How To Become A Forensic Psychologist For The Fbi

Last Updated on December 13, 2022 by

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.

Become a FBI Profiler: Education and Career Roadmap

Should I Become an FBI Profiler?

Degree LevelBachelor’s degree; graduate degree preferred
Degree FieldAny field is acceptable; psychology, criminology, or sociology may be beneficial
Experience3+ years of related experience plus a minimum of 3 years of experience as an FBI Special Agent
Key SkillsStrong analytical and verbal/written communication skills; knowledge of federal laws
Additional RequirementsCandidates must be between 23-36 years of age, possess 20/20 vision in one eye and no worse than 20/40 in the other, be in good physical health, have no felony convictions, pass a drug test and polygraph examination, and possess a valid driver’s license
Salary$65,220 (2018 median for FBI agents)
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com, fbijobs.govIn the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI agents who use research and analysis to identify various characteristics of an unknown perpetrator might be commonly referred to as profilers, but this is not an official FBI title. Criminal profiling at the federal level is actually carried out by professionals known as Supervisory Special Agents, who commonly work at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) in Quantico, VA. As of January 2016, the median annual pay for FBI agents was $65,220, according to Payscale.com.Working in this, or any law enforcement field, can be dangerous, physically demanding, and stressful. Use of a firearm and travel may be required in order to carry out the duties of this profession.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The FBI requires all agents to hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. college. Candidates with military or law enforcement experience are not exempt from this education requirement. The FBI does not require agents to have a degree in a specific program, though aspiring FBI profilers should choose a degree program that will help develop the critical skills they need to analyze criminal behavior and develop suspect profiles. Suggested degree programs include psychology, criminology, or sociology.At this stage, prospective profilers can help their later chances of success in a variety of ways:
  • Participate in an internship. Finding in an internship can help a student expand his or her education outside of a classroom environment and gain hands-on training in the field. Specifically, students can apply for internships directly through the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), where FBI profilers work.
  • Begin building physical strength. Since a physical examination is part of the FBI application process, students should begin building their strength and endurance early.
  • Consider an advanced degree. While a bachelor’s is the required minimum for employment with the FBI, the FBI also reports that the Behavioral Analysis Unit consists of Supervisory Special Agents who possess advanced degrees. Earning an advanced degree could increase a candidate’s chance of being hired into the unit later in his or her career.

Degrees in Forensic Psychology

Whether you’re looking to become a victim advocate or a jury consultant, a forensic psychology degree is a great place to start. The Chicago School offers Forensic Psychology degree programs online and at campuses nationwide.
  • B.A. in Criminology, Forensic Psychology Specialization (Online)
  • M.A. in Forensic Psychology, Professional Counselor Licensure Track (OnlineChicagoIrvineLos AngelesWashington, D.C.)
  • M.A. in Forensic Psychology, Professional Counselor Licensure Track, Police Psychology Concentration (IrvineLos Angeles)
  • M.A. in Forensic Psychology, Non-Licensure Track (Online)
  • M.A. in Forensic Psychology, Non-Licensure Track to Licensure Bridge (OnlineChicagoLos AngelesWashington, D.C.)
  • M.A. in Psychology, Forensic Psychology Concentration (Online)
  • Dual Degree: M.A.in Forensic Psychology, Non-Licensure Track, and Master of Legal Studies (Online)

Gain Experience & Apply

Candidates must work in a position related to their degree for a minimum of 3 years before applying to the FBI. The FBI recommends that candidates interested in working in profiling positions as Supervisory Special Agents have extensive knowledge and experience working with homicides, rapes, child abductions, and threats prior to applying to become a Special Agent. To that end, interested candidates might consider working for local law enforcement as homicide or missing persons investigators.U.S. citizens ranging from 23-36 years old can apply to be FBI agents. Applicants must pass a hearing and vision test and a fitness test that consists of a 1.5 mile run, push-ups, sprinting, and sit ups. The application process also includes a medical evaluation, polygraph test, credit check, drug test, and employment check. Any applicants with felony convictions, student loans in default, and those not registered with the Selective Service System are immediately disqualified.

Complete FBI Training

Selected applicants will attend a 20-week training program at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Agents receive classroom and Web-based instruction in subjects including law, investigative practices, forensics, behavioral science, and ethics. To prepare new agents for common scenarios Special Agents experience, trainees will conduct mock-investigations where they will interview suspects, find evidence, and provide testimony in court. New agents will also receive training in firearms, defensive techniques, tactical driving, working undercover, and surveillance.

