Criminal activity, simply put, is a part of life. And the people who choose to protect the public by enforcing our laws play a vital role in holding society together. Criminologists make up a key part of this group, and criminology careers encompass a wide variety of exciting job tasks in diverse environments.
Criminology is a field that investigates the causes and prevention of crime, as well as the social response to it. Criminologists ask why people commit crime, and how criminal behavior can be predicted and deterred.
As a field of study, many consider criminology to be a sub-discipline of sociology, although psychology and even biology can also play strong roles. (For a much more detailed explanation and history of the field, check out our article What is criminology?)
Where can a degree in criminology lead? Due to the diversity of criminology careers, there are a number of options. As you might guess, many are employed by law-enforcement agencies. Some criminologists work on the front lines in criminal investigation, some analyze data to help predict crime, while others conduct research to inform major policy decisions.
Jobs are available at both state and federal levels, and some even work in private investigation. In addition, criminologists work with correctional agencies in administration and policy roles.
You might think of criminologists as the crime scene investigators from popular TV police procedurals such as CSI and Law and Order. While it’s true that a criminology degree could lead to a career in this field (known as forensic science), it does not represent a majority of the total. It will also usually require experience in science, often a 4-year degree in Biology or Chemistry for more coveted Criminalist positions.
On the other hand, many criminology careers are more removed from the solving of crimes. Many jobs are in social work, as counselors and psychologists dedicated to helping former criminals re-adjust to normal lives as productive citizens.
This introduction should make it clear that there is no easy definition of what constitutes a criminology career, and that there is significant overlap between criminology and criminal justice. (Read more about criminology vs. criminal justice)
For example, a police officer or a corrections officer fall under the broad category of criminology because they involve the study and prevention of crime.
But a specialized degree in Criminology will not be required, and these jobs have their own training programs. In addition, detectives and federal agents also fall under the general umbrella of criminology, but they will have even more extensive requirements and training in addition. For example, to become an FBI agent you must pass a rigorous application, extensive background check, a physical fitness text and have various critical proficiencies. Going to school for criminology might be helpful, but you’ll still be a long way from landing that dream job. In order to give yourself the best chance, you should also work on writing a good resume and polishing your interview skills.
We hope this site helps in your journey to a career in criminology or criminal justice. If you have any questions just ask!