Pros and Cons of Being a Criminal Profiler – Become a Criminal Profiler [2024 Guide]

What is a Criminal Profiler?

A criminal profiler is a specialist that uses their training in psychology to create profiles about people accused of serious crimes. These profiles are developed with a strong understanding of human behavior, statistics, and forensic information.

For example, in a murder case, a criminal profiler would examine forensic evidence, crime scene photos, and details about the victim, and create a list of traits that the suspect is likely to have. This information can also be used to predict the suspect’s future behavior.

Using this information, law enforcement agencies can narrow their search for suspects and increase the likelihood that a suspect will be found and apprehended. Information provided by a profiler can also help law enforcement devise methods of interrogating the suspect once they’re apprehended.

Criminal profilers often play a key role in procuring search warrants based on probable cause. They frequently testify in criminal court cases as well.

Criminal profiling is extremely interesting work but is likely not as dramatic or exciting as it’s made out to be on TV and in movies. Profilers aren’t mind readers or psychics, nor do they typically kick down doors, carry weapons, or join field agents in manhunts.

Instead, criminal profilers often work in office settings where they pour over the details of a case, conduct psychological research, and consult with detectives, investigators, and other stakeholders.

What are the Pros and Cons of Being a Criminal Profiler?

Criminal profiling is extremely interesting work and can be highly satisfying work, too. It can also be very stressful and require you to work long hours during the week (and on nights and weekends, too). In other words, it’s a mixed bag, just like any job!

Below are some of the top benefits and detriments of having a career in this field.

Pro No. 1 – You Can Help Improve Community Safety

As discussed earlier, criminal profilers work with various law enforcement agencies to identify potential suspects in serious crimes. By providing law enforcement with a profile, you can help them identify a pool of potential suspects, help them predict the suspect’s next move, and shed light on why the suspect is behaving in the way they are.

All of this information can prove extremely valuable in catching criminals. And in doing so, the insights you provide can get dangerous people off the street and ensure a greater level of safety in the community.

Pro No. 2 – Criminal Profiling is Very Exciting Work

While being a criminal profiler might not be as dramatic as it’s displayed on screen, it’s still a very exciting field of work. Think of it like solving a large puzzle with many pieces that are still missing.

To solve the puzzle, you rely on your understanding of psychology and criminology, make predictions about human behavior based on forensic evidence, and use statistics to determine probabilities. It’s certainly not a job for the faint of heart, and each day of work will likely provide you with more exciting tasks.

Pro No. 3 – This is an In-Demand Job

Jobs in this field are constantly in demand because crime is, unfortunately, a constant in our society. Likewise, high turnover in the field of law enforcement means that there are often jobs to be filled after someone retires or quits to pursue a different job.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in policing are expected to grow at a seven percent rate through the end of the decade. Jobs in the field of psychology are predicted to grow at an eight percent rate over the same period. This is about average for all jobs.

As discussed in the next section, this is a job that can be had in virtually all corners of the country, too. So not only is this a job that should see continued, steady growth, but it’s also a job you can pursue virtually anywhere.

Pro No. 4 – You Can Work in Many Different Settings

Criminal profilers work for small, medium, and large law enforcement agencies. They work in rural areas, suburban areas, and urban areas as well. Some profilers are employed by local or state agencies, while others work for federal agencies like the FBI.

Additionally, you can work for yourself and be a profiling consultant. If you don’t want to deal with being self-employed, you might also work for a research firm, a private investigation firm, or even a foreign government.

Pro No. 5 – Many Criminal Profiling Jobs Come With Excellent Benefits

This isn’t a job that will make you rich quickly, but it does often come with good benefits as part of the compensation package.

For example, if you’re employed by a law enforcement agency, you might expect to have a state-funded retirement program, health insurance, and paid time off. You might even be able to retire after 20 years of service like a police officer and enjoy your golden years before you’re even that old!

Pro No. 6 – This is Satisfying Work

Working as a criminal profiler is satisfying on a number of different levels. You can help apprehend suspects. You can also help law enforcement be better at their job. There’s the benefit of protecting the community and helping victims move on with their lives as well.

Not all jobs allow you to make the world a better place, but as a criminal profiler, you’ll have that opportunity each day.

Pro No. 7 – There are Many Opportunities for Additional Training

Criminal profilers need a lot of training and experience to hone their craft, and that’s a good thing. You might be asked to take classes that focus on particular types of profiling or crimes. Additionally, you might be asked to train others in the techniques and methods you use.Every case you work on is an opportunity to learn more and contribute to research in this field as well. The work you do now might help a profiler crack a case in the future. Your work is that important!

Pro No. 8 – There’s Multiple Ways to Become a Profiler

If you want to enter this field of work, there’s a variety of paths you can take. Commonly, profilers start with an undergraduate degree, then get some experience in law enforcement, then get a master’s degree (which is discussed in more detail below).

But, you might work in law enforcement first, then get your undergraduate and graduate degrees. Alternatively, you might complete your undergraduate and graduate degrees, then work in law enforcement. The sequence in which you finish these steps is much less important than getting the educational training and experience working in the field.

