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There are several career paths which people can pursue to become a criminal profiler. It is important to be aware that many people who work in profiling are not actually known as criminal profilers; in this case, it is a type of work, rather than a job title, which people are working towards. Profilers work with law enforcement agencies to assist with investigations by generating profiles of potential suspects or other people involved in the crime. These profiles are used in the investigation to explore the motivations for the crime and to eventually identify people of interest.
People who perform this kind of work have a lot of job experience. Criminal profilers work in the military, with national law enforcement agencies, and with local police forces. Someone who wants to become a criminal profiler should plan on entering one of these organizations and working for at least 10 years. Work experience makes people familiar with information which will help them profile criminals.
Before plunging into a career, it can be advisable to get a degree, or to make arrangements to get a degree while working. Many criminal profilers have degrees in psychology or criminal justice which they apply to their work. Someone can also become a criminal profiler with experience in the fields of psychology and criminal justice, bringing this experience to the table when applying for a job which may eventually result in profiling work.
Very few people are actually criminal profilers, and even fewer focus exclusively on profiling. Profilers can assist with many aspects of researching and investigating cases, bringing out their profiling skills when necessary. To become a criminal profiler, it's necessary to accrue a broad spectrum of skills which will be useful in the office, as not every case needs profiling services, and law enforcement agencies do not pay people to sit around and wait for work.
A handful of people become a criminal profiler and then become freelancers. Freelancing can be challenging work. Most people who contract themselves out have extensive law enforcement experience, and have established connections with people who will hire them as their services are needed. One thing to be aware of while freelancing is that it may require special licensure, such as a private investigator's license, or a license to work as a practicing psychologist. Someone who is not properly licensed and certified will not be able to get work, no matter how skilled she or he is.
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