Criminologist: Work Description, Skillset, Salary, and Career Tips

If you ever watched “Criminal Minds” and feel you have what it takes to solve and prevent crimes without necessarily becoming a police officer, then you’re thinking Criminologist. However, the criminologist builds an exciting career by completing a criminology degree and professional courses that earn him a fulfilling job.

Criminologists are professionals who study the nature of crime and criminals and the social implications of crimes. They do this in a view to detect criminals and prevent crimes. They are usually very smart people as their work involves the knowledge of sociology, psychology, criminology, statistics, and criminal justice.

This post will provide you with all relevant information about criminologists. You will learn more about who they are, what they do, and the skills they possess that help them do what they do. You will also see how much they earn and what they do to progress in their careers.

Who is a Criminologist?

Criminologists are experts who study and evaluate the nature of several kinds of crime and the criminals who committed them. They may not be directly involved in solving crimes or punishing offenders, yet their job lies between sociology and law enforcement.

Therefore, Criminologists study human behavior (of criminals) to dictate behavioral patterns and those that deviate from the norm. With their analysis, they can say what caused it, if there were warning signs, and where the next crime is likely to happen.

Thus, they mainly work for law enforcement agencies. However, the criminologist’s job can also involve conducting research and creating policies that will help reduce crimes.

Meanwhile, you can check out these Law Scholarships.

What is the Criminologist Job Description?

The major job of a criminologist is to study every aspect of crime – the physical crime scenes, sociological causes, and criminal psychology – to solve and prevent them from happening again.

Thus, the criminologist’s job involves a lot of research. They gather statistics of crime based on demographics and location. He also works on policies to help reduce crimes in a city or town and ensure fair treatment of criminals.

However, when working with law enforcement, the criminologist’s job may include visiting crime scenes and interviewing criminals. They interview criminals to understand their motivation for committing crimes and how their mind works.

In addition to these, criminologists also perform the following job duties:

  • Conduct surveys
  • Gather statistical data
  • Write research papers and articles
  • Study criminal behavior
  • Work out strategies to reduce crime
  • Conducting research interviews
  • Formulate policy recommendations

Where do Criminologists Work?

The major work environment where criminologists can carry out their job duties are:

  • Federal, state, and local government
  • Police and prison services
  • Court services
  • Policy advisory boards
  • Security services
  • Not-for-profit organizations such as educational institutions and charity organizations with young offenders or crime victims.

In addition, criminologists can also work in private security and law enforcement firms. Also, they can work in social welfare services such as mental health support and drug rehabilitation.

What Jobs Can I Get With a Criminology Degree?

You can easily become a criminologist with a criminology degree. This is because criminology is the scientific study of nature, extent, management, causes, control, consequences, and prevention of criminal behavior. Exactly what a criminologist is concerned about.

However, you can take some very related jobs if you have a criminology degree.

These Criminology degree jobs are:

  • Detective
  • Police officer
  • Community development worker
  • Prison officer
  • Probation officer
  • Social worker
  • Youth worker

There are also other job positions you can fit into with your criminology degree that are not closely related to your degree. Some jobs are Adult Guidance Worker, Chaplain, Data Scientist, Border Force Officer, Social researcher, Local Government Officer, and Social Researcher.

However, for these job positions, you may need additional qualifications.

You can also read: How can I become an FBI agent? Requirements, Career & Salaries

Criminology Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have data for Criminologists. However, they have data for Sociologists, Police & Detectives. Both are professions closely related to Criminology.

So, according to BLS, sociologists’ average annual pay is $82,050, while Police and Detectives’ average annual pay is $63,380. Also, their estimated job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 9% and 5%, respectively.

On the other hand, Glassdoor gives the average annual salary of Development Criminologists as $67,677. Meanwhile, Developmental Criminologists study the criminal behavior of individuals and the reasons for such behaviors at different times or ages of their life.

Furthermore, according to Glassdoor, an Assistant Professor of criminology at Sonoma State earns $91,285 annually.

It is clear then that when you can earn a decent wage taking jobs related to criminology. And these jobs have at least an average job growth.

Criminology Education

It takes deliberate effort to become a criminologist. You will need the right kind of education and experience to grow up into a fine criminologist.

We will take you step-by-step on the proper education you need to become a criminologist.

  • Complete high school education: It is very important to start planning to become a criminologist from High School. While ensuring to make the best grades in high school, you can also take sociology, government, history, statistics, and psychology courses. If your high offers criminology or criminal justice courses, take them. Furthermore, join extracurricular clubs like Debating Societies, Math Club, or a Criminology Club if such exist.
  • Get a bachelor’s degree: A four-year undergraduate degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a criminologist. Search for colleges offering criminology degrees and enroll in their program. However, if you can’t major in criminology, you can still become a criminologist if you major in Sociology, Psychology, and Criminal Justice.
  • Apply for Internship positions: To speed you up in your career, gaining industry experience while still in college would be good. If your college program doesn’t incorporate internships, work with your school to develop an internship plan that suits your educational and career goals. Try to work as an intern in a police department, law office, government office, community organization, or research group.
  • Obtain an advanced degree: While the minimum requirement for criminology and criminology-related jobs is a bachelor’s degree, you may need an advanced degree to take some criminology jobs. For example, if you hope to work in College, you must have a PhD. Thus, it would be best if you tried to earn a master’s or PhD in fields such as Criminology, Criminal Justice, Sociology, or Behavioral Science.

If you study criminology at the university, you’ll find these Top 10 Criminal Justice Scholarships helpful.

Do I need a Criminology License?

Depending on the kind of job you wish to get with your criminology degree, you will require a license. For example, working as a criminologist with a law enforcement agency in several locations will require a license. You will have to sit for and pass examinations that are separate from your criminology degree or related degree which you have earned.