Pro No. 9 – Your Work Can Bring Closure to Victims

The work you do in profiling criminals can lead to the apprehension of dangerous suspects. It can also help prosecutors successfully try the suspect in court and send them to jail. This can help give victims (or, if the victim is deceased, their loved ones) closure and allow them to move on from a very dark and traumatizing period in their lives.

Pro No. 10 – You Can Add to the Body of Research

As noted earlier, your work today might help a criminal profiler in the future to do their job. This is an underrated benefit of this type of work. While your services can certainly improve people’s lives in the here and now, the work you do will add to the greater understanding of criminal behavior.

Pro No. 11 – Your Training Can Lead to Different Careers

The education and training you undergo to become a criminal profiler can be used in other careers as well.

For example, if you get undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, you might transition from criminal profiling to working as a psychologist. If your education is in criminal justice, you might become a college teacher to train future generations of criminal justice students.

Additionally, you might use your experience in psychology and law enforcement to develop training programs for profilers or develop course materials or textbooks for college courses. The possibilities are virtually endless!

Con No. 1 – This is Very Stressful Work

To say that criminal profiling is high-stress, high-stakes work is an understatement. You will often be called to work on the most horrific cases when time is of the essence. Not only are you likely to feel intrinsic pressure to perform well, but you’ll also feel extrinsic pressure to give law enforcement the information they need to find their suspect.

Additionally, there is a lot of pressure to be as accurate as possible. Though profiling is based on tried-and-true techniques and available evidence, it’s still a bit of a guessing game based on predictions of human behavior.

Con No. 2 – The Hours Can Be Irregular

Just like psychologists that are on call or detectives and investigators working a big case, criminal profilers will experience periods in which they have to work long days, nights, and weekends. You might miss holiday gatherings, too. Investigating crimes isn’t something that can be done later – time is always of the essence, so when your expertise is needed, you’ll have to answer the call.

Con No. 3 – Much of the Job is Administrative in Nature

Criminal profiling certainly has a lot of exciting moments, but there are also a lot of mundane tasks that must be completed.

For example, every case you work on requires that you keep detailed notes. These notes might be retained by law enforcement agencies for criminal files or might be requested by attorneys to prosecute or defend a suspect. Of course, your work must be documented in order to develop the criminal profile in the first place!

Con No. 4 – Some Cases are Hard to Forget

As a criminal profiler, you will work on cases that shock you and even make you physically ill. You will see crime scene photos, examine forensic evidence, and will also spend a lot of time conducting research on criminal behavior.

This kind of work is not for the faint of heart. And even those that have the ability to compartmentalize their work will sometimes be unable to escape the gory details of a case. It’s important that you identify healthy ways of coping with your work to avoid burning out.

Is Becoming a Criminal Profiler Hard?

Becoming a criminal profiler isn’t necessarily hard, but it is time-consuming. To begin, you’ll need an undergraduate degree, preferably in psychology, criminal justice, or perhaps a combination of the two.

The next step is to attend a law enforcement academy to get the needed police training for the job. Then, you might work as an officer or agent in a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency for a few years.

As you work in law enforcement, you’ll gain valuable experience and have the opportunity to participate in training related to forensic psychology and profiling. However, you’ll need advanced training to become a criminal profiler.

The final step in becoming a criminal profiler is to get an advanced degree, like a master of science in forensic psychology or something very similar. A master’s degree program gives you the educational background and forensic training you need to understand and predict human behavior. Combined with the investigative experience you get while working in law enforcement, your advanced education will prepare you well for becoming a profiler.

How Much Does a Criminal Profiler Earn?

The salary you can earn as a criminal profiler varies widely and depends on many factors, but a base pay you might expect is around $83,640 per year. This is the mean yearly salary for police detectives and investigators, according to the BLS.

Another figure we can use to inform our understanding of a criminal profiler’s salary is the mean annual wage for psychologists. The BLS estimates that psychologists earn $81,040 per year, so wages for this career might fall somewhere in between.

However, where you work is a large factor in determining how much you make. For example, if you work for a small or medium-sized police department, you might earn less than someone in a similar position in a very large police department.

Likewise, if you’re a self-employed profiler and contract your services to various agencies, the likelihood is very high that you will earn far above the mean.

Other factors that might affect how much you earn include your level of education, your experience level, and the geographic location in which you work. Typically profilers in urban areas earn more money than those in rural areas.

Why are Criminal Profilers Important?

The importance of criminal profilers cannot be understated. Their contributions to investigations can be crucial in identifying and arresting suspects of major crimes.

And while police detectives and investigators can be very good at what they do, not all detectives and investigators have the proper training in psychology, criminology, and profiling to do this kind of work.

Therefore, criminal profilers are key cogs in the investigative machine. As discussed above, they can help bring criminals to justice more quickly, enhance community safety, and ultimately help us develop a better understanding of why people commit crimes.

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