If you enjoy figuring out what makes people tick or if you like to try to solve crime mysteries, then a job as a criminal profiler might be right for you. Criminal profilers analyze the psychology and motivations of criminals in an attempt to predict their next move and apprehend them. Criminal profilers can work for a variety of organizations, including police departments, the FBI, or even on their own as private detectives. Becoming a profiler is a tough path that involves years of hard work and perseverance.
There is no required educational path to become a criminal profiler and certifications are not required. You should at least have an undergraduate degree, although having a master's degree or Ph.D. might improve your chances of being picked over other job candidates. You don't need a degree in specific criminal profiling programs either. Most criminal profilers have degrees in psychology or the more specific area of forensics psychology or criminal justice. Taking courses in the topics of police investigation or death investigation can also help. After you graduate, you should continue to attend seminars and conferences on profiling to stay up-to-date.
Getting experience in areas related to criminal profiling is also important to being hired as a criminal profiler. Finding a profiler to work with is ideal but difficult. You should be open to taking any job or volunteer opportunity that is at all related to profiling. Work or volunteer with the victims unit of a law-enforcement agency, a psychiatric organization, a prison, or even a funeral home. You can list any of this experience on your resume and it will help you find a profiling job.
To be a good profiler, you should have a logical mind and enjoy solving puzzles. You should be the type of person who will keep struggling for answers even after you're tired and have been working for a long time. You should be persistent and not easily discouraged. A good profiler should be able to spot liars and have a healthy cynicism about people. A person who is overly emotional, easily spooked, has an addictive personality or is always surprised by people acting in unexpected ways would not make a good profiler.
Finding the Job
Most profilers work in the behavioral unit of a law-enforcement agency. The FBI, for example, has a Behavioral Science Unit within its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. A common way to become a profiler is to be hired by the FBI or local police department as an entry-level law-enforcement officer, work your way into the violent crimes unit over time, and hope to eventually be picked as a profiler for the behavioral unit. Another route is to join a behavior unit directly in a non-profiler job, such as a researcher, administrator or psychologist, and eventually prove yourself to be a good profiler. You can also hire yourself out as a consultant and work independently. It can take time to build your resume this way, so you will likely need a side job to help pay the bills, such as working as an expert witness or working at a law firm.
Getting a certification in criminal profiling by the International Criminal Investigative Analysis Fellowship can help those who are already in law enforcement become specialized criminal profilers. To qualify for the certification exam, you must first be chosen as an understudy. This requires being sponsored by a full fellow of the ICIAF. Understudies must also already be working as a sworn officer of a national or state law-enforcement agency, have 10 years experience in basic police patrol work, two years of experience investigating violent crimes, and have a reputation for being a skilled investigator. The examination itself involves analyzing a criminal case that was previously profiled by a certified ICIAF member, preparing a written report and defending the report in front of a board.