Careers in Psychology: Psychology and Law
So You Want To Be a Profiler?
After the television show “The Profiler” aired, many students across the country thought that
criminal profiling looked like an interesting job. After all, profilers can read the minds of
criminals and use psychological skills and knowledge to track serial killers, right?
No, not really. In fact, the FBI does not even have a job category called “profiler.” Instead,
the tasks associated with profiling are performed by Supervisory Special Agents assigned to
the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) at Quantico, Virginia. One
of the basic requirements is that you must have served as an FBI special agent for 3 to 5
years with experience in violent crimes, homicides, child abduction, and other task forces.
An advanced degree in behavioral or forensic science is preferred, but applicants should
pursue a degree in a discipline that interests them most. Becoming a special agent does not
guarantee eventual assignment as a profiler. For information about joining the FBI, consult
their website at www.fbi.gov. A list of frequently-asked questions appears at
www.fbi.gov/employment/faq.htm. Even outside of the FBI, very few full-time positions
are available for individuals who are interested in profiling. Instead, most psychologists
who work as profilers also work as police or correctional psychologists. (See the end of this
flier for an interesting essay on profiling.)
What is Forensic Psychology?
“Forensic” simply means the interface between psychology and the legal system. Forensic
psychology is concerned with applying psychological knowledge to understand crime and
other legal concerns. For an overview of the field, consult the following resources:
Brigham, J. C. (1999). What is forensic psychology, anyway? Law & Human
Behavior, 23, 273-298. (Library catalog number K12.A822x)
The web site for the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS), the national
organization for ps