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While the adventure of solving crimes may tempt you to consider a career as a criminal profiler, keep in mind that the job is detail-oriented, involving methodical examination of often distasteful, violent materials. Profilers apply the scientific method to crime scene evidence to make hypotheses about a criminal's physical characteristics, habits and psychological traits. A thirst for adventure alone will not make you a good profiler -- you also have to be methodical, diligent, persistent and reliable.
Wise -- Like an Owl
Profilers must have a drive to acquire knowledge, the discipline to complete an advanced degree and the curiosity necessary to learn new subject areas as the situation dictates. The Federal Bureau of Investigation typically looks for profilers who have earned degrees in psychology, sociology and criminology. In addition to knowing the intricacies of the criminal mind, a profiler must understand the criminal justice system, know how to apply the scientific method to criminal investigation and understand evidence collection and processing methods.
Industrious -- Like an Ant
Often a profiler receives an old case, after traditional crime-solving techniques have failed, according to The Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency. You might have to start from scratch, carefully reading and rereading police reports and examining every detail of crime-scene photos. There are seldom easy answers and you'll need the determination and persistence to spend months and even years on a case that others have been unable to solve. You'll need to painstakingly apply the scientific method and logic, questioning others conclusions and testing new theories, often one at a time.
Independent -- Like a Cat
Although criminal profilers have received years of mentoring during their training and education, much of their day-to-day work is alone, especially if your employer is a small detective agency. Because so much of their work involves questioning colleagues, identifying liars and uncovering fraud, good profilers have a thick skin, maintaining a degree of authority and objectivity, even while they work with colleagues. In addition to your day-to-day autonomy, many positions require frequent travel, so you have to be willing to be away from your family for work.
Organized -- Like a Beaver
Examining a large volume of data requires an organized, logical mind. You have to be able to organize and re-categorize data based on different characteristics such as location, age of the victims or season in which the crimes occurred. Because a profiler is sometimes required to testify in court, you'll have to write your results in a concise, clear fashion, be able to present these thoughts and theories logically to both laypersons and peers and be able to spontaneously answer questions.
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Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.
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