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How to Become a Criminal Profiler: Career & Salary Information

Some people have a particular modus operandi or a specific way in which they do things. Whether they always dot their "I's" with a little squiggle or they tend to pick out the tomatoes from a hamburger, if you become familiar enough with a person's quirks, you will be able to see wherever this person has been by a trail of tomatoes left behind.

Well, the same goes for criminals. Many have a certain way or routine that they go about doing things. If they commit crimes often enough and those crimes are similar, experts may begin seeing trends in these crimes. A whole field within law enforcement is dedicated to assessing commonalities among crimes that the same person may commit.

Criminal profilers bring a unique blend of criminal justice and psychology to apprehend criminals. To pursue this career, you would need to first complete an appropriate degree, you would need to join a law enforcement academy, and you would need to gain experience.

This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting roles within criminal justice and law enforcement. Let us take a deeper look into the careers of criminal profilers.

What Is A Criminal Profiler?

Have you ever wondered why someone does something, what their motive is, or what would possess them to commit some heinous crimes? Well, you aren't be alone. At the crux of their jobs, criminal profilers look at criminal acts and the psychological reasoning behind committing these acts.

But their roles go far beyond that. They closely analyze evidence, data, witness statements, and interviews to compile a profile of the person authorities should be searching for. From a psychological perspective, they draft up a profile of traits of the type of person most likely to commit such crimes.

In cases where some multiple murders or robberies occur, and each seems to bear a striking resemblance to the other, it is the criminal profiler who will assess the commonalities to see if there is a serial killer on the loose.

They draw a detailed profile of the personality, behaviors, emotions, and past and present crimes using psychology and law enforcement to narrow down possible suspects. They do this by establishing patterns.

What Does A Criminal Profiler Do?

The role of a criminal profiler is quite complex. They formulate in-depth psychological profiles that law enforcement will use to identify a criminal. However, the profile they are creating is not a physical one and therefore requires the interviewing of witnesses and meeting possible suspects to pinpoint the most likely suspect.

While members of law enforcement work closely with criminal profilers to find suspects, this is an extremely sensitive task to match personality traits, which is where the criminal profiler comes in once again to assess and interview possible suspects.

The greatest duty that a criminal profiler has is to look at different crimes to establish a criminal profile. They look at what has been committed and possible motives to determine who would commit such crimes.

They assess behavioral patterns of criminals based on established psychological theories and conduct personality tests on criminals who have been apprehended to assess the threat, if any, that these criminals may pose to society.

Aside from building a personality profile, criminal profilers also put together a geographical profile that can help law enforcement pinpoint an area where a suspect is at large. This helps narrow down the search for those guilty of committing a crime.

Additionally, owing to the psychological nature of their job, they would need to continuously attend and conduct training to stay up to date with current and developing processes in the same way a medical doctor would constantly need to attend training on pharmaceutical developments and medical research.

Lastly, based on the profiles they develop, and matches made by law enforcement, criminal profilers may need to testify in court stating why the suspect fits the profile they have developed.

Steps To Become A Criminal Profiler

The duties and responsibilities of a criminal profiler are enormous. They hold the job of creating a criminal profile and matching a suspect to that profile without a shadow of a doubt to allow for an accurate conviction. One mishap could have dire consequences.

Here are the steps you would need to follow for those who thrive on responsibility to pursue a career as a criminal profiler.

Step One: Decide If The Role Is Right For You

As with every career, the decision to follow a specific path begins during your foundational academic career in high school. It is here where you will decide what career you hope to pursue and what educational path you need to take.

Once you decide to pursue the vocational prospect of a criminal profiler, with your high school diploma or GED in hand, you can pursue your academic studies in that field.

Step Two: Obtain A Qualification

At the very least, to be a criminal profiler, you would need a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, criminal psychology, forensic sciences, or a degree in a related field.

However, suppose you hope to grow and obtain higher-level roles within criminal profiling. In that case, many individuals pursue a higher degree, such as a master's degree in psychology or criminal justice.

Step Three: Join A Law Enforcement Academy

Whether you are hoping to join general law enforcement or you are hoping to become a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), you will need to join either the police academy or the FBI academy, respectively.

Academy training will equip you with the direct hands-on experience that you would need to pursue a career as a criminal profiler.

Step Four: Obtain Clearance

You would need extensive background checks, credit checks, and polygraph and personality assessments to ensure that you are a viable candidate for the role of a criminal profiler.

Step Five: Gain Experience

Whether through an internship, working as a volunteer in law enforcement, or shadowing a more experienced criminal profiler, you would need to gain direct experience.

Some skills that criminal profilers possess can only be obtained through years of experience. Working hand-in-hand with those more experienced than you will allow you to be exposed to some of the experience they have acquired over the years.

While you may not gain experience immediately, you will see what a recommended path for you is to follow and how you will succeed in your career.

Step Six: Apply For A Role

You are now ready to pursue a role as a criminal profiler. Now that you know what the role entails and the immense responsibility that criminal profilers carry in law enforcement, you can apply for a role as a criminal profiler.

What Degree Do You Need To Be A Criminal Profiler?

At the very least, you would require a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology, or forensic sciences to be considered for the role of a criminal profiler. However, if you are hoping to gain more responsibility and pursue a higher role, a higher degree would contribute to your success in that role.

What Is The Average Salary For A Criminal Profiler?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for psychologists is $81,040, according to data collected and compiled in May 2021.

What Makes A Good Criminal Profiler?

Given the challenging role of a criminal profiler, a candidate must possess several innate and acquired skills to be successful in this role. They would need to be able to approach a psychological evaluation with objectivity and with a keen sense of viewing things that may not always be obvious to others.

They would need to possess the skills of critical thinking, crime scene analysis, and superior communication skills as they would need to work with other law enforcement personnel, witnesses, and suspects, and they would be required to present data, findings, and profiles to the court.

They would also need to possess an aptitude for biology, anatomy, chemistry, and physics.


How Long Does It Take To Be A Criminal Profiler?

From completing a bachelor's degree, attending an academy, gaining experience, and engaging in ongoing training, it can take about six or seven years to become a suitable candidate for a criminal profiler.

What Qualities Do You Need To Be A Criminal Profiler?

In simple terms, you would need to successfully use your head and your heart. You need to possess critical thinking skills and an aptitude for using logic, reasoning, and analytical skills.

But you would also need to possess integrity, morality, objectivity, and, to some degree, sympathy.

You would need to understand the psychological workings of the human mind and be able to utilize complex problem-solving methodologies to assist you in compiling the criminal profile.

What Should I Major In If I Want To Be A Profiler?

The major of your bachelor's degree should be in criminal justice or psychology if you are hoping to pursue a role as a criminal profiler.

How Many Hours A Week Do Criminal Profilers Work?

While criminal profilers don't actively work in the field and often conduct their operations in an office or a lab, they are generally expected to work about 40 hours a week. Sometimes they may be required to work longer hours, especially in time-sensitive cases.

While they do not actively do field work, they may opt to visit crime scenes to establish a more accurate understanding of the criminal mind.


Criminal profiling is a lucrative career. It is a fundamental role in the criminal justice system that carries a great authority and responsibility. While you may not be the one to apprehend criminals, through your hard work and outstanding psychological analysis skills, you make the world a safer place.

find criminal justice degrees near you

find criminal justice degrees near you