What Is Criminal Psychological Profiling and What Do Profilers Do?

For a job that’s inspired countless TV dramas, criminal psychological profiling is still a budding field with abundant opportunities to further develop the science behind it.

Do you see yourself as a criminal profiler? A Master of Science in Criminology from Regis University helps students develop a holistic understanding of the profession so they are prepared to become thought leaders in the field.

Criminal profiling is the art and science of using psychological principles to evaluate evidence, witness reports and victim reports from a crime. By analyzing evidence through this lens, criminal investigative analysts can begin to construct a profile of a suspect, including personality traits, psychopathologies and behavior patterns, as well as demographic variables like race, age and even geographic location.

The History of Criminal Profiling

This form of profiling dates back as early as the 19th century, when physicians George Phillips and Thomas Bond used clues at a crime scene to predict Jack the Ripper’s personality. The FBI formed its Behavioral Science Unit in 1974, and the agency has further refined the field over the last 40 years. FBI agents decipher personality characteristics through questions about the perpetrator’s behavior at four crime phases:

Antecedent: Did the perpetrator have a plan in place before the act? What triggered the perpetrator to act?

Method and manner: What types of victims were selected? Was the crime committed in the same way each time?

Body disposal: Is there one scene or are there multiple scenes?

Post-offense behavior: Is the perpetrator trying to inject him- or herself into the investigation?

Some psychologists have questioned the efficacy of the FBI’s methods, saying they need more scientific rigor.1 As a result, psychologists have developed several new approaches, including offender profiling.2

What Does an FBI Profiler Do?

FBI agents involved in criminal profiling are expected to utilize the scientific data being developed every day to further the maturation of the field. In one such new approach, forensic psychologist Richard Kocsis and colleagues have developed models3 based on large studies of violent crimes that are structured in a way similar to the interviews psychologists use to make clinical diagnoses.

In recent years the FBI has begun to work closely with many forensic psychologists, and the agency even employs them. Thus, profilers now often work in teams with other specialists, making this a career where continued education is not just an asset, but a critical step in helping solve more cases. Imagine how your work in this field can help psychologists develop newer statistical models that translate into more-accurate results and, ultimately, arrests that are more substantiated. There’s never been a more exciting time for criminal profilers as they work through the challenge of finding the right mix of art and science when analyzing crime scenes.

Earning a Master of Science in Criminology from Regis University will give you the tools and expertise to become a successful criminal profiler. This isn’t a job for simply arresting bad people, it’s a job for forward-thinking individuals who want to change the landscape of good investigative policing. Request more information or call 877-820-0581.

Visit our Resource Center for more information on the criminal justice industry.

Regis Criminology Industry Updates