Criminal justice students dream of becoming profilers at the FBI’s legendary Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Virginia. Gregg McCrary ’92 already had the job when he started graduate school at Marymount University.
“Getting an advanced degree was a way to broaden my perspective,” said McCrary, a 25-year FBI veteran who was one of its first criminal profilers. “I wanted to have a deeper and fuller understanding of the mental illnesses we were dealing with.”
He earned a master’s degree in psychological services, and praised the school for accommodating his often hectic schedule. Soon after he completed his degree, MU began its forensic and legal psychology program. He has served as an adjunct professor since retiring from the Bureau in 1995. That’s in addition to his work as a consultant, expert witness and author of “The Unknown Darkness,” a book that highlights 10 of his most memorable cases.
His wife calls him “the ultimate failure” at retiring.
“But at this stage in my career, I appreciate the opportunity to teach and do workshops and try to pass along what I think I’ve learned over the decades to the new people coming up,” he said.
McCrary blocks out a week each summer for a 40-hour graduate level class in behavioral criminology. The course provides an introduction to the relationship between mental disorders and criminal behavior.
“I don’t try to rain on anyone’s parade, but the chances of getting a job as a profiler are pretty small,” he said. “You have to be an FBI agent first, prove yourself in the field, learn to interview and interrogate and then apply for the position. Out of the current 13,000 agents, about 25 do that work.”
The reality of the job isn’t what is shown on television.
“Instead of wearing a vest and kicking down doors, a real profiler reviews police reports, lab reports, crime scene photos, and other materials in order to offer productive investigative assistance,” he said.
Behavioral criminal psychology does offer plenty of opportunity, and McCrary hopes to ignite his students’ interest in criminal justice.
“It’s far from a perfect system, and I try to show some of the flaws and challenges that are out there,” he said. “I want them to get excited seeing those challenges and seize the opportunity to make a difference.”