The FBI’s Podcasts and Radio page offers a fascinating account of what it’s like to be a Behavioral Analyst. “Making sense of the incomprehensible. That’s the specialty of the eight agents of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit-2, or BAU-2”, shares FBI’s Mollie Halpern. “They get inside the twisted minds of serial murderers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Allen Muhammed”.
Contrary to fictional depictions, members of the BAU are not necessarily called out to crime scenes or in charge of an investigation; many times they act as consultants, sharing their expertise in order to contribute to cases being closed. FBI Behavioral Analysts are assigned to work for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) based in Quantico and each FBI field office is staffed with a NCAVC supervisory agent.
The NCVAC has four Behavioral Analysis Units: BAU-1 deals with counterterrorism/threat assessment, the BAU-2 deals with crimes where adults are the victims, BAU-3 deals with cases where children are the victims and the BAU-4 focuses on ViCAP. ViCAP stands for the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program which has the largest database of violent crimes, including murder, abductions, and sexual assaults, in the United States.
So while members of the BAU may not lead SWAT teams into a suspect’s home, physically chase after a fugitive or directly interrogate potential criminals, they do play vital and intriguing roles in assisting law enforcement agencies, such as developing the profile of an Unsub, providing key recommendations for how to interview a suspect, assessing threats, providing information to legal counsel and many more.
“The type of cases we get involved in … are the type of cases that the average individual struggles to understand themselves,” states the FBI’s BAU-2 Mark A. Hilts. “Why would somebody kill 10 different people over a year’s time period? What kind of person would chop somebody up or would carve something into a victim or would do some other bondage or other type of activity?”
If you’re interested in working for NCAVC as a Behavioral Analyst with the FBI, a degree in behavioral or forensic science, criminal justice or criminology would be extremely helpful. Those who wish to work for the NCVAC are eligible after they’ve served a minimum of three years as a special agent. However, many of these supervisory special agents have at least eight years experience with the FBI before being considered for a promotion to the NCVAC. Naturally, exemplary service as a special agent will increase your chances of being promoted to the BAU. “The most important qualifications include overall experience as an investigator specializing in violent crimes, particularly homicides, rapes, child abductions, and threats”, states the FBI Career Page.