While there are many rock stars in the criminal profiling world (too many to list), FBI profilers are the pioneers and “gold standard” in the field.

In the past, many criminal cases turned cold due to a lack of physical evidence. As law enforcement began to look at the psychology behind the crimes (something they thought was a waste of time, historically), patterns of behavior emerged that helped solve these difficult cases.

What is an FBI Profiler?

Criminal profilers analyze the crime scene as well as the evidence that is available to determine the personality or characteristics of the offender, making it easier to catch them.

Most people are familiar with the term “profiler” from popular shows such as Criminal Minds, Mindhunter and the 90’s hit movie Silence of the Lambs.

“We help out where forensics fail. If we look at how the crime was committed, that leads us to why the crime was committed … and that leads us to WHO committed the crime.” – Jim Clemente

It’s the added letters of “FBI” that really distinguish this group of law enforcement. It was in the FBI’s groundbreaking “Behavioral Analysis Unit” that they started to build an expertise in the motivation, feelings and childhood experiences of serial killers. This pioneering work established the FBI as the “gold standard” in criminal profiling, internationally.

Here is former FBI profiler, Jim Clemente, explaining what criminal profiling is:


FBI Profiler Requirements

If you’re wondering how to be a profiler for the fbi this is an excellent article describing the kinds of personality traits and education typically needed. Basically:

  • Graduate high school
  • Get a bachelor’s degree in forensics, criminal justice, psychology, or a related discipline (four years)
  • Attend a law enforcement academy (three to five months)
  • Gain experience in the field (7 – 12 years typically)
  • Engage in ongoing training, including areas such as forensics, forensic pathology, human behavior, crime scene analysis, risk assessment, threat assessment, legal issues, interviewing skills, and crime typologies.


Let’s do some profiling ourselves now as we breakdown some of the best profilers in the history of the FBI …


#1: John E. Douglas

Image Credit: Mindhuntersinc.com

John Douglas was one of the first FBI criminal profilers and is the most widely recognized criminal profiler. He has written several popular books, and has done extensive speaking tours around the world.

His career in criminal profiling began 1977 when he joined the Behavioral Science Unit. Douglas traveled the country to teach police officers about his research in criminal psychology. While he made his way around the country, he took the initiative to meet and interview with convicted serial killers and violent sex offenders while incarcerated. He spoke with some of the most notorious criminals in history such as Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, and Edmund Kemper.

Robert Ressler (left) and John Douglas (right) interview Edmund Kemper at the California State Medical Facility at Vacaville. Photo: Courtesy of the FBI. CITE

Douglas has written many books on criminal profiling, and his most popular novel “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” was adapted into Netflix’s hit show “Mindhunter,” where the character of Special Agent Holden Ford is based on Douglas’s career. 


#2: Robert Ressler

Image credit: Npr.org

Credited with coining the term “serial killer,” Robert Ressler was a famous FBI investigator who conducted face-to-face interviews with the most notorious and successful serial killers to figure out why — and how — they work.

When 6 people were found murdered in Sacramento, California in the span of a month, with traces of cannibalism, vampirism, and necrophilia, the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit that included Ressler was brought in on the case. His initial profile predicted a white male in his mid-twenties who was undernourished, unkempt, and with a history of mental illness.

It proved spot-on as suspect Richard Chase was arrested looking malnourished and disheveled, in a sweatshirt covered in blood, and was suffering from schizophrenia.

Ressler had a distinguished career in the FBI working alongside John Douglas and the original team of the Behavior Analysis Unit, going on to write several books and lecture internationally.


#3: Candice DeLong

Image Credit: Hollywood Soapbox

Candice Long is a former FBI criminal profiler. In 1995, DeLong was one of three FBI agents chosen to help solve the infamous Unabomber case. She has spoken out about and provided her educated opinions on numerous cases including the Laci Peterson case as well as the Casey Anthony case.

