Choosing Criminal Profiling as a Career Choice in the US

Criminal profiling as a profession seems very enticing to many of us who are interested in the field of investigation and policing yet the information that we have regarding criminal profiling as a career is very limited. Before choosing any profession, we should have all the background knowledge about it.

A criminal profile is a collection of inferences about the qualities of the person responsible for committing a crime or a series of crimes. It requires the use of the scientific method, an applied understanding of the science of logic, and the ability to know when someone is wrong. The profile is a mixture of social, physical, and psychological characters of the criminal and sometimes even biological traits if available.

What is Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling is also known as Offender profiling or psychological profiling is an investigative tool that aids the identification, apprehension, and conviction of an unknown offender by providing the police with a description of the likely social (employment, marital status) and mental characteristics (level of education, motivation) of the offender.

The criminal profiling process is defined by the FBI as a technique used to identify the perpetrator of a violent crime by identifying the personality and behavioral characteristics of the offender based upon an analysis of the crime committed.

It also provides predictions of who the offender is likely to attack next, where and when and possible interview strategies to elicit information about the crimes committed and confession of guilt. Criminal profiling is only as good as the information provided to the profiler. They should be regarded as one tool amongst many to be used by the police.

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How to Become a Criminal Profiler?

There are several different paths a person can take to become a criminal profiler. While no set path is right or wrong, the most common way that individuals pursue a career as a criminal profiler includes the following steps:

1. Get a High School Diploma

The first step to becoming a criminal profiler is to obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED certification. If you wish to pursue a career in law enforcement and make your way up the ranks to become a criminal profiler that way, you’ll need a minimum of a high school diploma to be eligible to join a police department.

2. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

Most individuals choose to pursue higher education before joining law enforcement to provide them ample opportunities to learn the academic side of the job. Several programs can prepare you for a career as a criminal profiler, with the most common being a degree in criminal justice, forensic sciences, psychology, or somewhat related field. Many criminal profile positions, such as those offered by the FBI, require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be considered for the job.

3. Complete a Law Enforcement Training Academy

You can do this through a local or state police department or another agency such as the FBI. To be considered for the academy, you’ll need to meet the minimum requirements of an officer, which include being a United States citizen, being at least 21 years of age, possessing a valid driver’s license, having some level of college education completed, and having a clean criminal record.

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Not all law enforcement departments have criminal profiling or behavioral science divisions, so it’s important to choose and apply to an agency that does.

4. Work in an Investigative Field

You likely won’t be able to become a criminal profiler just by getting a bachelor’s degree and completing a law enforcement training academy program. You’ll need real experience, and sometimes a lot of it. Look for career opportunities that offer an investigative experience to help build up your resume and hone your skills as a criminal profiler.

5. Pursue an Advanced Degree

Many criminal profilers, especially the criminal profilers who are at the top of their careers, hold a graduate degree. Pursuing a Master’s or Ph.D. in Forensic Science, Psychology or a related field can help set you apart from the competition and increase your knowledge of the discipline of criminal profiling.

6. Join Professional Organizations

Before you’re hired as a criminal profiler or once you get a job in this profession, you should consider joining one or more professional organizations. Being active in these organizations will help keep you up-to-date on the latest trends in the industry and aware of any changes to technology or training used in criminal profiling.

In addition to these steps, most criminal profiling positions also require candidates to have a certain level of physical fitness. Work on your physical fitness to ensure you’re ready to handle the job requirements and set yourself apart as a candidate.

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FBI Criminal Profiler Requirements

To become an FBI criminal profiler, you’ll need the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in either psychology or criminal justice
  • A master’s or doctorate degree, preferably in a psychology-related field
  • Training in criminal investigations, forensics, forensic pathology, human behavior, crime scene analysis, legal issue, interviewing skills, and crime typologies

Entering the FBI as a criminal profiler is a tough career route as few positions are available; however, it’s a crucial role in helping to quickly capture the criminal(s) at hand.

Career Outlook as Criminal Profiler

Criminal profilers have various career opportunities available to them. Some choose to work independently and only provide their services when they’re needed. Attorneys, police departments, and government or law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the National Security Administration (NSA) might contact them for their services. Profilers may find work at the local, state, or federal level of law enforcement.

Despite the important role profilers play in the criminal justice system, there are not a lot of jobs specifically for criminal profilers. The majority of criminal profilers start as detectives or criminal investigators and choose to obtain additional training. Many of these professionals who have advanced degrees pursue careers as forensic psychology professors, juvenile offenders, or jury consultants to name just a few. Criminal justice is a broad field and offers many possibilities.

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