Job Spotlight - Criminology

If you’ve always been drawn to television and movies depicting the police and criminals, it would make sense that you would have some interest in Criminology work. Luckily for you we have all the information you will need to know to help you get on the right path to a new and exciting job. We have done the research for you so all you have to do is to figure out if becoming a criminologist is something that piques your interest.

Quick Facts: Criminologists and Sociologists
2015 Median Pay (Annual)$73,760
2015 Median Pay (Hourly)$35.46
Entry Level EducationMaster’s degree
2014-2024 Projected Outlook-1% growth (little or no change)
2014 Number of Jobs2,600
2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains0

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Criminology FAQs

This page is dedicated to answering some of the most-asked about questions we have received concerning Criminology. We will cover all aspects from required education, how to get it, and what to expect working as a criminologist. If you have more questions or if you want more information, please feel free to contact us.

What is Criminology?

Criminology is part of the field of sociology but instead of dealing society as a whole, criminologists try to find, explain and offer ways to prevent forms of criminal behavior. The study of Criminology uses psychology, biology, anthropology, economics, statistics, and forensics along with other disciplines in their search for answers. They gather all the information they can on the crime including statistics, area of the country, social groups involved and how the criminals were arrested, prosecuted and punished for the crime.

A criminologist is looking for to answer a number of questions when it comes to crime. Some of the main questions that is tasked for those with a background in Criminology include:

  • How the crime happened
  • Why the crime happened
  • How it will affect the community and society
  • How to control or prevent it from happening again

The shortened version is that Criminology is looking for criminal trends both similar and deviations to be able to have some insights on crime and society. The findings are then written up in a report that is either published in academic journals or given to law enforcement and government agencies.

How Can I Start Working as a Criminologist?

The quick answer to this question is a post-secondary education but more than likely it won’t be a straight path. Criminology is a multidisciplinary field meaning that those that work as a criminologist may have different educational backgrounds.  Let’s try to break this down for easier understanding.

Criminology as a Major

You will find that most colleges and universities do not have a Criminology bachelor degree program. However, there is an easy work around by majoring psychology or sociology with a minor in criminal justice. It is also extremely helpful if you spend your elective credits on computer science, biology, logic, statistics and writing.

If you do happen to find a school with a Criminology bachelor degree program you are in luck. Plan on picking up a minor in psychology or sociology then schedule your electives as mentioned above. You could even throw in a class or two in economics to help round out your education.

Level of Degree

The entry-level degree you will need to earn is a Bachelor of Science in psychology, sociology or Criminology – if available. This will help you get your foot in door of some agencies but if you plan on advancing, would like more employment choices or a possible higher salary you will need to earn an advanced degree.

A growing number of criminologists are raising the bar in the field by earning their master degrees. This change is reflected by the number of positions that require graduate level degrees. You may also consider your PhD if you want to teach future criminologists at a college or university.

It is possible to earn an Associate of Science in Criminology from a community college. This is a great idea if you want to test the waters of what this major will have to offer without enrolling in a 4-year college or university. If you like what you learned, you may be able to transfer your credits towards a bachelor degree.

Our recommendation is to earn your bachelor degree and work a few years in this field before pursuing your master or PhD. The real-life experience of a job in Criminology could make you a promising candidate not only for grad school but also future job opportunities.


While pursuing your bachelor degree it would be a good idea to do an internship. Trust us when we say that any work related experience is going to give you a great understanding of the job as well as help you figure what you need to work on. Plus, if your performance is relatively well received during your internship you may have a leg up on competition when it comes to look for a job. It is quite common for internships to lead directly to a real paying job.

Enlisting in the Armed Forces

If you don’t have the money to go to a college or would like to expand your horizons before entering the civilian workforce, you could always enlist in the U.S. armed forces. While you are serving your country you will have the opportunity to train for a wide range of jobs including that of law enforcement. This could be the answer you are looking for if you are highly interested in Criminology.

The law enforcement arm of the military is one of the largest in the country and it includes both military police, investigative agents and civilians. Why not take the opportunity to get some experience under your belt as well as get some outstanding training in a profession that you want to enter after your enlistment period is over.

Where Can I Find Criminology Schools?

Quick Info: Getting into College
Typical college entrance requirements
• High school diploma or GED
• Satisfactory score on college entrance exam (SAT or ACT)
• Copy of high school transcripts
• References from high school counselor and or teachers
• Placement exam
• Written essay

Colleges and universities that offer Criminology degrees are found all over the country. The next step is finding which institution you want to attend. There are a several ways you can go about looking for a college.

  • Talk to your high school counselor
  • Internet
  • Ask around
 Making a Decision

Now that you have a list of colleges to choose from, the next step is trying to narrow the list to something that fits as your ideal type of school. Let’s be honest, you are going to spend the next few years at this institution so you will want to find one that you can live with. This is your decision and even though it is rare that one school will have everything you want, at least find one you can be comfortable attending.

Some questions to consider when looking for a college includes:

  • Are you looking for a big or small college?
  • Can you swing the cost of tuition?
  • How much financial aid would you need?
  • Do you want to live near or far from home?
  • Do you want a campus setting or a college in a big city?
  • Is the college an accredited institution?
  • What are the graduation requirements?
  • How difficult is it to get in the classes you want?
  • What is the faulty to student ratio?
  • Does the college have good extracurricular activities?
  • What is the graduation rate for your major?
  • How reputable is the school?
  • Do you like the college campus?
Other Options Other Than School

Much like choosing which college or university you want to attend, joining the military is a personal decision. Maybe your family has a long history of serving in the Marines or maybe you are fascinated with jets so the Air Force is the way to go. The choice is really up to you but you should know that unlike college, it is much harder to quit and move to another branch. You will be committed to serve for four years.

