With the recent popularity of such shows as "CSI," the field of
criminology has become far more fascinating than ever to the general
public. As sociologists, criminologists study factors such as when and
where crimes are most often committed, the reasons for criminal
behavior, and the types of crimes most often committed. They may also
research crime’s effect on society at large, and the government’s
response to crime.
Criminologist Job Description
Criminologists usually work closely with both
local and federal law enforcement offices, and sometimes may even be
employed by such agencies. The idea is to help law enforcement
professionals catch criminals more quickly, predict patterns of criminal
behavior, and improve agency response to crime. A criminologist may be
called on by a small-town police department to help them solve a series
of crimes, or may earn a paycheck from the FBI. They may profile a
suspect for a specific crime, or help analyze a string of related crimes
by several individuals. Some criminologists even end up working as
police officers, FBI agents, and state medical examiners, and may leave
the field to work as therapists, psychologists, or counselors – in fact,
more criminologists leave their area of work to enter law enforcement
than those in many other occupations.
Some criminologists may specialize in a specific
field, such as juvenile crime; particular types of crimes, like murder
or kidnapping; crime prevention; criminal investigation; litigation;
corrections; profiling; or private or government research.
The majority of criminologists, however, work in academic
settings like universities, where they conduct research and teach. Most
criminologists have an undergraduate degree in psychology, sociology, or
criminal justice; many also hold master’s degrees in criminal justice
or criminology. The amount of education and training you have can mean a
great difference in the amount you earn at the beginning and throughout
your career. Criminologists with bachelor’s degrees have an average
entry level salary of $30,000, while those with master’s degrees can
earn $55,000 or more, as well as landing a higher-level position from
the get go.
Work experience can also be a factor in your employability; aspiring
criminologists who have previously worked as law enforcement or
correctional officers may have a leg up on their competition, and may be
able to more easily enter the field with a bachelor’s degree. However,
those who want to teach at a university level must have their Ph.D. in
psychology or sociology. Criminology can be a very competitive field, so
it’s also a good idea to take courses in statistics, computer science,
and writing, thanks to the large amount of work criminologists do in
analyzing crime rates and statistics and writing reports. It may also
help to have a part-time job or internship in the field.
Also make sure to thoroughly research all requirements in the area
you wish to work – some states require a license to practice as a
criminologist, while others do not.