Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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FBI Psychologist Salary
Television series like Criminal Minds and CSI have increased the public’s interest in forensic psychology. While reality differs from TV crime shows, this discipline is strongly connected to criminal justice. Its role is to bring behavioral research into the courtroom and to ensure that justice is served, notes Florida National University. Advances in this field have led to a better understanding of criminal behavior and social deviance.
This discipline uses psychological principles and practices to address civil and criminal legal issues. Think of it as a subset of applied psychology. Those who choose this career path may be asked to investigate crimes, conduct scientific research and seek ways to prevent people from committing crimes. They work closely with police officers, judges, lawyers and mental health professionals. Their primary duty is to assess the psychology and behavior of individuals who are involved with the legal system.
Note that forensic psychology isn’t the same as criminal psychology. According to Maryville University, the latter seeks to understand criminal behavior and the motivation behind it. Criminal psychologists may also diagnose mental disorders, develop psychological profiles and predict recidivism risk. Their expertise applies to criminal investigations. Forensic psychologists, on the other hand, work closely with law enforcement officers to integrate psychological practices and principles into both civil and criminal matters.
As a forensic psychologist, it’s your responsibility to investigate the factors leading to criminal behavior and to find ways to prevent it. Your day-to-day duties may include analyzing crimes, developing novel treatments, giving expert evidence in court and helping law officers punish crimes.
Depending on the job, you may find work in mental health settings, academic departments, research institutes or government agencies. Another option is to establish your own practice and work as an independent consultant for the federal government, law firms or private organizations.
Become an FBI Special Agent
A degree in forensic psychology can increase your chances of finding work with the federal government. Professionals who specialize in this field have the skills and expertise needed to conduct mental health evaluations, work on child abuse cases and predict criminal behavior. They can also determine how a person’s life was affected by war, injuries or criminal acts.
Forensic psychologists have the option to use their skills in the service of the public good. For example, they may work as special agents for the FBI. The Bureau is actively seeking individuals with a background in counseling or psychology, according to the FBI’s website. Candidates must hold U.S. citizenship, comply with the FBI Drug Policy and obtain a top-secret security clearance. These requirements apply to all job openings.
Aspiring FBI special agents must be 23 to 36 years old at the time of application and have a bachelor’s degree or higher. They are also required to possess a valid driver’s license and have at least two years of work experience. If you hold a master’s or a doctoral degree, but have just one year of experience, you may still join the Bureau.
Being physically fit and having good vision and hearing is important. All applicants must take and pass a fitness test consisting of a timed run, push-ups, sit-ups and sprints. Applicants who have been convicted of a felony or who failed to file their tax returns are automatically disqualified.
FBI special agents with a psychology or counseling background work at least 50 hours per week and have a median annual salary of $62,556 to $80,721, reports the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Median salary means that half in the profession earn more, while half earn less. In this role, you’re expected to have a strong understanding of human behavior and know how to handle delicate situations involving children or trauma victims. Depending on the situation, you may need to work on weekends, participate in arrests, and travel or relocate as needed.
Work as a Victim Specialist
A forensic psychologist also has the skills needed to work directly with victims of crimes to help them move on. If that’s what you want to do, consider working as a victim specialist for the FBI. This allows you to assist people who were victims of abuse, violent crime, identity theft, human trafficking, terrorism and other crimes.
Victim specialists must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in behavioral or social sciences, such as forensic psychology. The FBI also requires three or more years of experience working with victims from different cultures within a counseling, psychology or legal environment. Applicants should have extensive social service experience and know how to proceed in case of an emergency. Their role is to provide direct assistance to victims and help them navigate the aftermath of crime.
In this role, you may also need to coordinate forensic interviews and help the Bureau build better cases. Having strong communication and interpersonal skills is a must. Many times, you’ll find yourself working with crime victims who are severely traumatized, have disabilities or who don’t speak English. Therefore, it’s essential to have the ability to read between the lines and interpret body language.
Join the Behavioral Analysis Unit
You’ve probably heard about profilers in movies and TV shows. The correct term is supervisory special agent, which applies to those who work in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), notes Saint Joseph’s University. Their job is to analyze crime scenes, assess potential or current threats and identify the best interviewing techniques. They are also responsible for developing profiles of suspects and convicted criminals.
This profession is interesting and highly rewarding, but has little to do with today’s film and TV shows. Profilers are not clairvoyants and don’t get “vibes” during crime scene investigations. Instead, they use psychological and scientific methods to create profiles of serial killers and other criminals. Their main role is to help police officers narrow their search.
According to American Military University, the BAU consists of three units: one that investigates crimes against adults, one that deals with crimes against children and one in charge of counterterrorism. The department is managed by the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group and seeks to deconstruct and analyze criminal behavior.
Special agents who work in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit may interview convicted criminals to determine why they committed murder. They may ask about their childhood experiences, traumatic events and other factors that influenced their behavior. These insights allow them to identify patterns and signs that may uncover an individual’s inclination toward crime.
For example, a 2019 report published by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security states that an entire team of experts in psychology, psychiatry, law, threat assessment and other disciplines investigated gunman Stephen Paddock’s pre-attack behaviors. The panel members spent 12 months analyzing evidence gathered by the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
If you’re interested in working as a profiler, you must first join the FBI as a special agent. A graduate degree in forensic psychology can give you a competitive edge. However, you still need to have at least three years of work experience and meet the eligibility criteria, points out Saint Joseph’s University.
FBI Psychology Jobs
Average Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Psychologist yearly pay in the United States is approximately $128,350, which is 34% above the national average.
Salary information comes from 4 data points collected directly from employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.
Please note that all salary figures are approximations based upon third party submissions to Indeed. These figures are given to the Indeed users for the purpose of generalized comparison only. Minimum wage may differ by jurisdiction and you should consult the employer for actual salary figures.
