Criminology Studies, General

Criminology is the study of criminal behavior and its prevention. Find information about career options and educational requirements here, as well as what you might earn as a criminal investigator, detective or police officer.

Are Criminology Studies for Me?

Career Overview

Criminology is a social science that examines the impact of crime and criminal behavior on society, as well as the political and societal pressures that shape our criminal justice laws. A criminologist is a sociologist who studies criminal behavior, in addition to how criminal justice and social support systems, law enforcement and regulatory agencies respond to this type of behavior. As a criminologist, you'll analyze criminal behavior to help with crime prediction and prevention and policy development. Formal education programs in criminology typically include topics in law, psychology, political science and history.

Career Options

Potential career options for criminologists may include a position as a police detective or officer, federal agent, lawmaker or secret service agent. You might find work at the local, state or federal level of government, including the Department of Homeland Security. In the private sector, criminologists are typically hired by corporate security departments to help deal with white-collar crime. You might also pursue a career as a self-employed private investigator or consultant, or acquire the additional education you'll need to become a lawyer or social worker.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for detectives and police officers were expected to increase by just 5% nationwide from 2012-2022. The BLS does not provide wage information specifically for criminologists. However, it did report that as of May 2013, criminal investigators and detectives earned a median annual salary of $76,730 (www.bls.gov). As reported by PayScale.com in June 2014, most criminologists made between $28,339 and $59,819 a year, which may include bonuses.

How Can I Work in Criminology?

Educational Requirements

If you're interested in becoming a criminal investigator or detective, you may qualify with just a high school diploma. You'll also have to attend a training academy and pass rigorous physical tests and exams. Formal degree programs in criminology range from the associate to the doctoral level, with most employers preferring applicants with bachelor's degrees or higher.

Undergraduate Programs

In a bachelor's degree program in criminology, you'll study the criminal justice system, crime analysis, law enforcement and public security, as well as the social support and regulatory agencies that work toward the improvement of society. You'll also learn about the historical and modern day approaches to policing and the criminal justice system, along with the philosophical underpinnings of such approaches. Additional coursework may cover topics in civil liberties, government and juvenile justice or give you the chance to examine the finer points of the U.S. Constitution.

Graduate Programs

Many master's degree programs in criminology are designed for the criminal justice professional who wants to enhance his or her career prospects or earnings. As a graduate student, you'll study research analysis and applications, ethical conduct in positions of power and contemporary issues in criminology. You might also take courses in psychology and statistics. Learning outcomes can include an advanced leadership position in management and policy development in a corporation or law enforcement agency; a doctorate degree in criminology may qualify you for high-level academic and research work.

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