You must have watched one or two TV series showcasing the intrigues and thrills of the crime world. If you find these detective-type exploits thrilling, you might have just passed the first test to become a great criminologist.
You may wonder, is Hollywood’s portrayal of crime obtainable in reality? Are there ebbs and flows that we don’t get to see on screen? Unless you want to join the Mafia to gain personal experience, a criminology degree is your best bet at getting these answers.
What is criminology?
Criminology is a complex discipline that examines the human elements, interactions and workings of crimes from a social perspective. It is a branch of sociology that’s similar to criminal justice but borrows a leaf from philosophy, anthropology, biology, and many more fields.
Criminology provides reliable answers to questions such as:
- Why are there crimes?
- What factors motivate people to commit crimes and break laws?
- What are the best deterrents for crimes?
This discipline focuses on individuals or organizations responsible for crimes, why they engage in illegal activities, and their impact on society. This profession takes it further by proffering preventative solutions and has been of tremendous help in tackling crime in the US and globally, added Billy Jensen, an investigative journalist focused on unsolved murders and missing persons. But after seventeen years of writing hundreds of stories with no endings, he was fed up—and decided to try to solve the murders and find the missing himself. It worked. Combining the shoe-leather investigative work and skills he learned reporting crime with techniques honed from his day job as a digital executive, Jensen has solved or helped solve ten homicides and helped locate missing persons.
The course has also evolved over the years with the introduction of different theories that fall into psychological, biological, classical and sociological categories.
Criminology goes deeper to cover the following areas:
- Crime location
- Crime frequency
- The root of crimes
- Types of crimes
- Consequences of crimes on individuals and the society
- Reaction to crimes from society, individuals and government
Why you should become a criminologist
There are several benefits attached to getting a criminology degree. One of the most significant is the fact that it cleanses society by enabling law enforcers to fish out and rehabilitate the ‘bad guys’. For the most part, the nature of criminology doesn’t require fieldwork, so it doesn’t put the professional’s life on the line. Working with a criminology degree is only a bit risky when operating within a law enforcement department.
Another reason why you should opt for a criminology degree is the opportunity for competitive salaries. In some positions, criminologists are remunerated by the government and enjoy several additional benefits. On the other hand, a criminology degree opens the doors to many job opportunities in different institutions and environments. Effectively, there isn’t a job scarcity if you take this career path.
More importantly, this degree is now relatively easy to get, and you do not have to spend many months in college. There are several criminology courses online.
Career opportunities with a criminology degree
Here are some of the top jobs available for criminology degree holders.
- Private investigator
These are professionals hired by individuals or organizations to investigate a particular crime. Note that the purview of this job is not limited to crimes but also civil matters.
Private investigators get called up when clients require more information on particular situations. Here are popular reasons why clients need the services of a PI, as they are fondly called:
- Identity theft
- Business background check
- Criminal investigation
- Investment fraud
- Romance scam
- Insurance scam
- Child custody case
What would make a private investigator a perfect choice for a client? While different individuals will consider various factors, the level of education is a constant. Without a degree in criminology or related fields, pursuing a career as a private investigator would be very difficult.
For starters, a criminology degree would increase your confidence as a private investigator. This degree provides a deep understanding of how the criminal mind works, so it comes in handy when investigating mysterious crimes.
- Loss prevention officer
These are trained professionals saddled with the responsibility of preventing theft at retail stores and other business outfits. These officers function very differently from security guards. They generally take preventative rather than curative measures, but sometimes they might have to apprehend shoplifters.
Also, this job may involve surveilling the vicinity of a business. It could also be an internal affair that includes monitoring CCTV, controlling exits, entry points, emergency gates, etc.
The pay is very competitive and depends on the size of the business outfit. You should note that rather than hire loss prevention officers, some organizations prefer to train theirs. However, with a degree in criminology, there is a high chance of getting hired by big outfits looking for an expert loss prevention officer. As a criminologist, you can also join private security companies as a contractor and increase your chances of getting jobs.
- Jury consultant
A jury is a sworn body of regular citizens tasked with determining if an accused is guilty or innocent. The jury is a vital part of the US justice system as the jurors reach their verdicts by examining the facts of the case.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that only the judge can interpret the law, and the jury stands in as the ‘finder of fact’. The question is, how do courts select jurors who will operate without bias? This is where the jury consultant comes in.
These professionals assist in appointing jurors by investigating the candidates and carrying out background checks. That way, the court is certain of getting unbiased verdicts. Due to the delicate and investigative nature of a jury consultant, having a degree in criminology would be very helpful.
