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Become a FBI Profiler: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become an FBI profiler. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in criminal profiling. View article »

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  • 0:01 Should I Become an FBI…
  • 0:59 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:25 Gain Experience & Apply
  • 3:26 Complete FBI Training
  • 4:00 Get Assigned at the NCAVC
  • 4:53 Career Advancement…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an FBI Profiler?

In the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI agents who use research and analysis to identify various characteristics of an unknown perpetrator might be commonly referred to as profilers, but this is not an official FBI title. Criminal profiling at the federal level is actually carried out by professionals known as Supervisory Special Agents, who commonly work at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) in Quantico, VA. As of January 2016, the median annual pay for FBI agents was $63,595, according to Payscale.com.

Working in this, or any law enforcement field, can be dangerous, physically demanding, and stressful. Use of a firearm and travel may be required in order to carry out the duties of this profession.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The FBI requires all agents to hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited U.S. college. Candidates with military or law enforcement experience are not exempt from this education requirement. The FBI does not require agents to have a degree in a specific program, though aspiring FBI profilers should choose a degree program that will help develop the critical skills they need to analyze criminal behavior and develop suspect profiles. Suggested degree programs include psychology, criminology, or sociology.

At this stage, prospective profilers can help their later chances of success in a variety of ways:

  • Participate in an internship. Finding in an internship can help a student expand his or her education outside of a classroom environment and gain hands-on training in the field. Specifically, students can apply for internships directly through the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), where FBI profilers work.
  • Begin building physical strength. Since a physical examination is part of the FBI application process, students should begin building their strength and endurance early.
  • Consider an advanced degree. While a bachelor's is the required minimum for employment with the FBI, the FBI also reports that the Behavioral Analysis Unit consists of Supervisory Special Agents who possess advanced degrees. Earning an advanced degree could increase a candidate's chances of being hired into the unit later in his or her career.

Gain Experience & Apply

Candidates must work in a position related to their degree for a minimum of 3 years before applying to the FBI. The FBI recommends that candidates interested in working in profiling positions as Supervisory Special Agents have extensive knowledge and experience working with homicides, rapes, child abductions, and threats prior to applying to become a Special Agent. As a result, interested candidates might consider working for local law enforcement as homicide or missing persons investigators.

U.S. citizens ranging from 23-36 years old can apply to be FBI agents. Applicants must pass a hearing and vision test and a fitness test that consists of a 1.5 mile run, push-ups, sprinting, and sit ups. The application process also includes a medical evaluation, polygraph test, credit check, drug test, and employment check. Any applicants with felony convictions, student loans in default, and those not registered with the Selective Service System are immediately disqualified.

Complete FBI Training

Selected applicants will attend a 20-week training program at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Agents receive classroom and Web-based instruction in subjects including law, investigative practices, forensics, behavioral science, and ethics. To prepare new agents for common scenarios Special Agents experience, trainees will conduct mock-investigations where they will interview suspects, find evidence, and provide testimony in court. New agents will also receive training in firearms, defensive techniques, tactical driving, working undercover, and surveillance.

Get Assigned at the NCVAC

The FBI states that Special Agents must work for the FBI for at least three years before becoming eligible to apply for a supervisory position. While gaining experience, agents interested in profiling can apply for specialized training offered by the Behavior Analysis Unit to learn more about criminal behavior and profiling.

FBI agents with at least three years of experience can apply for a Supervisory Special Agent position at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The NCVAC consists of different units specializing in terrorism/counter terrorism, crimes against adults, crimes against children, sexual-based crimes, abductions, and missing persons cases. Since Supervisory Special Agent positions are highly competitive, the FBI reports that agents with eight or more years of experience typically fill positions.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Career advancement as an FBI agent is based on the U.S. Government's General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system. Federal employees traditionally start at the bottom of the ladder and work their way up. Through experience, advanced degrees, and time spent with the FBI, an agent may rise up through the 15 levels of GS job grades.

FBI Supervisory Special Agents must continue learning new skills to keep up with the demands of the job and to advance in their careers. While no formal continuing education programs exist for this profession, FBI Supervisory Special Agents working within the NCAVC can expect to continue their educations throughout their careers. Members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit conduct intensive research on criminal behavior to develop new investigative approaches and other techniques to solve crimes. There are also opportunities for an agent to move into a senior executive service position. This is also based on experience, knowledge, skills, and time spent with the FBI.

In summary, profilers or Supervisory Special Agents must meet rigorous training, education, and experience requirements to make it to the National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime, where they'll most likely work with the Behavioral Analysis Unit.

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