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.

Should I Become an FBI Profiler?

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents who use their research and analytical skills to identify various characteristics of an unknown perpetrator might be referred to as profilers, but this is not an official FBI title. Criminal profiling is actually carried out by professionals known as Supervisory Special Agents, who commonly work at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCVAC) in Quantico, VA.

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.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is required; a higher degree may increase likelihood of hire
Degree Field Any field is acceptable; psychology, criminology, or sociology may be beneficial
Experience A minimum of 3 years of related experience plus a minimum of 3 years of experience as an FBI Special Agent
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, knowledge of federal laws, analytical skills
Additional Requirements Candidates must be between 23-36 years of age, possess 20/20 vision in one eye and no worse than 20/40 in the other, be in good physical health, have no felony convictions, pass a drug test and polygraph examination, possess a valid driver's license
Salary (2015) $62,812 per year (Median for FBI agents)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com, fbijobs.gov

Step 1: Earn a College 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 the 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 to develop suspect profiles. Suggested degree programs include psychology, criminology, or sociology.

Success Tips:

  • Participate in an internship. Participating 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 Science Unit (BSU), 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 Science 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.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

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 a Supervisory Special Agent 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 their local law enforcement agency as a homicide or missing persons investigator.

Step 3: Apply to the FBI

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.

Step 4: 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 a mock-investigation 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.

Step 5: Gain Special Agent Experience

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 BSU to learn more about criminal behavior and profiling.

Step 6: Get Assigned at the NCVAC

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 (NCVAC). The NCVAC consists of four 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.

Success Tip:

  • Continuing learning new skills. While no formal continuing education programs exist for this profession, FBI Supervisory Special Agents working within the NCVAC can expect to continue their educations throughout their careers. Members of the BSU conduct intensive research on criminal behavior to develop new investigative approaches and other techniques to solve crimes.

Step 7: Career Advancement Opportunities

Career advancement as an FBI agent is based on the U.S. Government's General Schedule (GS). 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. 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.

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