After retiring in 2000, she published a book entitled Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI

DeLong went on to host Deadly Women and Facing Evil with Candice DeLong, (Investigation Discovery Channel) where she profiled dangerous female criminals and offered her experience and knowledge on the subject. In her new show “The Deadly Type with Candice DeLong,” she investigates murder suspects to build a psychological profile of the killer.


#4: Jim Clemente

Photo Credit: JimClemente.com

Jim Clemente is an author, podcast host of “Real Crime Profile,” former writer and producer of “Criminal Minds,” former New York State prosecutor, and former FBI criminal profiler. Clemente worked with the FBI for 22 years, and in addition to criminal profiling, he specialized in cases on child sexual abuse, victimization, abduction, and homicide. His most notable role as a criminal profiler occurred in the D.C. sniper case, where two men shot and killed 17 victims and wounded 10 others.

In the audiobook “Call Me God,” Clemente and his brother walk listeners through the case and share details that have never been shared before.


#5: Rosanne Russo

Image credit: Jacob Fenston

Rosanne Russo was among the first group of women to join the FBI, and she was one of the first two female FBI criminal profilers. While she enjoyed her work as a school psychologist, she wanted more out of her career, so she decided to join the FBI in 1979.

When Russo started at the FBI in 1979, she says there were still only 200 female agents, out of 10,000 total. These days, one in five FBI agents is female. – wamu.org

She helped to establish the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) and the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU).

In 2002, she profiled an electrician in Philadelphia who was charged with several felonies and misdemeanors in connection with his attempted bombings. According to her LinkedIn, Russo has worked at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a tour guide since retiring from the FBI.


#6: Roy Hazelwood

Image Credit: Forensic Files Television

Roy Hazelwood was a former FBI profiler who helped found the Behavioral Science Unit. His focus was on sex criminals, and he was known as the pioneer of profiling sexual predators. He classified types of rapists and determined the difference between organized and disorganized crime, which helps to profile criminals and their motives.

Hazelwood is most recognized for his work as a criminal profiler in the BTK serial killer case as well as the Butcher Baker case in Alaska. He was also featured in a few episodes of “Forensic Files,” (seen above) where he was interviewed as a behavioral expert.

He passed away in 2016, but his legacy lives on in his scholarship at California University of Pennsylvania for the Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Studies. 


#7: Dayle Hinman

Image credit: IMDB.com

Dayle Hinman earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology from Florida State University and is one of the first forensic profiling trainees under John Douglas. As an FBI criminal profiler, Hinman worked several high-profile cases including those of Ted Bundy and O.J. Simpson.

In her documentary-style show “Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman,” Hinman reviews some of her cases through reenactments and interviews. 


#8: Mary Ellen O’Toole

Description below taken from maryellenotoole.com

Mary Ellen O’Toole, Ph.D. has spent her career studying the criminal mind. One of the most senior profilers for the FBI until her retirement in 2009, Dr. O’Toole has helped capture, interview and understand some of the world’s most infamous people including:

  • Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer
  • Derrick Todd Lee and Sean Vincent Gillis, both serial killers in Baton Rouge
  • The Collar Bomb Case, a bank robbery and murder of a pizza delivery man
  • Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber
  • The Polly Klaas child abduction
  • David Parker Ray, a serial sexual sadist
  • The Red Lake School Shooting
  • The Monster of Florence serial murder case
  • The Zodiac serial murder case
  • The bombing during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT
  • The mass murder in Florence, Montana in 2001

Dr. O’Toole also worked the Elizabeth Smart and Natalee Holloway disappearances, the Columbine shootings and many other high profile cases. Her law enforcement career spanned 32 years, beginning in the San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office when she was a Criminal Investigator. Dr. O’Toole worked as an FBI agent for 28 years, spending more than half of her Bureau career in the organization’s prestigious Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU)—the very unit that is the focus of the hit crime series “Criminal Minds.”

(End of excerpt)

Dangerous Instincts: Use an FBI Profiler's Tactics to Avoid Unsafe Situations
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Dangerous Instincts: Use an FBI Profiler's Tactics to Avoid Unsafe Situations
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For more of the pioneering work of criminal profilers in history click here: