What Degree is Needed to Get a Job in Criminology?

As we explain here on the site, criminology careers can be extremely varied. While some work in law enforcement agencies, either at the state or federal level, many others hold positions in youth services, counseling, public safety and departments of correction. Other criminologists use their expert skills to conduct policy research on crime or teach criminology at a university.

Because there is no quick and easy definition of criminology work, the educational degrees needed will also vary. But this article will give you a good overview of the different possibilities.

Criminology Education

First, most jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree, so that is the first place to start. But is a bachelor’s degree in criminology the only way to get into the field? Not at all.

Criminology bachelor’s degree programs, although they are increasing in popularity, are still not all that widespread. In many cases, entry-level criminology positions will be looking for a bachelor’s in sociology or psychology. Areas you might want to focus on in coursework include the sociology of deviance, juvenile delinquency, sociology of law, and quantitative research methods. (Of course, look through the particular offerings of any schools that interest you and be sure to talk to professors and any advising resources that they offer.) In addition, criminal justice is another good option for a bachelor’s degree.

Some criminology jobs will be available to those with a bachelor’s in sociology, psychology, criminology or criminal justice. And while there are usually many opportunities to move up the career level as you gain work experience, many more coveted jobs in criminology will require additional education.

You will also want to do some research on your particular state, as some have specific licensure requirements for criminology careers that might involve passing a written exam.

Advanced Degrees in Criminology

Most criminologists who work for law enforcement agencies in areas such as crime investigation or policy research will have a master’s degree.

Many job descriptions will ask for something like a “master’s degree in criminology, sociology or related discipline with a criminology focus.” That is, as long as you study the behavior of criminals and the causes and prevention of crime at a quality institution, it will not matter exactly what they call the degree. (You will find that in some places, the master’s degree will be coupled with the field of criminal justice; while in others it may be in the sociology department. In recent years, more universities, both physical and online, are starting to open up standalone criminology departments as interest in the field continues to increase.

Finally, those interested in teaching criminology or criminal policy or conduction research for a think tank, the government or other nonprofit corporation will usually find that a PhD in criminology is required.



  1. Good points all around. Truly appreciated.

  2. criminology is a good way modern jops in law department thats why we have to study sociolog ,psycology and half english .i want to become a police officr its my first and last desire …..

  3. i love criminology

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