How Can I Become a Criminologist?

Research what it takes to become a criminologist. Learn about educational requirements, job duties, job outlook and salary info to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Criminology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Criminologist Do?

Criminology is a form of sociology and specializes in analyzing data to understand crime, its causes, how a crime was committed, and what information law enforcement might need to help aid in solving crime. Criminologists also utilize this study to work to possibly predict crime and find ways to prevent it from happening. Criminologists study social behaviors to help law officers catch criminals and prevent criminal acts.

See the table below for an overview of what you need to know about becoming a criminologist.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Criminology
Key Skills Research crime and criminals to create theories for prevention and rehabilitation
Job Growth (2014-2024) -1% (all sociologists)*
Average Salary (2015) $82,100 (all sociologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Criminologist?

As a criminologist, you conduct research to determine what causes individuals to commit crimes and the effects those illegal activities have on the perpetrators, victims and society. You will use the results of your research to formulate theories about crime prevention and proper methods of criminal rehabilitation. This field is interdisciplinary, combining criminal justice, sociology and psychology to develop an understanding of human behavior and to use that knowledge to analyze, predict and prevent conditions leading to criminal acts.

What Type of Education Do I Need?

People interested in becoming criminologists usually pursue a minimum of a master's degree in the field. You could start with a baccalaureate degree in criminology, psychology or sociology. Criminologists also need to understand laws and law enforcement procedures, so you may take criminal justice courses, as well. Many programs incorporate internships to provide related work experience.

Graduate programs emphasize experiment design and results analysis, so you are likely to take courses in research methods and statistics. Those who are interested in conducting advanced research or teaching at the collegiate level may choose to pursue a doctoral degree.

Where Could I Work?

You may work directly with law enforcement officials, or you might review overall statistics to determine patterns and behaviors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many sociologists, which include criminologists, are employed by governmental agencies at the state or federal level as policy analysts (www.bls.gov). A doctorate is required for many advanced research jobs and professorships. Those with bachelor's degrees may be eligible for positions in the CIA, DEA or as a court counselor.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Criminologists lend themselves to professions within the realm of research so many related career fields fit this arena from statisticians to survey researchers. Other related professions include economists, political scientists, psychologists and social workers. All of these professions need a master's degree. People going into these fields will work closely with information and numbers and study them to find patterns and make predictions based on answers found in the studies. Psychologists and social workers study behavior and work with clients to help with emotional issues or cognitive behaviors.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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