Criminologist Career, Job, Degrees and Training Information

What is Criminology?

Criminology is discipline within the field of sociology, which is the science or study of society. Criminology is the scientific study and analysis of crime, criminals, criminal behavior, and corrections. It also examines society's response to crime and to prevention of crime. Criminology includes the examination of criminal evidence, psychological and hereditary causes of crime, various methods of investigation of crime and conviction of criminals as well as the efficiencies of differing modes of punishment, rehabilitation, and corrections.

What Does a Criminologist Do?

A criminologist is actually a sociologist or social scientist that 1) specializes in criminology and 2) researches, studies, and analyzes social behaviors. Criminologists examine behavioral norms (the behaviors most often seen in a society) and the deviations from these societal norms. It is important to recognized that every society has its own set of behavioral norms as as well deviations from these norms. As such, a career in criminology can present a myriad of career opportunities.

Criminologist Salary

Criminologist Salary, Earnings and Wage Information

Criminologists who have earned a bachelor’s degree should earn a salary around $30,000 to $40,000 a year. Those with master’s degrees will earn larger salaries usually beginning around $55,000 and up.

Source: US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,,

Where do Criminologists Work?

Criminologists mostly work in university settings, conducting research and teaching police administration and policy, juvenile justice, corrections, drug addiction, criminal ethnography, macro-level models of criminal behavior, victimology, and theoretical criminology. They conduct research about sociological, psychological, biological issues related to criminology. Some criminologists participate in community programs and involve themselves with policy projects with criminal justice agencies. Others work as policy advisors for state and federal agencies. A few start their own consulting businesses.

Common Career Paths in Criminology

  • Corrections
  • Counseling
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Diversion Programming
  • Financial Fraud Investigation & Prevention
  • Forensics
  • Intervention Programming
  • Insurance Fraud Investigation & Prevention
  • Judicial / Courts
  • Law Enforcement
  • Medical Investigation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Research and Policy Studies
  • Private Investigation
  • Psychologist – Psychopathology Specialist
  • Retail Investigation
  • Special Agencies
  • Teaching
  • Women's Studies
  • Youth Programming & Counseling
  • Additional Careers in Sociology

Agencies and Institutions That Employ Criminologists

  • Court Systems
  • Correctional Institutions
  • Counseling Agencies
  • Banks & Financial Institutions
  • Insurance Companies
  • Non-Profit Agencies
  • Private Investigation Agencies
  • Retailers
Federal Government
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
  • Homeland Security
  • U.S. Border Patrol
State Government
  • State Highway Patrol
  • Department of Rehabilitation & Correction
  • Youth Services
  • Public Safety
Local Governments: County, City, Township, Village
  • Local Police Divisions
  • Public Safety
  • Department of the Treasurer

Criminologist Education and Training

Recommended college courses at the undergraduate level for criminology typically include government, sociology, introductory psychology, sociological psychology, criminal law, juvenile delinquency, constitutional law, and criminal theory. Additional fields of study may include forensics, corrections, abnormal psychology, and statistics for the social sciences and business. A growing number of students also participate in social work courses that focus on the criminal system, corrections, and prisons. Criminologists also require classes in writing, computer science, and logic.

Criminologists typically earn a 4 year bachelors degree followed by a 2 year master's degree in criminology. Those who teach at a universities or conduct professional research are often required to earn a PhD in criminology or a closely related discipline. An advanced degree is also a prerequisite to achieving career advancement opportunities within the field of criminology.

Areas of Specialization in Criminology

There is a large variety of specializations that exist within the field of criminology. For their work, criminologist may focus on a specific age group, including elementary school age youth, middle school age youth, high school age youth, young adults, middle-aged adults, and/or senior citizens. You might ask yourself, what does criminology have to do with elementary school age youth? Unfortunately crime has worked its way down into the elementary school ages. Believe it or not, today, there are drug dealers that use elementary school age children to sell and distribute drugs and some children are actually taking loaded guns to school. Elementary school aged children are now found drinking alcohol and using controlled substances regularly. All of these delinquencies greatly contribute to the rate of crime in the United States, as well as the rest of the world.

Criminologists will often specialize in certain types of crimes. Some work with armed robbery, some with murders, others with prostitution, some with rape, others with serial crimes of varying types and degrees. Professionally, criminologists my developed specialities in crime scene investigation, crime prevention, criminal litigation, rehabilitation, corrections, or in a few instances the privatization of the state and federal prison system.

Profilers are highly specialized criminologists that develop detailed profiles of specific crimes and/or criminal elements by reviewing behavioral patterns by performing advanced statistical analysis. Profiles may look at particular segments of a population or identifiable groups of individuals that commit specific types of crimes and then build a sort of meta-profile, a combination of the behaviors, attributes and/or characteristics of those involved in perpetrating the crimes. A good profiler will be able to identify an average age range, demographics and other psychological characteristics for a "typical criminal" who's involved in specific type of crime.

Throughout their careers, criminologists can apply their knowledge and training in variety of disciplines including research, victim's rights, victimology, the juvenile justice system, forensics technologies, white collar crime, DNA/RNA evidence, and many other areas. A handfull of criminologists will decide to work on and for government policy initiatives, community-based initiatives and among CBOs (community based organizations), as well as a variety of other types of projects and programs.

Criminology Organizational Resources

  • American Society of Criminology (ASC)
    The American Society of Criminology is an reknown international organization whos membership is involved in research and policy in criminology, development and distribution of scientific and professional knowledge relating to the origins, prevention, and treatment of crime and delinquency; and promoting rehabilitation.
  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences
    The American Academy of Forensic Sciences is a professional society dedicated to applying forensic science to the criminal justice system. Members include criminalists, physicians, dentists,toxicologists, attorneys, physical anthropologists, engineers, document examiners, educators, and others involved in the field of forensic science.
  • Society for Research In Psychopathology
    Psychopathology plays an important role in some crimes. The Soceity for Research in Psycholopathology is dedicated to examining the interrelationship of the current issues in psychopathology and their impact on the individual, society, and criminal justice.
  • British Society of Criminology
    The British Society of Criminology is the United Kingdom's largest and most reknown criminological society. This organization is dedicated to further academic and professional knowledge of everything that is involved any aspect of criminology and criminal justice: teaching, research, or promoting knowledge.
  • International Association of Women Police
    The International Association of Women Police was established to help ensure equal employment for women in the criminal justice field by promoting and celebrating the individual strengths, talents, and skills of each of women involved in the fields of criminal justice and law enforcement.
  • General Council of the Bar
    This organization participates in many areas of criminal justice that include the administration of justice and relations with Government, the European Union, as well as a variety of legal professions in other countries, and other organizations with common interest.

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