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Criminal Profiler vs. Criminal Psychologist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in criminal profiling or psychology can be both exciting and rewarding. If you’re interested in working with law enforcement to solve crimes, then you may want to consider becoming a criminal profiler or psychologist. These roles have similarities, but there are also key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between criminal profilers and psychologists, and we provide helpful tips for choosing the right career path.

What is a Criminal Profiler?

Criminal profilers are law enforcement professionals who use their skills in psychology and criminology to analyze crime scenes and develop psychological profiles of criminals. They often consult on active criminal cases to provide law enforcement with insights into the mind of the perpetrator. Criminal profilers typically have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, and many have a master’s degree or doctorate. Some profilers may also have experience working as a detective or in another law enforcement role.

What is a Criminal Psychologist?

Criminal Psychologists are experts in human behavior who use their knowledge to help solve crimes. They work with law enforcement agencies to develop profiles of unknown criminals and to help interpret evidence. They also work with victims and witnesses to help them understand and cope with their experiences. Criminal Psychologists may also testify in court as expert witnesses. In addition to working with law enforcement, Criminal Psychologists may also work in corrections, mental health or research.

Criminal Profiler vs. Criminal Psychologist

Here are the main differences between a criminal profiler and a criminal psychologist.

Job Duties

Criminal profilers and criminal psychologists share some of the same job duties, such as interviewing convicted criminals to gain insight into their behavior. However, criminal profilers focus more on the crimes themselves, while criminal psychologists tend to concentrate on the mindset and emotions of the criminals. Another key difference is that criminal profilers typically don’t provide treatment or therapy to criminals. Their job is to study a crime and determine the type of person who would commit it so that law enforcement can better catch perpetrators. Criminal psychologists often work with criminals in a clinical setting to provide them with counseling and therapy.

Job Requirements

Criminal profilers and criminal psychologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. However, many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree or higher. Criminal profilers and criminal psychologists might also pursue certifications through professional organizations, such as the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP). These certifications can demonstrate to employers that a candidate has the necessary skills for the job.

Work Environment

Criminal profilers work in a variety of environments, including police departments and government agencies. They may also work as private consultants for companies that provide security services or help law enforcement officials with investigations. Criminal psychologists typically work in forensic settings, such as prisons, hospitals and courts. Some criminal psychologists work in private practice to treat patients who have mental health issues.


Both criminal profilers and criminal psychologists use their observational, research and analytical skills to study criminals and develop profiles of offenders. They also both need to have excellent communication skills to share their findings with law enforcement officials and other professionals.

Criminal profilers typically have a background in law enforcement, which gives them first-hand experience working with criminals and investigating crimes. This experience can be helpful in understanding the mindset of an offender and developing a profile that can assist in apprehending them. Criminal psychologists often have a background in psychology or counseling, which gives them training in understanding human behavior. This knowledge can be helpful in determining why a criminal committed a certain type of crime and what kind of person is likely to commit that type of offense.


Criminal profilers earn an average salary of $62,956 per year, while criminal psychologists earn an average salary of $89,729 per year. The average salary for both professions may vary depending on the level of education, the state in which you work and the type of employer you work for.


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