Can a psychologist become a detective?

Become a criminal psychologist or profiler?

You are really used to binge watching Netflix series like "Mindhunter" and are now convinced that you absolutely have to become a profiler? As a profiler, you run from crime scene to crime scene and can hook into the heads of serial killers in an eerie way and dissect their personalities. Of course you will track down the perpetrators with your unerring instinct and your razor-sharp mind. You put one solved case after the other on the table of your boss and no question, you are the superstar in your area. You have one or the other likeable quirk like the ingenious Holden Ford or the cool Wendy. But you can allow yourself that too, because after all you deliver results. The life of a profiler is not that simple, even if series and films may suggest something different to you.

Profiler - case analysts are at work in Germany

Granted, Profiler sounds a lot cooler than Case Analyst. While case analysts sound like a crazy job at their desk and you can already see files rolling over and analyzing data, the other name promises adventure and fame. The term “profiler” comes from English and is also quite common in this country, but the term “case analyst” is much more appropriate. You cannot create a perpetrator profile without analyzing the case.

As a case analyst, you go through an analytical process and reconstruct the case. You have to take a close look at the whole case and not only worry about the personality traits of the perpetrator. "Police case analysts" have been trained by the German police since 1999. The police select employees from their own ranks for this training. Scientific employees of the OFA offices or particularly suitable detective officers are trained to become case analysts. The training takes place in parallel with practice. As a rule, colleagues are selected for this career who already have several years of professional experience and thus experience with various cases and police work. That means you can't just decide to be one of the super-competent profilers from tomorrow. But you can steer your professional career in that direction.

Criminal psychology degree - how do I become a criminal psychologist?

If you want to work as a case analyst in the future, studying criminal psychology is a good place to start. As a criminal psychologist, you deal with the reasons a perpetrator might have had for his act. You are investigating various questions. For example, you are investigating whether certain biographical events could lead to a person committing a crime. You deal with genetic factors that can promote the development of the criminal. This is at least part of the criminal psychology degree. As a criminal psychologist, you may also have to investigate the question of whether a criminal was sane at the time of the crime. He may be incapable of guilt. For example, it could have been self-defense or the perpetrator has a serious mental disorder. Criminal psychologists also deal with perpetrator profiles, the creation of personality traits and the analysis of the course of events.

As mentioned at one point in “Mindhunter”, complex and serious crimes involve massive self-esteem disorders. In the series, Wendy mentions the central problem of the examined serial killers: a disturbed narcissism. Basically, “Mindhunter” illustrates the procedure as a basic work for profiling: The detectives listen to what the already imprisoned criminals thought, did and also did not think before, during and after the crime. Based on these findings, analogous conclusions can be drawn for current cases. Or as the Austrian case analyst Thomas Müller put it: "We cannot think like felons, but only try to walk in their shoes."

How do I become a criminal psychologist?

Do you want to study criminal psychology? Then you first need a bachelor's degree qualifying for a profession. You can only study criminal psychology as a master’s degree. The master’s course in criminal psychology must therefore be preceded by a bachelor’s degree in a corresponding subject. The most important basis for admission to this master’s course is a bachelor’s course such as psychology, law or social sciences. Some universities want to see that you already have work experience. Depending on the university, you must have experience in the police, social work or the judiciary. Sometimes you will only be admitted to the master’s course in criminal psychology with a certain average grade. Whether there is a numerus clausus depends on the university or the number of applicants. There is also the possibility to study criminal psychology or similar courses abroad. However, studying criminal psychology abroad can involve costs, a strict selection process and other hurdles.

Distance learning crime psychology

If you are already working and would like to continue your training in criminal psychology, you can also do digital further training from home with a distance learning course or a congress. For some courses related to criminology, professional experience is a prerequisite. So it is not so unlikely that this course will be carried out part-time. Distance learning also offers you the advantage that you neither have to move nor give up your job.


The path to becoming a case analyst is not always clearly defined. If you ever want to be a profiler, it's a long road that you can't always plan. However, with a degree in criminal psychology you can also work in other areas and make full use of your skills.

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