Is Criminal Minds Profiling Accurate?

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The crime TV show, Criminal Minds, which follows the activities of serial killers and has produced more than 300 episodes. With a viewing public that has been very interested in criminal behavior, Criminal Minds is a fascinating TV show which draws a lot of attention. With that attention comes a  lot of people asking one question: Is Criminal Minds actually accurate in its portrayal of criminal behavior analysis?

 The show's representation of the work of behavioral analysts is not entirely accurate, seeing as behavioral analysts do a lot more work and different work in real life. The way they are portrayed to be working in Criminal Minds is a lot different from the way they work in real life and it honestly isn’t even close to being real. 

Even though it's an excellent show which does a good job of portraying criminal activities and the team solving them using profiling, the show is not very accurate in its portrayal of behavioral analysts and the operations of law enforcement agencies.

Now, this is not to say that all of Criminal Minds is inaccurate. Some of the cases handled on the show are based on real life serial killers. But the representation of behavioral analysts in the show is a lot more exciting than it actually is in real life. The FBI behavioral analysts have to do a lot more work, and they walk a path much harder than what the show portrays. Plus, rather than travel to fields, real behavior analysts will normally sit in their offices and do their work, not fly all over the country doing it.

If you are interested in reading real reviews about the show or to purchase all of the seasons you can find that by clicking here. 

Let's look at a few reasons Criminal Minds is not entirely accurate:

There's no position of a “profiler” within the real BAU

Criminal Minds has a position in the BAU of the FBI called a profiler. In real life, the BAU has no position, such as a profiler. In the real world of the FBI, the people who handle behavioral analysis are called criminal psychologists and not profilers, as the show suggests.

A good number of the show's agents are way too young to be in the BAU

Dr. Spencer Reid is the youngest behavioral analyst in Criminal Minds. He is 24 in the first season and has six degrees. Realistically, to be in the BAU at the age of 24, he would have had to be recruited into the FBI at the age of 15. This is because behavioral analysts have to work, for at least 7 years, at the bureau plus, get about 2 years of training before they can work with the FBI. Criminal Minds gives us the character of Spencer Reid, who is hired at the age of 22. In the real world of the FBI, this does not happen.

Behavioral Analysts do not often do fieldwork

In a typical case scenario, behavioral analysts work from their office. They primarily have the duty of collaborating with and helping local law enforcement agents with any cases assigned to them. They do not usually take over cases from the law enforcement agents and only serve as a resource for the authorities, providing them with the necessary information to help get leads on the case. The BAU is often not on the front line. It's only about 10% of the time that they get involved with fieldwork, which means it very rarely happens. 

In Criminal Minds, however, behavioral analysts are always on the front line, chasing down and apprehending criminals. This is a very sharp contrast to what actually happens in real life.

Cases typically take more than just a few days to solve

The BAU usually deals with very few cases annually compared to the number of crimes that happen in the United States. When these cases come in, they work with experts from all fields and carefully evaluate the cases to prepare a report, which includes recommendations for the law enforcement agents.

Behavioral analysts spend a lot of time handling cases that could end up being weeks or months working on a single case.. In Criminal Minds, however, cases are wrapped up really quickly and finished in mere days. This is an unrealistic representation of the actual events that follow the presentation of a criminal case to the BAU.

There's more to “unsubs” than the simple definition of 'Organized' Or 'Disorganized.'

Serial killers have been classified into two categories: organized and disorganized. The organized killers actually have their plans carefully laid out. These ones typically commit their crimes in a particular manner. The disorganized killers, on the other hand, carry out their crimes randomly and mostly leave a souvenir behind that makes it a lot easier to catch them.

Studying this theory, however, psychologists have found no evidence to verify these categories. Crimes were generally shown to have traces of organization and disorganization. As such, serial killing crimes are more complex than just being categorized into two groups.

Criminal Minds, however, presents crimes categorized into organized and disorganized even though that has been proven not to be the case in the real world.

Law enforcement agents are prepared for trauma in real life

An aspect of behavioral analysis that Criminal Minds doesn't show us is the part where law enforcement agents are prepared for any ordeal they may have to face. Quite a number of times, these law enforcement agents may have to be faced with images and situations that are quite disturbing. In readiness for such cases, the BAU helps to prepare the agents for any traumatic experiences and helps them deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

BAU members do not get to travel around in a jet

Criminal Minds would have us believe that BAU profilers travel to crime scenes in a cushy jet to create a profile. But this is not the case in the real world. BAU agents do not have to travel to create a profile. Just as we've already noted, the members of the BAU do not even have to get out of their offices most of the time, as they are typically not at the forefront of the investigation. All they do is read reports, carry out analysis, and provide useful information to help the detectives with their investigations.


Being that the show needs to keep viewers glued to the edge of their seat with the storyline and actions presented it is no surprise that the way the profiling works in real life is not even close to the same as what happens on the show. 

Profiling is far from being accurate enough to catch killers in a few days and most cases that the BAU handles can last for weeks or months before they move on to the next case. Criminal Minds is a fun show to watch and has some real scenarios and stories in it but most of it is one thing… entertainment. 

If you want to purchase the entire series on DVD you can find it on our website here. 

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