Criminal profiling is used to analyze crimes after they occur, and has little resemblance to media dramatizations. There is an attempt to link crimes of serial offenders, provide inferences of offender characteristics from behavioral evidence analysis (deductive inferences) and/or attempts to statistically associate common traits of offenders who commit specific crimes in specific ways (inductive inferences). A few Forensic Psychologists conduct criminal profiling, as do some criminologists. Some private profilers are more about marketing and public relations than scientific analysis. The Secret Service (DHS) does some profiling of threats to protectees, has done some work on attempting to profile school shooters, and conducts threat analysis regarding major public events. Some large departments employ profilers who have been career officers and have trained on the job or with the FBI. Agents assigned to the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) are special agents with the same authorities of any other special agent (fbi.gov). There are many more applicants for FBI positions than there are positions, and there are many more FBI agents who would like to a member of the BAU than will ever achieve that goal.
The FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) consists of four sections: BAU-1, Threat Assessment (Counterterrorism); BAU-2, Crimes Against Adults; BAU-3, Crimes Against Children; and, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP). ViCAP collects information on violent crime voluntarily submitted by police agencies, and attempts to link crimes committed in different jurisdictions.
Out of about 12,000 active FBI special agents, less than 200 special agents are assigned as NCAVC Field Coordinators. They are selected based on education and experience, they receive training on how to prepare case files for presentation to the BAU, and must serve for a period under the supervision of a certified profiler (or criminal investigative analyst) from the BAU.
From this pool, a few are selected to become Supervisory Special Agent profilers assigned to the BAU. The BAU requires two years of training prior to certification as an investigative profiler. The BAU dealing with adult criminals consists of eight (8) profilers (personal communication with the BAU-2 supervisor, March 2010).
Forensic psychology, Bachelor and Masters, would probably be beneficial for BAU preparation. A PhD would be better preparation, but requires considerable time and effort. However, an in-depth knowledge of physical evidence is also necessary, and a degree in forensic sciences may also be good preparation. Investigative psychology, as taught in the UK, may also be good (look up professors Canter and Alison). In the UK, only psychologists are allowed to conduct criminal profiling.
The Academy of Behavioral Profiling (soon to be re-named as the International Association of Forensic Criminologists).) is an organization that offers advice on careers in the field (subscribes to behavioral evidence analysis rather than the methods of other profiling types): http://www.corpus-delicti.com/;http://www.profiling.org/
American Academy of Forensic Psychology: http://www.aafp.ws/law_and_psychology_information.asp
The American Board of Professional Psychology
The ABPP ((http://www.abpp.org)
serves the public need by providing oversight certifying psychologists competent to deliver high quality services in various specialty areas of psychology.
Am Acad of Forensic Sciences forensic links: http://www.aafs.org/default.asp?section_id=resources&page_id=forensic_links
John Jay Col of CJ, Forensic Psych:
Intl Asso of Investigative Psych:
Alison, L. (Ed.). (2005). The forensic psychologist’s casebook: Psychological profiling and criminal investigation. Portland, OR: Willan.
Canter, D.V., & Youngs, D (2009). Investigative psychology: Offender profiling and the analysis of criminal action. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.