How to Become a Criminologist

Criminology is an area of sociology that focuses on the study of crimes and their causes, effects, and social impact. A criminologist’s job responsibilities involve analyzing data to determine why the crime was committed and to find ways to predict, deter, and prevent further criminal behavior. While some time may be spent at crime scenes, the majority of a criminologist’s time will be spend in either a laboratory or office, collecting and logging data to be used in criminal investigations and policymaking. Employment opportunities can be found with federal and state government agencies, local law enforcement, private companies, and in the research departments of colleges and universities. However, minimum qualifications must be met to be considered for a criminologist position.

Minimum Qualifications

Candidates being considered for a criminology position will undergo extensive background checks, numerous interviews, and drug screenings. To gain employment, you must have no criminal history and no drugs in your system. Other qualifications will vary by employer. Competition for these positions is high, so many employers look for candidates who have completed at least one internship in the criminal justice field, which can often be completed through a degree program.

Education & Training

According to The Princeton Review, the educational requirement for many entry-level criminology positions is at least a bachelor’s degree, though some employers require post-baccalaureate coursework or a graduate degree. Most criminologists have a degree in psychology or sociology, often with an emphasis in criminal science, though schools offer criminology degree programs online and on campus. Your coursework will focus on areas such as criminal theory, behavioral sciences, social deviance, law, the justice system, types of crime, and the causes and effects of crime. Many employers may also require on-the-job training, usually under the direct supervision of a professional criminologist. Also, licensing requirements vary by state. Some states do not have any licensing requirements, but those that do will have a set of licensing requirements, including minimum educational and professional standards. All of this can lead to a long, successful career.

Career Statistics

The Princeton Review divides a criminologist’s career timeline into three sections. They show that for the first two years of your career, you will be a junior or assistant criminologist. Many employers use this time to train you and prepare you for increased responsibilities. By the fifth year of your career, you may have earned the title of criminologist. Your responsibilities will typically include analyzing data and participating in policy and procedure discussions. By your tenth year, you may have earned the title of chief criminologist. This is often more of a managerial role, developing and overseeing research projects, managing staff, and offering advice and guidance. Wages will increase with each advancement, though starting salaries, as well as criminology job openings and opportunities for advancement, will depend on several factors, such as your level of professional experience, education, location, and employer. To give you an idea of your possible average starting salary, North Carolina State University shows that the average salary for a criminologist holding a bachelor’s degree – typically an entry-level requirement – is $33,160 a year. However, what you earn may differ from this.

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