Whether you are a fan of true crime documentaries or enjoy popular TV shows like Criminal Minds, Law and Order and CSI, they might be a big factor behind your inspiration to pursue a degree in criminology. Criminology is the study of crime as a social phenomenon, and therefore, a social problem. Both students and professionals in this field conduct research on all the various aspects of crime, and how it affects society as a whole. In contrast, criminal justice is a field which establishes systems for both detecting crime and prosecuting offenders. While the two fields do complement each other, they take varying approaches.
Getting a degree in criminology can provide you with a chance at a wide range of rewarding, fascinating career opportunities. Jobs working in both criminology and criminal justice are interesting and can also be very lucrative, with good salaries and a range of excellent healthcare and retirement benefits. So, what can you do with a degree in criminology?
Working as a criminologist is perhaps one of the most notable career options available for those with a criminology degree. To work as a criminologist, you will usually need to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminology, which you can even get online, and then go on to earn your master’s degree or doctorate.
Criminologists specialize in a wide range of areas, as this article from Wilfrid Laurier explains. For example, you can work in environmental criminology, which concerns the details of the areas and surroundings where crimes are committed. In addition, criminologists are also often responsible for making improvements to the activities and functions of the police, through innovations like community-centered or predictive policing. Criminologists may work in a range of environments, including:
- Universities and colleges
- Legislative bodies
- Public policy areas
Forensic psychology is another very fascinating career field that you can get into with a degree in criminology. You will usually need to earn a master’s degree or doctorate in psychology on top of your criminology degree in order to get a position in this field.
Forensic psychologists are usually responsible for studying criminal behavior and the psychological aspects of offenders, in order to identify patterns. They will also spend time studying the impact of various law enforcement techniques to determine whether they are suitable deterrents to crime. Forensic psychology work is carried out in a range of different environments, and those interested in this field can choose from various different job titles including:
- Expert witness
- Prison psychologist
- Psychological investigator
- Jury consultant
- Criminal profiler
Law Enforcement Professional
Many students who choose to get a degree in criminology do so because they are interested in working on the front-line fighting crime. A degree in criminology will prepare you for a law enforcement career, as you will learn about crime as a social problem, and why offenders make the choices to commit crimes. There are many different law enforcement career options to choose from, each with their own responsibilities and benefits. Law enforcement officials tend to be first and foremost in the criminal justice system, therefore it may benefit you to get a master’s degree in criminal justice or choose criminology degree classes with a strong emphasis on the criminal justice system and how it works. As a law enforcement professional, you will be dealing with work where no two days are the same and this requires you to have strong skills in communication, critical thinking, observation, teamwork, and adapting under pressure. Some career options that you might want to consider include:
- Police officer
- Federal agent
- Personal protection officer
- Probation officer
- Prison warden
If the forensic side of things interests you, you might be interested in pursuing a career as a scene of crime officer or crime scene investigation (CSI) professional. Ideally, you will also need to have a strong background in forensic science to work in this field, so it is a good choice for students who are prepared to take extra classes in forensics or get a master’s degree in forensic science after graduating with a criminology degree. Scene of crime officers work at the crime scene itself and are responsible for collecting forensic and photographic evidence to help support police investigations. This job is not for the faint-hearted; you could be walking into some very difficult situations and environments, like murder cases. It might be an ideal career choice for you if:
- You can cope with upsetting scenes and have a strong stomach
- You enjoy solving puzzles
- You want to contribute to catching criminals and making the world a safer place
- You have a good eye for detail
Not all career options for criminology majors involve chasing criminals; you can also pursue a career as a social worker, where you might be working with vulnerable members of the public like children or the elderly. After getting your degree in criminology, you will usually be required to earn a master’s degree in social work in order to pursue a role in this field. Social workers work with vulnerable individuals, families, and groups to offer them support during difficult times, often if they have been the victim of a crime. As a social worker, you will provide support to people who are dealing with mental health problems, alcohol or drug abuse, homelessness, or other issues to be an advocate for them and help them get the financial, medical, and housing support that they need.
This work will utilise both the sociological and psychological aspects of your criminology degree and allow you to work with a range of people from various backgrounds and walks of life, to build on your knowledge further and develop more empathy. You can use your work as a force for good and every day you’ll be making a real difference in the lives of the people that you work closely with by helping them out at what is often going to be the lowest point in their lives.
If you’re interested in solving crimes, helping victims of crime, and making the world a nicer place, there are many careers you can pursue to do just this once you’ve earned a degree in criminology.