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A criminal profiler is a psychologist geared toward helping law enforcement solve criminal cases. Though many are trained and work at the federal level for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, other professionals, like police officers and local detectives, employ various profiling techniques to identify suspects and end criminal activity.
The FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, is home to the Behavioral Science Unit, which has trained special agents and other law enforcement officials in psychological profiling techniques since the 1970s. Some special agents devote all of their time to teaching or applying the behavior sciences to criminal investigations, not just at the federal level, but unsolved crimes at the local and state level, as well. Special agent candidates must be citizens between 23 and 37, with bachelor's degrees or better in certain specialties like accounting, criminal justice, computer science and, in the case of most profilers, psychology or another behavioral science.
The FBI Academy isn't the only place where profiling techniques are taught and practiced. Professors and police academy instructors nationwide include this subject as part of a well-rounded criminal justice education. Those earning advanced graduate degrees in criminal justice and psychology, or double majors in the two at the bachelor's level, are most often the dedicated practitioners and teachers of criminal profiling, according to criminology professor Dale Nute at Florida State University. A bachelor's in psychology, a master's in criminology and career experience with investigations would best set a job candidate apart, Nute advises.
Police and Detectives
Either patrolling a beat or working cases as a detective, police officers at the local and state level perform criminal profiling to narrow down and identify suspects of crime. Included in most academies' investigative training education are components that delve into identifying suspects according to proper procedures. Though the levels of profiling that is acceptable -- especially in matters of race -- has met with various levels of debate through the history of policing, it's undeniable that all police on the front lines of law enforcement require a profiler's eye for identifying who's breaking the law and why.
Some special investigators outside the FBI offer their services as consultants to law enforcement agencies and private individuals looking into potential wrongdoing. Others work for additional official agencies. According to the FBI Academy, not just special agents attended classes conducted by the Behavioral Science Unit; military and intelligence officers, lower-level law enforcement investigators and academics all participate.
Dan Harkins has been a full-time journalist since 1997. Prior to working in the alternative press, he served as a staff writer and editor for daily publications such as the "St. Petersburg Times" and "Elyria Chronicle-Telegram." Harkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Florida.