How to Become a Criminologist
Criminologists study a combination of various disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences, equipping them with knowledge about the causes, control, consequences, management, extent, and nature of criminal behavior. They help law enforcement to understand why criminals behave the way they do. They also help to combat crime and rehabilitate criminals.
Who should become a criminologist?
You should be:
- A critical thinker
- A problem-solver
- A good communicator
- Emotionally strong (sometimes you have to speak to crime victims, which can be distressing)
- A team player
- Adaptable and flexible
- Interested in human behavior and what motivates it, social welfare, and policing
What qualifications do you need?
You will need a bachelor’s degree in either criminal justice, criminology, psychology, or sociology. You will need to have a clean criminal record and be a US citizen. Some states regulate the practice of criminology. If your state does so, you will need to pass an examination to gain a license.
Look for an internship you can complete while you’re still at school. This will give you real-time, first-hand experience and let you know if criminology is the field for you. Various places offer internships, including the police, community organizations, law practices, research bodies, and government offices on a State or Federal level.
What do criminologists actually do?
Criminologists work with the police and other law enforcement agencies, as well as private investigators and medical examiners. They carry out a wide number of functions, including
- Recording crimes
- Keeping track of crime levels in various geographical areas
- Criminal profiling
- Assessing how effectively correctional and rehabilitation programs are working
- Looking for the causes of crime, as well as its effects, at individual, family, and societal levels
According to The Princeton Review, a criminologist’s career can be divided into three parts. For the initial two years, you will be an assistant or junior criminologist. This is when you will probably receive training. At around year five you will have earned the title of a criminologist. You will be engaging in work that involves data analysis and be involved in policy and procedure development. By year 10, you might be a chief criminologist, which is more of a management role.
To advance in criminology, perhaps into a particular specialty or into administration, you will need plenty of experience. Your chances of advancing will be greatly increased if you obtain a master’s degree. This could be in criminal psychology or forensic criminology, which could qualify you as a psychological criminologist or a forensic criminologist. You should also get certified as a Criminal Profiler Professional from the International Association of Forensic Criminologists. Join professional bodies to stay abreast of new developments and network with other professional criminologists.
Where can you work?
There are many potential employers, from social welfare organizations to law enforcement agencies at local, state, and Federal level, the court system, correctional centers, and forensic laboratories.