Criminal profilers can be free agents or work directly with municipal or state police, the FBI or CIA. Criminal profilers who work directly for law enforcement have much greater job security than free agents, but they also may have a ceiling on their earnings as defined by their union or contract.
A freelance consulting criminal profiler sets a rate based on experience, education and reputation and may find opportunities to be an expert witness at trials and to consult for police departments that lack specialized profiling capabilities. Law enforcement agencies hire independent criminal profilers on a job-by-job basis, so their work is not steady, and they must continuously be marketing themselves and their services.
Criminal profiling is a lucrative and growing field, with the average salary varying between about $50,000 and $72,000 depending on location. Highly qualified and experienced profilers earn six figures.
A criminal profiler looks at details of a crime or series of crimes and attempts to reconstruct or reverse-engineer the personality of the criminal based on clues that vary from the physical, like fingerprints and DNA, to ephemeral, like a preference for a certain hairstyle on victims. As you can imagine, it's not an easy thing to do, and it takes extensive training and education. Not all criminal profilers have police force backgrounds, but a thorough understanding of crime is an indispensable asset in the field. Because they are so specialized, criminal profilers are often loaned out to homicide teams to help on particular investigations, rather than working with the same team all the time. This is typical of an FBI profiler at the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) for example.
In the United States, you need a degree in psychology, criminology, social sciences or behavioral science to become a profiler. A graduate degree in forensic psychology or similar maximizes your career opportunities. If you are hired at the FBI, you receive specialized training internally at the FBI Academy, over and above whatever you have initially. The basic FBI training takes four months, and it can take a lot longer to get a coveted place at the BAU.
Criminal profilers, whether on staff at law enforcement agencies or independent contractors, work as part of a team investigating all angles of a given crime. The profiler is one specialist in a team of specialists, and that team may break up and reform with different members over time and for each crime. The day-to-day routine of criminal profiling is always in flux. Candidates for this job must be flexible and ready to roll with whatever, and whoever they are assigned.
Years of Experience and Salary
The field of criminal profiling is potentially lucrative one, with the average salary of an FBI criminal profiler at the BAU ranging from at $48,000 to $134,700 plus bonus and benefits for profilers with experience and a relevant master's degree or Ph.D. The pay range reflects the government pay classifications of GS-10 for new agents to GS-15 for highly experienced and educated special agents.
The average salary for criminal profilers who work for state or local police departments varies with the location. In the high-profile, high-crime center of Los Angeles, a criminal profiler can expect to make $54,000 to $79,500 according to a survey at Salary.com. The website SimplyHired puts it even higher with a median criminal profiler salary at $72,000 and going up to six figures.
For state and local policing, the first step is to join the police force you want to work with and work your way up. You'll need a clean criminal record, a driver's license, American citizenship and some education in criminal profiling and psychology.
Job Growth Trend
The criminal profiler job outlook is sunny indeed. Just how sunny depends on who you ask, but there's no question this is a hot field. The annual job growth rate for criminal profilers is estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to be 4 percent, approximately double the average for jobs in the U.S. This is good news for would-be profilers.
Thanks to TV programs like "Criminal Minds," more people are becoming aware of this highly specialized and lucrative field of work and are excited about the prospect of becoming criminal profilers. With the right preparations and patience, this could be you.