With the popularity of television shows like Criminal Minds and CSI, along with a number of movies that depict the job, has come an ever increasing interest in the task of criminal profiling.

The criminal profiler is often seen as a bit of magician, weaving their psychological abilities to make predictions about potential suspects, who they might be and where they might strike next.

But is this accurate? Are there really criminal profilers out there that have these abilities to get into the minds of criminals, and if so how can you go about getting into a career in criminal profiling.

Before talking about how to become a criminal profiler it’s probably a good idea to look at the actual work done by criminal profilers to try and separate myth from fact.

What Is Criminal Profiling?

A criminal profiler takes on the task of assessing a crime that has been committed, and trying to put together a psychological profile of the sort of person that would have committed that crime based on the type of crime that took place, and how it was was carried out.

The criminal profiler will look at the actions of the criminal when they committed the crime, as well as in the period of leading up to and following the crime.

They’ll then combine this information with any evidence gathered at the scene of the crime, and they’ll start to build their profile based on this evidence and how it matches with accepted knowledge on things like personality types, to create a hypothetical profile of the offender.

Basically the idea is to make educated guesses about the personality traits, behavioral traits, potential psychological disorders  and so on and use this information along with the physical evidence to narrow down the field of suspects

How Does Criminal Profiling Work?

The basic assumption with criminal profiling is that a person’s personality is the key driver behind their behaviors. So by reverse engineering their behaviors, you can arrive at a fairly accurate profile of their personality.

To build this personality profile, they’ll gather as much information as they can about the behaviors of the criminal through a number of different phases surrounding the crime.

So for example in the case of a homicide, these might be the sort of phases that the criminal profiler will work through

Lead Up To The Crime

The profiler will try and gather information about the planning stages of the murder. What was their plan? Did they have a plan? What caused them to commit the crime when they did?

The Details Of The Crime Itself

Next they may move to the crime that was committed and look at the details of what happened.

Who was the victim, and why was that person chosen? How was the victim murdered?

Cleaning Up The Crime

What happened immediately after the murder was committed? Was the body disposed of immediately or left for some time? How was the body disposed of? Where was it left?

After The Crime

What if any were the actions after the crime had been committed? Was the perpetrator contacting authorities/media or remaining silent? Were they taunting authorities?

By working their way through the various stages of the crime, the criminal  profiler is being as organized as possible in their approach and building the most comprehensive profile they can based on the information at hand.

Using This Information

All this information is useless if the criminal profiler has nothing to compare it to, and no way of analyzing it based on previous research and study into human behavior, criminal behavior, personality types, psychological disorders and so on.

So a big part of successful criminal profiling is building up this knowledge through education, training, research and evaluations.

How To Become A Criminal Profiler

Criminal profiling is a relatively new kind of career and as such, there is no widespread, common education path as you would find with many other careers like psychology or forensic science.

But there are definitely certain degrees, courses and training options available that can help you land a job as a criminal profiler.

Criminal Profiling Degree?

At the moment there isn’t a criminal profiling degree that you can enroll in.

But there are many different degree programs that you can enroll in which will give you a chance to build the sort of knowledge and skills that will become invaluable in a career in criminal profiling.

The best degrees for you to enroll in would be either forensic science, criminology or psychology related.

It’s also a good idea to go beyond your initial degree and complete some postgraduate studies as well – the higher your qualifications and more extensive your knowledge, the easier you will find it to start working.


One of the most popular ways to get into criminal profiling is by landing a job with the FBI.

You won’t be able to start working in criminal profiling with the FBI immediately – you’ll need to work in some other areas with them first before you get the chance to move.

Working Independently

If you don’t really want to work for the FBI, it’s also possible to go out on your own and work privately.

The toughest part of this is building up your reputation enough that people will want to hire you, and also having enough knowledge about marketing and advertising for them to find you in the first place.

Criminal Profiling Career & Salary Details

Criminal profiling is a fairly limited career path to be honest, While it is possible to work in this field, you need to have some fairly special skills to stand out and gain a reputation for yourself.

It’s a good idea to have another string to your bow that not only helps you as a criminal profiler, but also provides you with other streams of income.

A good example would be working as a forensic scientist or forensic psychologist – these careers give you the chance to work within the industry, build up some contacts, skills and experience and potentially get more work in criminal profiling once your reputation is established.


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