It's easy to see why mystery buffs consider Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes to be the original criminal profiler. He was wise and analytical; an open-minded thinker who understood that solving crimes requires more deductive reasoning skills than inductive ones, putting to rest the myth that only those with superior intuitions can do the job correctly. If you're intrigued with the field, prepare to get the best education possible to attain your goal.
Things You'll Need
- Degree in criminal justice
- Post-graduate training (master's degree preferred)
- Law enforcement experience
Obtain early preparation for entry into the field by reading books on the subject, taking behavioral and analytical science classes, and attending lectures and workshops designed to help you understand your own personal thinking, biases and predispositions for making assumptions. Profilers must be able to compartmentalize to do an effective job.
Expect your role as a criminal profiler to revolve around a methodical search into the victim's lifestyle, behaviors, associates and habits. Crime-solving requires investigating the way victims lived if conclusions are to be reached about how they died.
Obtain a degree in criminal justice with an emphasis on the psychology of criminal behavior. You'll learn the ins and outs of deductive profiling, including how to question assumptions, analyze opinions and premises, and take apart the patterns and behaviors of suspects. You'll also learn to spot personal transference issues that are known to dog even the best profilers.
Launch your career as a foot soldier in any type of criminal justice field and amass at least three years in the job before you begin to pursue a profiler job. Criminal profiling, once relegated to huge agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Secret Service, is fast becoming a staple within the confines of smaller law enforcement agencies. That stated, these agencies fill their ranks with candidates offering the best mix of real-world experience with at least an undergraduate degree. Optimal candidates will also list a master's degree in behavioral criminal justice to their vitae.
Maximize on-the-job opportunities to add to your skill set by taking post-graduate courses in forensics and criminology. Your ability to determine who perpetrated a crime will be greatly enhanced by your understanding of crime scene evidence like wound analysis, bloodstain patterns and bullet trajectories. Physical evidence will round out your theories on how and why crimes are committed.
Become a master communicator. Profilers are frequently designated point people atop the pyramid of criminalists, law enforcement personnel, medical examiners, witnesses and families of both suspects and victims. You may even be tapped to interface with the media. Given these diverse populations, expect to juggle many hats as you sift facts from theories to produce the epiphany that closes a case.
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