Criminal profilers are highly-specialized investigators who utilize critical analysis and both deductive and inductive reasoning to create a profile of a particular offender based upon various characteristics of a particular crime.
What Does a Criminal Profiler Do?
Through meticulous analysis of information from crime scenes, reports, and interactions with other law enforcement and forensic professionals, criminal profilers compile a list of characteristics which may assist law enforcement officers with creating leads toward identifying, apprehending, and convicting a suspect.
In its most basic sense, criminal profiling involves reconstructing a crime scene in order to identify a suspect.
Types of information most valuable to criminal profilers include crime location, nature of the offense, timing of the crime, choice of victim, modus operandi (the particular method used by a specific criminal which facilitates identification and apprehension of said individual), the condition of the crime scene, prior similar documented crimes, and any communications from the suspect.ADConsider an Online Program Currently Accepting Applicants
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Criminal Profiler Job Description
The majority of criminal profilers today are special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who work in Quantico, Virginia, at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) or are employed by other large agencies. Some criminal profilers go into private consulting practice and others serve as college professors or police academy instructors.
The role of most criminal profilers begins at the crime scene. The main goal of this position is to provide law enforcement with a psychological or physical description of a suspect, as well as possible motives or methods associated with the crime. The data provided from profilers can be used to determine if suspects are fitting for a particular crime.
Profilers work hard using visualization and knowledge of criminal process to determine how a particular crime occurred from beginning to end. The information gained from analyzing the crime scene allows profilers to build a description of the suspect that could potentially include height and whether or not the suspect was right or left-handed.
Criminal profilers are also often employed to re-open old or unsolved cases – with some even being closed for many years with no potential leads. During these cases, profilers may review old evidence or case files to determine factors that could be used to describe a possible suspect. This may involve analyzing crime scene photos, crime scene reconstruction, or psychological profiling. At the end of a case review, profilers may provide their findings to law enforcement in an effort to narrow down a pool of suspects and find the right perpetrator.
Criminal Profiler Education Requirements
What does it take to be a criminal profiler? Education in the field of criminal justice and psychology is recommended with most criminal profilers holding an advanced degree. Whereas a master has degree is the minimum acceptable academic level, a doctorate is often preferred.
Common majors include criminal justice, psychology, criminal behavior, crime scene investigation, and crime analysis. Additional training by law enforcement and forensic agencies such as provided by the FBI has Behavioral Science Unit is also recommended.
Successful criminal profilers also have years of prior law enforcement or related experience; typically as a police officer and/or detective, crime scene analyst, or criminal investigator.
Criminal Profiler Careers
Criminal Profiler Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), generally, criminal profilers’ salaries range between $65,000 and $100,000 annually. As of 2011, the average forensic psychologist profiler earned approximately $73,000 per year; with the mean earning potential nearly $68,000 annually.
At the federal level, profilers who work at the NCAVC qualify for GS-10 pay grade which translates to a base salary range between $45,771 and $59,505 annually; with the potential for promotion to a GS-15 base salary rating range between $99,628 and $129,517 per year. Cost of living and Law Enforcement Availability Pay can increase this base salary by as much as 12.5 to 53.7 percent. Supervisory criminal profilers with the FBI can earn as much as $140,000 per year and forensic psychologists can earn as much as $400,000 per year as a consultant in private practice.
Criminal Profiler Job Outlook
The BLS has reported a likely upswing in criminal profiler employment opportunities which are expected to increase by nearly 25 percent by 2020; a rate considerably higher than the growth rate for all other US occupations which is 14 percent. There is consensus that forensic science as an employment field is particularly thriving for those individuals with the desired educational and experiential requirements. Despite such impressive projected growth, opportunities are largely limited to those who have cultivated the requisite skills and possess the necessary education.
Daily Activities for a Criminal Profiler
- Analyzing crime scenes and associated evidence
- Reviewing and analyzing reports from investigators, other criminal profilers, and forensic analysts; evidence; crime scene photos; witness reports; and communication with the suspect(s)
- Effective report writing
- Testifying in court
- Working closely with other law enforcement personnel such as police officers, detectives, forensic experts, and crime scene analysts; as well as prosecutors, victims, and witnesses
- Keeping abreast of emerging information through continuing training, conferences, and interactions with other forensic specialists
- Providing forensic support such as interpretation of certain evidence and offering advice to investigators
Special Skills a Criminal Profiler Should Have
- High attention to detail
- Capacity to utilize seemingly minute details to construct a larger picture
- Critical thinking skills
- Inductive and deductive reasoning skills. Inductive thinking is a bottom-up approach that makes broad generalizations from specific data and observations in order to create a theory and is typically more exploratory than deductive reasoning which is a top-down approach that formulates broad hypotheses to predict narrow outcomes.
- A team player
- Interpersonal skills including effective written and verbal communication
- Ability to and knowledge in studying human characteristics, behaviors, and motivations
- Extrapolation of available evidence and data to formulate an accurate working profile of a potential suspect
- Skill in researching emerging data and literature regarding psychology, criminal behavior, and other related topics
- Ability to train other law enforcement personnel regarding criminal behavior, crime scene analysis, investigation, and other crucial and relevant areas of knowledge
- Crime scene investigation techniques
- Criminological theories of deviance such as social learning theory, differential association theory, labeling theory, conflict theory, social strain theory, and anomie, for example
- Psychopathological causes of deviance: biology, genetics, personality disorders, sociopathy, and other psychological disorders
The role of a criminal profiler is a dynamic one that requires a detail oriented mind that can piece together visual aspects of a crime scene in their head. Hopefully our breakdown has helped provide you with a deeper level of insight into some of the anticipated career aspects of a criminal profiler.