Get Assigned at the NCVAC

The FBI states that Special Agents must work for the FBI for at least three years before becoming eligible to apply for a supervisory position. While gaining experience, agents interested in profiling can apply for specialized training offered by the Behavior Analysis Unit to learn more about criminal behavior and profiling.FBI agents with at least three years of experience can apply for a Supervisory Special Agent position at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The NCVAC consists of different units specializing in terrorism/counter terrorism, crimes against adults, crimes against children, sexual-based crimes, abductions, and missing persons cases. Since Supervisory Special Agent positions are highly competitive, the FBI reports that agents with eight or more years of experience typically fill positions.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Career advancement as an FBI agent is based on the U.S. Government’s General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system. Federal employees traditionally start at the bottom of the ladder and work their way up. Through experience, advanced degrees, and time spent with the FBI, an agent may rise up through the 15 levels of GS job grades.FBI Supervisory Special Agents must continue learning new skills to keep up with the demands of the job and to advance in their careers. While no formal continuing education programs exist for this profession, FBI Supervisory Special Agents working within the NCAVC can expect to continue their educations throughout their careers. Members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit conduct intensive research on criminal behavior to develop new investigative approaches and other techniques to solve crimes. There are also opportunities for an agent to move into a senior executive service position. This is also based on experience, knowledge, skills, and time spent with the FBI.In summary, profilers or Supervisory Special Agents must meet rigorous training, education, and experience requirements to make it to the National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime, where they’ll most likely work with the Behavioral Analysis Unit.

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12 Forensic psychology career paths following a master’s degree

1. Correctional Counselor

Those with a master’s degree in forensic psychology can seek employment in a correctional facility. Forensic psychologists can leverage their understanding of crime, punishment, and the legal and psychological ramifications of both to perform a variety of meaningful roles in the correctional system. This can include offering treatment and counseling for inmates and ex-convicts.Additionally, forensic psychologists may assist in developing programs that help reduce recidivism rates. Correctional counselors provide mental health counseling and support to prison inmates and often conduct both individual and group sessions with inmates.Their work might include:
  • Counseling sessions
  • Conducting psychological evaluations
  • Collaborating with caseworkers, lawyers, and other employees at the correctional facility
Correctional counselors can provide deeper insights into the state and well-being of inmates and give recommendations into parole hearings.

2. Jail Supervisor

Jail supervisors, also known as corrections supervisors, work in correctional facilities like juvenile jails, state penitentiaries, and detention centers. Their work centers around keeping inmates and staff members safe. Responsibilities can include overseeing daily activities, alleviating conflict, and ensuring the prison is clear of contraband.A successful jail supervisor has strong communication and conflict resolution skills. Since their job is to keep the peace, it’s important to understand each situation and deal with it patiently. That’s why a forensic psychology background can be so beneficial.

3. Victim Advocate

A victim advocate works directly with victims of crimes and survivors of traumatic events like sexual assault or domestic violence. Advocate responsibilities often include helping the victim understand his or her case and legal rights, providing support through the legal process, and attending hearings with the victim.It’s important to keep in mind that advocates are there to provide information, resources, and support to victims—but they do not tell victims what to do. Victim advocates can work for government organizations like police stations or courts and for private organizations like nonprofits or crisis centers.

4. Jury Consultant

Forensic psychologists are needed in a variety of applications in court systems, including evaluating witness testimony, selecting juries, providing consultations, and more. For example, a jury consultant would work with lawyers to provide insights on which jurors to select for cases. As consultants, they do a lot of research into potential jurors and are heavily involved in the voir dire process. Voir dire is when prospective jurors are questioned by both the prosecuting and defense attorneys.Additionally, jury consultants take notes during the trial itself on juror body language and behavior. This information helps lawyers prep their strategies and coach witnesses.Because forensic psychology combines psychological insights with the court system, a master’s degree in forensic psychology is a stepping stone toward this career path. Forensic psychology courses often include information on jury selection and courtroom dynamics.

