex crimes, delinquency and substance abuse may also be explored.
If you are interested in these courses, contact the schools on our Forensic Science Degrees page to learn more about their programs. We recommend contacting multiple schools to be sure you weigh your options carefully and make the best decision!
Criminal Profiler Career Outlook
Most criminal profiling jobs are at the state or federal level although a criminal profiler may also find employment as an independent consultant, or at colleges or universities. Since positions are so limited, criminal profiling is an extremely tough field to break into. The most prominent employer of profiler-type professionals is probably the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which first started systematically using criminal behavior analysts in the 1970s and continues to run a behavioral sciences unit. Other potential employers may include the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security and international law enforcement organizations like Interpol.
According to the 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage of detectives and criminal investigators in the US is $77,860, while the mean annual wage of psychologists is $86,380 and that of psychology educators at the post-secondary level is $74,240. These are probably good ballpark figures for what a criminal profiler might earn, although this number will vary based on the level of employment and experience.
Criminal Profiler Trends
Since its debut, criminal profiling has been met with skepticism as to how useful it is to the actual apprehension of criminals. Even so, most people agree that psychology-based criminal behavior analysis can at the least give us intriguing insights into the development and workings of a criminal mind. Criminal profiler job opportunities remain extremely limited and those interested in the field are increasingly likely to develop skills that permit them to work in other law enforcement jobs, notably criminal investigation and crime scene analysis. In order to score a high-profile job, like those offered by the FBI, prior law enforcement experience is a must. Those who don't want to give up on the dream of a criminal profiler career are therefore well-advised to get their start by pursuing a job in criminal investigation or crime scene analysis.