PhD in Criminology: What is it Good For?

As we’ve mentioned in several posts on this site, your education is a major factor in your journey to land a criminology job. There are certain positions available to those who complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, but others require more advanced study.

Entering a PhD program in criminology is one such option, but it is a path that takes many years of study to complete. But what types of jobs are waiting at the end of the tunnel? And are they worth it?

What are Criminology PhD Programs?

First, it is important to remember the differences between criminology and criminal justice. Criminal justice is more of a study of the existing systems in place to deal with crime, such as the courts and prisons. Criminology, on the other hand, is a more in-depth investigation into the causes and societal responses to crime. As such, it involves in-depth research, studies of the impact of crime, and courses in criminological theory.

You will have to write a dissertation and perhaps also take a comprehensive examination at some point during your course of study.

In order to be considered for admission, you sometimes will have to have a master’s degree or PhD in another discipline, but sometimes a bachelor’s is all you need. Be sure to check the admission requirements for your desired programs to see what they require. You will also need to submit your scores on the GRE (or similar graduate examination), letters of recommendation, and a resume.

How Long Do Criminology PhD Programs Take?

The major thing to keep in mind when considering an advanced degree is how many years the program will take you. PhDs take the longest out of all academic programs, and you must be sure you are ready to give such a commitment before getting started.

If you are planning to be a full-time student, the typical time for completing a criminology PhD program is 4-5 years. If you are taking classes part time while working, the time will be longer. Conversely, if you are completing an online program, or otherwise accelerating the process by taking on extra courses, you might be able to finish in less time.

Here are a few links to criminology PhD programs where you can see the requirements and the time expected for completion. (Universities included here are in the US and UK):

Arizona State

UC Irvine

University of Manchester

In addition, here is a comprehensive report of different criminology programs put together by the Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology & Criminal Justice (ADPCCJ).

What Jobs Can You Get with a Criminology PhD?

As with most doctoral programs, a PhD in Criminology prepares you primarily for a career in academia. This typically means being a college professor, which entails teaching, scholarship (research), and service to your institution in the form of committee work and other responsibilities.

In addition to faculty positions, criminology PhDs can also seek research positions with diverse agencies ranging from state law enforcement offices to think tanks to the FBI.

Here is one site you can start your job hunt: