When you teach forensic psychology, a question students frequently ask is how do I become a criminal profiler?

This question also appears on the frequently asked questions section of the FBI website; and given the popularity of the CBS drama criminal minds, the how do I become a profiler question is going to be asked more than ever. The aim of this article, therefore, is to address whether becoming a criminal profiler is a realistic career aspiration. Criminal Profiling in the USA The FBI doesn't actually have employees with the job title profiler. However, special agents at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) at Quantico, Virginia do construct profiles of unknown offenders as well as offering case management advice, threat assessments and interviewing strategies to law enforcement agencies both home and abroad. You cannot simply apply to the FBI and immediately become a NCAVC agent. A basic requirement is three years service as a FBI special agent. However, such is the competition for places, successful candidates tend to have up to 10 years of service behind them along with experience investigating violent and sexual crimes and abductions. In terms of educational requirements an advanced degree in a Behavioral or Forensic Science is often listed as preferred qualification. It is possible to work at the NCAVC without being a special agent. these professional support positions include Intelligence Research Specialists, Violent Crime Resource Specialists, and Crime Analysts. These are essentially research positions so an in-depth knowledge of research methodology, data collection and analysis is required. Whether you are applying to become a NCAVC agent or a research specialist you can expect to have complete a range of written and psychometric tests. Criminal Profiling in the UK If you think getting into profiling work in the USA seems a difficult proposition, the chances of doing it in the UK are even more remote. In 1995 Gary Copson conducted a comprehensive survey of police use of profiling, which among other things addressed the questions, who are the profilers? What are their qualifications? And what do they actually do? Who are the profilers? The Copson study found that profilers define themselves as having relevant expertise for a particular criminal investigation, although this expertise is not confined to one profession or academic discipline. In total 29 profilers were identified in the course of the study, the make-up of which was as follows:

4 forensic psychiatrists, 5 academic psychologists, 4 clinical psychologists, 6 forensic psychologists, 3 therapists (unspecified), 4 British police officers, 1 British police scientist, 1 British police data system analyst, 1 American law enforcement agency. Qualifications Psychiatrists are qualified doctors of medicine who undertake postgraduate training in psychiatry. Psychologists have both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in their specialist area and may have secured chartered status through the governing body that oversees their professional development. Police officers who undertake profiling work have usually studied psychology as a postgraduate. What do they do? With any form of profiling, the principal aim is to generate a behavioural composite of an unknown offender so that it tells you something about the personality of the individual. In the Copson study 184 accounts of profiling are documented. In 111 of these cases the profiler put his/her advice into writing and an analysis of the content of these written reports revealed 10 main areas of advice. This being: Features of the offence Character of the offence Origins of the offender Present circumstances of the offender Criminality of the offender Geography of the offender Predicted future behaviour of the offender Interview strategies to be adopted Threat assessment Specific police recommendations. So you still want to be a criminal profiler? Good for you, but bear in mind that very few people get to do it as a form of career. My advice would be to concentrate on doing well within a broader field e.g.

psychology, while at the same time pursuing your interest in profiling as often as you can. For instance doing a profiling related final year project or dissertation. More Information If you would like to find out more about criminal profiling, the website All About Forensic Psychology has several pages dedicated to the topic. www.all-about-forensic-psychology.com © David Webb