Thus, you may need to gain a license to practice as a criminologist in addition to your degree.

So, you have to search for the requirements of your criminology job in your location. If it requires a license to practice, learn about the format of their examination and study hard for it.

Criminology Schools

Are you looking for schools where you can get a criminologist degree or take criminology courses? here are the top five criminology schools according to US News & World Report.

University of Maryland, College Park

The University of Maryland, College Park, has a Criminology and Criminal Justice department that offers degree programs and courses in Criminology. You can get one of the best BAs in criminology and graduate and PhD degrees.

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University of Albany – SUNY

The University of Albany – SUNY offers criminology programs through its School of Criminal Justice. The School grooms students in all aspects of crime and societal reactions to crime. You can get some of the best Graduate and Undergraduate Criminology programs here.

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University of California, Irvine

The University of California, Irvine (UCI) offers its Criminology, Law, and Society department. Their undergraduate and PhD program prepares students for a career in Criminology. Also, the department allows students to get an online master’s degree in criminology.

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University of Cincinnati’s School of Criminal Justice

You can get one of the best Criminology degrees in the USA through the University of Cincinnati’s School of Criminal Justice. The University of Cincinnati offers BS, MS, and Special Courses and Programs in Criminal Justice, leading to a criminologist career.

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Arizona State University

Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers quality criminology programs and courses. In addition to its BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice, you can also take several criminology certificate courses to advance in your criminologist career.

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You should also see these 15 Best Criminology Schools in the UK.

Skills Required to be a Criminologist

While you are getting the right education to build a flourishing Criminologist career, there are certain skills you have to possess.

These skills are:

  • Research Skills – You must be able to research and love it.
  • Statistical Skills – Try to develop a firm understanding of mathematics, especially probability and statistics. You’ll need it to grow in your criminologist career.
  • Writing Skills – You must possess strong writing skills to succeed as a criminologist. This is because you will be writing a lot of reports and summarizing data analysis
  • Interpersonal Skills – You must communicate to make others listen to and open up to you. This skill will come in handy when interviewing criminals or in meetings with other professionals in the field.
  • Organizational Skills – because you will be dealing with a lot of data and information, you must be very organized.

Additionally, you must have an interest in Public Policy. This is because a career in criminology positions you to influence public policy. So, your interest in public policy will determine your success in preventing crime, which is vital to the job.

Furthermore, IT skills and the ability to work productively in groups will also help you grow in your Criminologist Career.

Career Tips for Criminologists

It is not enough to earn a criminologist degree or get a criminology or criminology-related job. You have to build a strong criminologist career and grow to earn better.

So, here are useful tips that will help you advance in your criminologist career.

1. Become a Member of a Professional Association

Joining a professional association helps you network and grow in your career. If you join a criminology association, you can get personal and professional help on almost every aspect of your career.

Some professional associations you can join as a criminologist include the International Society for Criminology, the American Society of Criminology, and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

2. Consider Alternative Careers

In reality, not many spelled out “Criminologist Jobs.” Many graduates with criminology degrees end up taking up a related job. So, while taking the necessary steps toward a criminologist career advancement, consider jobs like Border Patrol Agent, Compliance Officer, Federal Protection Officer, and Legal Assistant.

These jobs may not be your first choice, but they are equally rewarding, and your criminology degree can get you these jobs.

3. Attend Criminology Conferences

Professional Conferences will help you learn more in the field. Attending Criminology Conferences will open you up to new developments and issues in the field.

So, if you wish to attend criminology conferences regularly, follow associations like the American Society of Criminology, the Western Society of Criminology, and the European Society of Criminology.

4. Read and Publish Research in the Field

There is no better way to make a name in a field than to publish quality research. However, to be able to publish research in criminology, you must have read and are reading widely in the field. Also, you can publish a report on your work that you feel is very informative.

So, if you have report, research or articles on criminologists you wish to share, publish them in any of the following journals:

5. Take Continuing Education Courses

Criminology, like several other fields, is dynamic. There are constantly changing technologies, methods of operating, and policies in the field. Thus, while gaining working experience in the field, you may also need to update your knowledge.

To remain relevant, you can take criminology courses such as Documentation and Forensics, Combating Cyber Crime, and Promoting Crime Prevention. Universities, Colleges, Professional Associations, and Government Agencies offer these continuing education opportunities. You have to be on the lookout for them.

6. Specialize

Specialization may be the ultimate step to career growth in criminology. When you specialize in a sub-field in criminology and gain recognition in that field, you become the authority people seek.

Specializing areas in criminology include National Security, Cyber Crime, and Translational Criminology. However, to specialize in any of these, you must work on projects, take relevant courses, and publish more research, articles, and reports in the specific field.

Is A Degree In Criminology Worth It?

With the ongoing increase and projected increase in demand for criminologists, it is a great time to consider a career in criminology. The duty of a criminologist impacts society and beyond. Through exemplary discharge of duties, criminologists protect and serve communities.

Earning a criminology degree prepares you to excel in a law enforcement career. It also offers you a better view of human and societal behavior that can help improve your skillset in the game.

According to Czarnec on, the hallmark of an effective study of criminology involves theory and its important relationship to successful data-driven analysis, policy development, and the never-ending quest to improve the quality of life for all citizens.”


Criminologists are experts who study and evaluate the nature of several kinds of crime and the criminals who committed them. They do this to understand the motive for the crime, the trend of the crime, as well as how to prevent the next occurrence. Thus criminologists need some knowledge of sociology, psychology, and criminal justice, in addition to criminology, to function well. So, to grow a criminologist career, you will have to get criminology or other related discipline degrees, get a job, and take continuing education courses in criminology sub-disciplines.


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