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What Does a Criminal Profiler Do? - Job Description & Salary

Find out what it takes to work as a criminal profiler. Read about their job duties, necessary education, employment outlook, and potential salary to see if this is the right career for you.

Criminal Profiler Overview

Criminal profilers work as part of a law enforcement team, and they focus on understanding criminal behavior. Most profilers work for the FBI and use their expertise in criminal psychology and crime scene investigation to compile lists of possible suspects and patterns of behavior to arrest criminals. The table below outlines the necessary education and median salary of a criminal profiler.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Psychology, forensics, criminal justice, sociology are recommended
Training Law enforcement academy, FBI academy
Key Responsibilities Conducting personality assessments, investigating and reconstructing crime scenes, assessing and managing threats, writing reports, analyzing data
Job Growth (2018-2028) 3% (for all detectives and criminal investigators)*
Median Wage (2018) $81,920 (for all detectives and criminal investigators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Criminal Profiler Do?

Criminal profiling, which is also known as criminal investigative analysis, is the work of analyzing the psychological patterns of criminals to create a mental or physical description of potential suspects. Criminal profilers typically work alongside regular law enforcement officers to forensically analyze crime scenes to reconstruct the events and look for evidence, interview suspects and witnesses, geographically track crimes, testify in court, and write reports. Many profilers work with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit and respond to cases all over the country, though they may also for for other law enforcement agencies or in private practice.

How Do I Become a Criminal Profiler?

Because criminal profiling requires a highly specialized skillset, entry-level positions in this field are uncommon. Most criminal profilers finish their formal college education and go on to attend a local law enforcement academy. From there, it is common to work as a law enforcement officer for several years to gain experience. To become an FBI agent, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree and 1-2 years of relevent experience. It typically takes many years of experience as an agent (7-10 is common) before you can apply to the BAU. At that point, the BAU agents must complete additional training in behavioral analysis and profiling before they work as a criminal profiler.

What Should I Study?

There are several degree paths that can prepare you for a career as a criminal profiler. Criminal justice and psychology are common backgrounds, though forensics, law enforcement, and sociology may also be relevant. A master's degree is also helpful for this position, and a prospective profiler could consider earning a degree in forensic psychology.

How Much Could I Earn as a Criminal Profiler?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for all detective and investigators was $81,920 in 2018. Depending on what state you work in and your experience, you can expect to make anywhere from $43,800 to $138,860 annually, according to the BLS. The salary for those working in the FBI is based on the federal pay scale, which is based on their experience and education. For instance, a profiler at the GS-10 level earned between $48,297 and $62,787 in 2018.

What are Some Similar Careers?

Regular law enforcement positions, such as police officers or police detectives, work very closely with criminal profilers. However, they have a less specialized skillset, and could be required to respond to a range of incidents, including traffic violations, domestic disputes, break-ins, and other emergencies. They are also stationed locally, and typically do not cross county or state lines when they work.

Forensic technicians also work on crime scenes. They use advanced equipment to identify DNA evidence, take crime scene photos, and do blood spatter analysis to reconstruct the details of a crime. Unlike profilers, they do not interview suspects, and much of their work is performed in a lab.