It all looks so exciting on TV. Criminal profilers exchange witty banter while poring over clues, ultimately figuring out whodunit just in time for the credits to roll. In real life, however, the duties of a criminal profiler are often unglamorous and taxing. Before you allow the Hollywood portrayals of this oft-depicted career to leave you training for entry into the field, consider some of the serious negatives inherent to this job.
Criminal profilers often visit crime scenes or closely inspect graphic photos to glean information and create profiles of the perpetrators. Visiting these places of death and taking in the images of heinous acts isn’t for the faint of heart. To have a successful career as a criminal profiler, you must possess the ability to look clinically at these images without allowing them to leave lasting emotional scars, something that is hard for many.
Though investigators and profilers are all working towards the same ends, they don’t always agree, says retired FBI agent Gregg McCrary. McCrary states that some investigators discount the academic techniques used by profilers, creating tension and making profilers feel as if they’re being second guessed. Because criminal profilers work with investigators often, and for long spans of time, this tension can become difficult to handle.
Unlike many occupations, where what’s most important is that something gets done, not how it gets done, criminal profilers must continually modify their techniques to remain current in their practice. If they fail to adapt their methods, they may run into admissibility issues, suggests T. O’Connor for Austin Peay State University. Experts are continually re-evaluating profiling techniques and new rulings regarding admissibility pop up constantly, making keeping on top of industry changes a continued challenge.
Though criminal profilers spend substantially less time in the field than TV shows may have you believe, there is an element of danger inherent to the job. Not only are they often on the scenes of recently perpetrated crimes, they are also commonly called to testify as expert witnesses, a duty that can put them on the bad sides of some unsavory individuals.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.