If you're interested in the study of criminal behavior and its prevention, then a degree in criminology may pique your interest. Law enforcement agencies and corporations are looking for people who understand the many facets of criminal behavior, crime prevention and criminal justice. Read further to see if this field of study is for you.
Criminology is a social science. A criminologist is a sociologist whose focus is the study of criminal behavior, as well as society's response to such behavior through law enforcement, regulatory agencies, social support systems and the criminal justice system. As a criminologist, you analyze criminal behavior to help with crime prediction and prevention, as well as policy development. Psychology, law, political science and history are all part of the discipline of criminology.
Lawmaker, detective, police officer, secret service officer and federal agent are possible criminology career options after earning your degree. You might find work at the local, state or federal level of government in organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security. In the private sector, criminologists are typically hired by security departments for corporations to help deal with white-collar crime. You might also become self-employed as a private investigator or consultant. Furthermore, you may choose to continue your education and become a lawyer or social worker.
Since crime has a major impact on society, a degree in criminology studies may be a good career fit for you if you're interested in criminal behavior and in the political and societal pressures that shape our laws regarding criminal justice. Moreover, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities in local law enforcement agencies were reported to be favorable from 2008 to 2018 (www.bls.gov).
The BLS does not have wage information specifically for criminologists. However, it did report that as of May 2010, detectives and criminal investigators earned an annual median wage of $68,820. According to PayScale.com, most criminologists made between $30,064 and $59,432 annually as of October 2011.
Several types of criminology degree programs from the associate to the doctoral level are available. Most employers prefer applicants with bachelor's degrees or higher. However, if you're interested in becoming an investigator or detective, you may qualify with just a high school diploma, although you will need to go through a training academy and pass rigorous physical tests and exams.
A bachelor's degree program in criminology addresses the criminal justice system, crime analysis, law enforcement, public security, social support and regulatory agencies that work toward the improvement of society. You learn about the historical and modern day approaches to policing and the criminal justice system, as well as the philosophical underpinnings of such approaches. You may take classes in government, civil liberties, juvenile justice, law enforcement and the Constitution.
A master's program in criminology will prepare you for more advanced jobs working in leadership positions in management and policy development for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as corporations. You learn about research analysis and application, ethical conduct in positions of power and contemporary issues in criminology. You could take courses in psychology, research methodology and statistics. Many master's degree programs are designed for the criminal justice professional wanting to enhance his or her career prospects. If you have a doctorate degree in criminology, you may work in research, policy-making and academic positions, and you could enjoy higher earning power.