There are a couple of ways you can find out more information about the military and what it has to offer. The first one is talking to a recruiter in your area. Go to the office of the military branch of choice and have a sit down with the recruiter. Ask any and all questions. Don’t necessarily make a decision right there but think it over first. Make sure this is what you want to do. Remember, this isn’t just a job, but an adventure.

The second way to find out more info about any of the military branches is by visiting their websites. You may be surprised on the amount of information that you will find on their websites including what it takes to get in to a certain training program or what you need to do to enlist. To find out more information about law enforcement in the military, check out the links below.

U.S. Army

U.S. Navy

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Marine Corps

Coast Guard

Is It Possible to Study Online for a Criminology Degree?

The answer is a resounding yes! It is possible for you to pursue your Criminology degree through one of the many respected online colleges. There are some great benefits for going through an online school such as saving time, not having to relocate, being able to continue working full-time or being a stay at home parent as well as being able to pick the best Criminology program you can find without worrying about the distance. Just keep in mind that we still recommend that you do some form internship with local law enforcement.

If you are currently working as a criminologist or want to change occupations without quitting your job, online schools are a great way to earn your master degree. You can study at home whenever you have time to set aside for it.

What Will I Study as a Criminology Major?

The types of classes you will take is mainly dependent on the graduation requirements of the college you are attending. The types of classes offered and the overall number of required classes may vary. You will most likely have to take a number of general education courses such as English, foreign languages, communications, math and history.

You will also have some free elective classes that allow you take courses that can be outside of your major. As previously mentioned, you can really help yourself by taking some courses in biology, computer science, statistics, creative and technical writing and logic. These classes will help sharpen skills that you will ultimately need in your real life job.

Your core classes are your Criminology related topics. These are the courses that you have been waiting to take, or at least hopefully you want to take. Please note that the names of the courses may not be the same at your college. Some of these classes include:

  • Theory of Criminology
  • History of Criminology
  • Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Intro to Juvenile Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Behavior
  • Punishment and Correctional Institutions
  • American Legal System
  • International Law
  • Theories of Crime
  • Crime Analysis
  • Victimology
  • Crime, Women and Justice
  • Organized Crime
  • Terrorism
  • Legal Reasoning
  • Comparative Criminology
  • Social Control, Law and Society
  • Criminal Organizations
  • Cyber-crime
  • Substance Abuse

Criminology Theories

One of the main focuses of Criminology programs is understanding the various theories used to help decipher reasons for crimes and ways to prevent them from happening again. Some of the main theories are:

  • Social Disorganization Theory
  • Strain Theory
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Choice Theory
  • Positivist Theory
  • Routine Activity Theory
  • Social Ecology Theory
  • Classical Theory
  • Sub-cultural Theory
  • Conflict Theory
  • Critical Theory
  • Social Control Theory
  • Labeling Theory
  • Life Course Theory
  • Rational Choice Theory

How Long Does it Take To Get a Criminology Degree?

There are a few factors that can help answer this question such as how hard you push yourself, how quickly you understand the information and the type of degree you want pursue. Listed below is the average amount of time you should expect to spend in school. This does not imply a guarantee on how long it will take any individual person.

  • Associate degree takes 18 to 24 months
  • Bachelor degree takes 4-years
  • Master degree takes 2 to 3 years after you have earned a bachelor degree

Where Can I Find Criminology Jobs?

Criminologists normally work for enforcement agencies as part of a psychological and sociological team that help analyze criminal behavior. The types of places that employ criminologists include the local and state police departments, prisons and jails, FBI, CIA, DEA, border patrol, INS, ATF, the military and private security firms to name a few. Basically any law enforcement type agency that deals with criminal activities.

Other Careers

You may not know it but the criminology degree can be a way to open yourself up to a wide range of professions other than being a criminologist. While these jobs are related to Criminal Justice and Criminology, it is nice to know that you do not necessarily have to work as a criminologist. Some of the other careers are:

  • Corrections
  • Counseling
  • Law Enforcement
  • Teaching
  • Medical Investigation
  • Research and Policy Studies
  • Juvenile Counseling
  • Forensics
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Insurance Fraud Investigation and Prevention
  • Financial Fraud Investigation and Prevention
  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychologist
  • Sociologist
  • Private Security
  • Consultant
  • Cybersecurity

What is the Future Outlook for Criminology Jobs?

Since there are so jobs offered for strictly a Criminologist, it falls under the larger heading of sociologist which is roughly the same position. The 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics currently lists a bright future for those working in this field. There is an expected growth of 15% of new jobs through the year 2022.

Criminology Degree Estimated Job Growth Comparison Chart

What is the Median Criminologist Salary?

Criminology is a great paying field with the potential to hit six digits. The median wage according to the last report from May 2013 is $74,960 annually or $36.04 an hour. You will have a lot of choices as far as careers go when you have a criminology degree. The salary can fluctuate dramatically between these jobs.

criminology salary

This salary range does not necessarily reflect your actual salary in this position since there are some factors that may influence the real dollars you can experience. Some of these factors include:

  • Location
  • Employer
  • Experience
  • Degree


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