While criminal justice deals more with the individuals who investigate crimes and arrest suspects, criminology is the study of crime and what makes it happen. A graduate of a criminology program studies the how, where and why of criminals, crime and criminal behavior. Criminology is also a field that offers an abundance of career opportunities.
What It Is
Criminology is the study of crime from a social view. It's the study of not just crime in general but what impact crime has on society, the causes of crime and the individuals who commit the crime. The focus of the study is to determine what makes individuals commit crimes or act in a criminal manner. It also studies why certain areas have more crimes or how crime affects victims. Anything having to do with criminals, crimes and crime victims is covered in the study of criminology.
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What Criminologists Do
Many describe working as criminologists as exciting, unpredictable and interesting. What they often fail to say is that it's an occupation that requires an individual be detail oriented, logical thinkers and have the ability to look at the big picture. Criminologists may do some of their studies and research alone, but spend a great deal of time working with law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal level. They may spend part of their day in an office studying certain behavioral patterns of a criminal or may be out in the field helping to investigate a crime and searching for evidence. Criminologists may also go to crime scenes, question witnesses or attend autopsies. Their basic duties include:
- Conducting Research
- Developing Theories
- Investigating Crime Scenes
- Composing Reports
How to Become a Criminologist
To become a criminologist requires at least a bachelor's degree. The Princeton Review states that while criminologists may be hired with just a bachelor's degree, many choose to earn a master's degree in behavioral sciences. Individuals who want to teach the subject must complete doctoral degree programs in sociology or psychology. The major of criminologists have completed psychology programs.
Criminology programs have courses in behavioral science, logic, computer science, statistics, psychology, and writing. Many of the states require criminologists to pass a written test to be licensed. At the start of their careers, they're often referred to as assistant or junior criminologist. The title of criminologist is usually not used until the individual has at least five years' experience.
Career Opportunities for Graduates
An individual who graduates from a criminology program is not limited to just working as a criminologist, although that in itself is a very rewarding career. Graduates may initially work as criminologists but decide they want more of the "real action" and pursue similar criminal justice careers as federal law enforcement investigators, detectives or police officers. Other career opportunities available to criminology graduates include:
- Federal law enforcement investigators
- Police officers
- Prison officers
- Community development workers
- Probation officers
- Social workers
With the high rate of crime today, many individuals are pursuing careers in law enforcement. Whether the job is as a police officer, detective, social worker or criminologist, they're all contributing a much-needed service to the public. Those who earn degrees in criminology are in positions to choose almost any criminal justice career they desire.