How To Become a Criminal Profiler (With Job Info and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2021

Becoming a criminal profiler is a competitive career path because of the training required and the finite demand for this skill set. Nevertheless, it can be a challenging and rewarding career for criminal profilers who complete their studies and secure a job. There is no one path to becoming a criminal profiler. In this article, we discuss how to become a criminal profiler and some frequently asked questions about the profession.

How to become a criminal profiler

Whilst there is not one single defined pathway on how to become a criminal profiler, there are some steps that can help you identify the best route into this career:

1. Take relevant subjects at school or complete adult learning

The right combination of A-levels comes down to exactly which kind of entry path you choose to find a role in criminal profiling. Psychology courses may require you to have taken a science or maths subject at A-level. Similarly, any course with aspects of forensics may suggest that biology or chemistry would be advantageous. If you have left school without suitable qualifications, there are many night schools and adult educational facilities where you could take additional A levels or complete part-time study for a degree in criminology or psychology.

Alternatively, if you want to pursue a career with the police force, a more general mix of subjects can be appropriate for an entry-level position, or you could study forensic or biological science to gain experience and take on a role as a forensic investigator. There are overlaps between the roles of a forensic investigator and a criminal profiler, which may be defined differently depending on your employer.

Related: How to Get Your First Job

2. Decide between vocational training and further study

Since the world of criminal profiling was brought into the spotlight by countless TV shows and films, there has been a surge in the number of courses at UK universities related to forensic profiling, criminal psychology and criminology. All of these degree courses offer great potential for pursuing a career in criminal profiling, although they are not the only way to start your career.

Whether you choose to study criminology at the undergraduate level or gain relevant work experience, there are also options to pursue master's level qualifications, particularly if you want to specialise. Some organisations offer vocational training that leads to a job in criminal profiling. For example, you could start in digital intelligence analysis or crime scene investigation and then make a lateral move to find a role directly involving criminal profiling. You could choose to enter the police force as a police staff member.

Related: 12 Necessary Skills for a Police Officer

3. Gain relevant work experience

Criminal profiling positions may not be available for direct entry to new applicants, so it's well worth reviewing your options for working experience. This could include working in a lab or another investigative function within the police service. If you are working towards a psychology qualification, you need to have the relevant practical experience to fulfil the requirements for formal accreditation.

Related: Forensic Psychologist Job Profile

4. Complete professional accreditation

Roles that specifically involve psychological profiling may have particular requirements for UK accreditation. This usually involves undertaking a three-year Bachelor's degree in psychology on a British Psychological Society accredited course. Luckily there are lots of universities that offer these kinds of courses.

There is also the option to take a further postgraduate course in forensic psychology, which is highly likely to make you more employable. It allows you to show that you have the relevant expertise for the role. Finally, to receive a BPS accreditation in forensic psychology, you must complete two years of supervised practice in a relevant setting. This formal qualification opens up a wide range of psychology careers, including a recognised forensic psychologist working in a criminal profiling role.

What is a criminal profiler?

Criminal profiling is a term used to define a wide range of roles within law enforcement bodies. The role may sometimes be referred to as a forensic profiler, and there is not a single 'criminal profiler' definition that accurately reflects the breadth of this career path. Some roles are specifically for forensic psychologists, which requires a specific qualification, practical experience and accreditation from the British Psychological Society.

Others may require a background in forensic investigation and are open to existing police staff. Roles also exist which focus on crimes committed in the online space, such as scams and fraud, where a cyber security background may be relevant to the job. Either way, the role generally involves analysing crime scenes or patterns of crime to help establish the potential identity of the perpetrator. This may involve behavioural analysis, aspects of psychology and understanding of mental illnesses to provide police and other law enforcement agencies with guidance on where and how to focus their investigations.

What does a criminal profiler do?

The day to day tasks of a criminal psychological profiler can vary, depending on exactly where you work. The role ultimately exists to support law enforcement agencies, such as the police, to focus their investigation on a subset of potential offenders. This helps investigators spend their time and energy on the most likely perpetrators of a criminal act and ultimately identify the correct suspect. Whatever form the job takes, particular skills are relevant for a range of criminal profiling jobs:

  • ability to analyse evidence from a crime scene or witness statement

  • understanding of human behaviours and characteristics that enable an assessment of the likely profile of the perpetrator

  • excellent written skills to produce clear, concise reports that provide a clear indication of facts and differentiate these from judgements or assessments made by the profiler

  • willingness to read reports and study particular aspects of behaviour in great detail to form expertise

  • ability to work cooperatively with a wide range of people from different backgrounds in potentially stressful and time-pressured situations

Criminal profilers may travel with their work to attend crime scenes or meetings with other parts of the legal and judicial systems. They may write detailed reports or be asked to provide concise briefs to senior investigators and attend court proceedings during prosecutions or criminal appeals. A valid UK driving licence is highly likely to be required by most employers due to the travel requirements of the role.

FAQs about careers in criminal profiling

The glamorous side of criminal profiling has been portrayed widely in films and TV shows, but there are lots of questions you might have if you are seriously considering it as a career choice. Here are some:

Do I need a criminal profiler degree to get a job as a criminal profiler?

The short answer is no. There are specialised degrees in criminal psychology or criminal profiling that provide a good background in the subject, but the job occupies the space between psychology and investigation management. You could enter a role as a criminal profiler following a successful career in psychology or start working for the police in an entry-level role and take on additional training that would allow you to work in police criminal profiling.

What kind of organisations employ criminal profilers?

The police forces across the UK are some of the largest employers for criminal profilers, but they are not the only organisations looking for this kind of skill set. The National Crime Agency (NCA) investigates serious organised crime in the UK and may advertise profiling roles. Other government bodies like Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) also have an investigative function, where roles for profilers may be available.

How much do criminal profilers earn in the UK?

There is a range of roles that fall broadly under the category of criminal profiling. Qualified psychologists may earn more than roles that do not require specific professional accreditation. For example, a forensic psychologist may earn £31,365 to £44,503 per year, according to the National Careers Service. Most roles for criminal profilers are in the public sector, and as such, you can expect the salary to be in line with civil service pay, with good provisions for pensions and other benefits that come from working for the government.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌ Please note that none of the organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.