After watching movies and television shows devoted to criminal investigations, many students find themselves looking online at how to become a criminal profiler. Before you imagine yourself in Jodie Foster’s role in The Silence of the Lambs, keep in mind that profiling isn’t necessarily a career. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and similar government agencies hire agents to analyze data and other information to create profiles, but those agencies do not specifically hire profilers. You will need to put in the time and work as an agent prior to doing any type of profiling work.
Go to College
The first step towards your future career is a college degree. The FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies will not hire workers who do not have a bachelor degree unless that individual has a two year degree and several years of government or military experience. While in college, you’ll want to study psychology, criminal justice, law, sociology and communications. Most of those working in profiling careers today have a large amount of psychology experience and some experience in law or forensics as well.
Attend Graduate School
Before you can become a criminal profiler, you might find it helpful to attend graduate school as well. Graduate school lets you specialize your bachelor’s degree and focus more in depth on that topic. If you study psychology in college, you might study forensic psychology or abnormal psychology in graduate school. You’ll also have the chance to write a thesis on a topic from your studies. This gives you some practical experience that you can list on your resume and talk about during interviews when you apply for agent jobs later. Some students find it helpful to craft a thesis around a new area of forensics or how the FBI uses psychology.
Develop Strong Skills
Mary Ellen O’Toole, a Ph.D holder and former FBI agent, recommends that future profilers develop the right skills prior to applying for jobs. O’Toole specifically recommends that students gain investigation skills and points out that many agents have 15 years or more of criminal investigation experience before working their way up to profiling positions. You will also want to develop strong research and writing skills. Even lower level agents must put together detailed reports, and the stronger your reports are, the faster you can work your way up through the ranks.
Apply for Criminal Jobs
Though you might want to become a criminal profiler right out of college, you need to pay your dues. Once you finish your studies, apply for jobs with the FBI or similar government agencies. After going through an extensive background check and several interviews, the FBI requires that all future employees go through several months of training at its compound in Virginia. The FBI will then assign you to a field office, and you must agree to go where the agency sends you. There is no guarantee that you’ll get a job in an office in your hometown.
Related Resource: Criminal Researcher
Criminal profiling jobs are significantly different in real life than those positions appear in films and on television. You can expect to spend most of your time working in an office and doing research. Before you can become a criminal profiler, you must pay your dues, which may involve working for 10 or more years in other fields first.