5. Federal Government Employee

Individuals with forensic psychology degree backgrounds can be well-equipped and attractive job candidates for federal government organizations. This can include working at the FBI, DEA, CIA, VA hospitals, or other state and local government institutions.Forensic psychology prepares people to think critically, combine interdisciplinary perspectives, and apply psychological perspectives to real-world situations. This type of education can set individuals up for success in jobs like being an FBI special agent or a VA hospital worker.These positions do not require licensure, but it often helps to receive a higher graduate-level degree to further your career in these organizations.

6. Police Consultant

While many forensic psychologists will work in the justice system, others will choose to work on the side of law enforcement as police consultants. In many instances, police officers and detectives rely on forensic psychologists to help them understand the minds of criminals and to help them apprehend felons. While television tends to bump up adrenaline for ratings, this is probably the most recognizable job for forensic psychologists because of shows like “Law & Order” or “CSI.”Police consultants help educate police officers on how to best approach their communities in order to promote community policing strategies, and how to best address interpersonal struggles or challenges within the department. Responsibilities can include:
  • Providing suicide prevention training
  • Anger management courses
  • Critical Incident Stress Debriefing training
  • Educating police officers on how to better handle situations involving the disabled and mentally ill

7. Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Forensic psychology graduates often work as counselors in a wide variety of industries. From addiction treatment facilities to domestic violence shelters to private practices, forensic psychology is a versatile field that can translate into many different types of counseling careers.Of course, many counseling careers do require licensure. If you’re interested in becoming a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC, LPC, LCPC, etc), be sure to look for forensic psychology programs with a licensure track. This ensures that you’ll be well-equipped to take the necessary exams and apply for licensure.

8. Probation Officer

If you have an interest in working in the justice system but would like to do so more peripherally, consider becoming a probation officer. Probation officers assist in supervising people who were recently released from the prison system and/or those placed on parole (parolees).A master’s in forensic psychology will aid professionals in making decisions about release date determination, evaluating the likelihood of risky behavior, and advising past offenders. With a degree that is invested in psychological wellness, those deciding to pursue a career as a probation officer can become important points of contact for those who need guidance as they strive to do better.

9. Crime Analyst

Crime analysts work closely with law enforcement agencies to sort crime profiles and detect criminals. They do this by collating and sampling data to control the occurrences of crime in a given location by providing statistical, strategic, and investigative support to the police force.Crime analysts work with variables such as demographic, economic, and locational factors, which may differ based on the types of prevalent crimes and their frequency. They use tactical methods, strategic findings, and administrative research as tools in implementing their work. These methods may require specialized training and skills––by acquiring a degree in Forensic Psychology, you could gain detailed knowledge on how to examine statistical data, read and evaluating forensic research, and so on.

10. Forensic Research Psychologists

As a researcher, forensic psychology is key to examining many aspects of criminology. Forensic Research Psychologists carry out their research in a variety of areas, including studying criminal history and questioning suspects, victims, and other people related to a crime. They also study the situations surrounding a particular crime as well as the age group that is most related to that crime.The researcher studies the crime scene and records the information (such as eye-witness accounts, patterns, and evaluation of offenders and victim treatment programs to name a few) that the other law and security personnel missed. Forensic psychologists employ the knowledge of the researcher in abnormal or difficult cases, and the researcher may also be in charge of collating data and cataloging it for forensic and criminal expert use.

11. Investigative Journalist

Those with a background in forensic psychology can use their specialized knowledge to work as a crime reporter or an investigative journalist. In these roles, you play a vital and often ignored role in criminal justice and criminology.In many cases, investigations become overwhelming to law enforcement agents and detectives, and investigative journalists may step in to provide additional research and even data documentation for certain cases and crimes.An investigative journalist works with law enforcement to collect and analyze the information that they receive through witnesses and informants, attend and address press conferences, interview victims, suspects and relatives of those who are involved in a case, and follow up on leads and tips that relate to a crime.

12. Forensic Social Worker

This role is a combined social work and criminal justice professional that works to navigate the consequences of crime for all parties involved. They work in association with traditional social workers and help those that the crime directly affects. They serve as a link between the court system, law enforcement agencies, and the affected individuals.Their work functions include:
  • Recommending appropriate therapy and protection of criminal defendants and informants
  • Evaluating the defendant’s mental state
  • Testifying as expert witnesses
  • Identifying criminal activities within their clients
Forensic psychologists have a part in almost all aspects of society, and with the ever-increasing crime rate, their expertise is beneficial to all involved in the criminal justice system