How Do You Become a Criminologist?

In order to become a criminologist, candidates will need the right education, training and licensure. A criminologist is tasked with analyzing data to understand crimes, such as why they are committed, and to solve social problems, such as how to predict and prevent specific criminal behaviors. Although a few spend time collecting data at crime scenes, almost all criminologists spend their time in offices, laboratories or academic settings.

Required Education

Criminology is a highly intellectual and highly competitive field because most of the work revolves around analyzing and determining criminal patterns. Therefore, most students major in sociology, psychology or criminology as undergraduates. There are specialized majors, such as social psychology or a dual degree in sociology and criminology. All of these majors allow students to better understand human nature, analyze actions and predict behaviors. It is possible to become a criminologist with just a bachelor’s degree, but most criminologists pursue a master’s degree in the behavioral sciences. Coursework will focus on areas such as law, criminal theory, social deviance, crime categorizations and the justice system.

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology

These degree programs will introduce students to basic concepts in politics, law, sociology, psychology and criminal justice. A research methods classes will introduce students to the standard social science research methods that are applied to contemporary criminal justice issues. Students will examine the relationships between theories and research in order to identify patterns and draw evidence-based conclusions. Studying abnormal psychology will enable students to better understand human behaviors through comparing the differences and similarities between normal and abnormal behaviors. Studying criminal psychology will provide insights into how criminals are influenced by multiple stimuli within various environments. Students learn about the psychological factors that motivate antisocial acts.

Obtain a Master’s Degree in Criminology

Most criminology positions require a master’s degree, which will provide students with theoretical frameworks and practical application, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These programs will enhance the students’ knowledge of criminology and increase their crime analysis, prediction and prevention abilities. Some criminology programs take an interdisciplinary focus by working with faculty from different departments, so students are exposed to criminology topics in the fields of law, medicine, finance and business. Sample classes include cyber criminology, transnational crimes, criminal psychopathology and contemporary crime policy. Others include contemporary issues in criminology, strategic planning for law enforcement and rapid decision-making for leaders.

Career Requirements

Competition for criminology positions is intense, so many employers look for candidates who have completed internships in the criminal justice field. Many of these are offered through degree programs. This unique work experience enhances resumes when looking for a full-time job. Before being hired in a law enforcement related position, candidates are subject to drug screenings, numerous interviews and comprehensive security and criminal background checks. Most states require criminologists to pass a licensure exam before beginning employment. Employment opportunities are found within law enforcement and state and federal government agencies. Private employment can be found in research centers, private think tanks and academic departments of colleges and universities.

Related Resource: 5 Duties of a Forensic Psychologist

Criminology is an academic area of sociology that studies crimes and their causes, effects and social impacts. Those who want to become a criminologist will need at least a master’s degree, but research positions may require a doctorate degree.