A successful career as a jury consultant requires:
- Analytical dexterity – This is vital as jury consultants spend most of their time analyzing information regarding the jury. The analyses converge the data on the background, lifestyle, addictions, family, criminal records, etc., to determine how potential jurors would respond to the case.
- Excellent communication skills – The jury consultant does not work in isolation, so there is a need to present findings in a comprehensive manner. Jury consultants usually work with attorneys and should have the skills to tender their discoveries properly, both in written form and verbally.
- Probation officer
This is another delicate career where a criminology degree can make all the difference. Probation officers help prepare newly released criminals to reenter society. They draw up treatment plans and rehabilitation programs to assist probationers in starting life afresh. Usually, these officers meet with ex-convicts regularly, discuss challenges, and proffer ways to move forward.
On the other hand, probation can also be a punishment for first-time offenders to ensure that they stay out of jail but under the supervision of an officer. The goal is to monitor them and try to prevent them from committing a crime that would lead to jail time.
Here are some of the activities that this job requires to ensure that probationers comply with the court orders:
- Conducting drug screens
- Monitoring the behavior of offenders
- Guiding them through the tenets of the law and why they should obey them
- Counseling them and making them fit for society
Working as a probation officer means dealing with criminals or those with criminal tendencies. While some may be remorseful and have had a change of heart, you would need to be careful of those criminal tendencies creeping out. Also, the ability to communicate effectively with this class of individuals is crucial. The job is made easy with a sound knowledge of criminal psychology. Fortunately, a degree in criminology covers that and more.
- Criminology professor
This is the uppermost echelon as far as this course is concerned. A criminology professor spends time lecturing in tertiary institutions focusing on criminal psychology, other branches of sociology, and law. These professors receive huge salaries and can make even more by selling books and publishing journals. Beyond the financial benefits, you enjoy intrinsic satisfaction from imparting all the knowledge you have gathered to the next generation.
In some cases, these professionals combine the work of a college professor with that of a criminologist. Shuffling between crime scenes and classrooms improves your ability to teach the course to students and sharpens your practical application in the field.
The journey to becoming a criminology professor is definitely not an easy or quick one. It starts with getting a degree in criminology and then climbing up to the highest level as far as academics go. It often takes several years of learning and experience.
- Correctional officer
Correctional officers are responsible for maintaining sanity and order in prisons. They work around the clock to ensure that inmates follow the stipulated rules and regulations. This job description is not as simple as it sounds because criminals have a knack for going against the rules. A lot of times, officers resort to using force to ensure that the inmates comply.
However, the goal of putting criminals in such a correctional facility is rehabilitation. So, the role of a correctional officer is not just to enforce these laws, but also to connect with the inmates and influence them in a positive way.
It is impossible to achieve all this without a sound understanding of criminal psychology. This is why a criminology degree can make a difference as a correctional officer. In addition to the degree, here are some other skills you would need as a correctional officer:
- Report filing – Correctional officers are responsible for filing reports whenever there is an infraction of the law or a significant disorder.
- Communication – Officers should understand how criminals think well enough to communicate with them effectively.
- Physical strength – Officers might have to use force to maintain order. Unfortunately, these institutions hold different kinds of criminals with violent tendencies, so these officers should have great physical strength.
- Good decision-making – Working in a correctional facility, you will often face challenging situations requiring you to think on your feet. An ability to make quick and effective decisions under immense pressure will benefit you in this career.
- Discipline and patience – Correctional officers must keep calm and not lose their integrity when interacting with inmates.
- A good eye for detail – When playing supervisory roles, correctional officers should be able to spot minor infractions or behavioral changes in inmates.
- Forensic scientist and psychologist
These are two different paths that involve forensic analysis. Forensic scientists work hand in hand with detectives to catch criminals. Their job is to analyze crime scenes and pieces of evidence as well as to interpret them to solve crimes. As such, forensic scientists would require some of the skills obtainable from studying criminology.
Forensic psychologists, on the other hand, study and interview suspects and convicted criminals to unravel the reasons behind their actions. They also employ their knowledge to determine whether or not a crime results from a mental illness. Both professions contribute significantly to solving crimes.
Believe it or not, you can practice law with a degree in criminology. The usual route for a lawyer is to finish law school and pass the bar exam. However, a lawyer can focus on criminal cases and obtain a master’s degree in criminology. With this, you can interview witnesses and tender evidence in a court of law.
Criminology is an extensive branch of sociology that provides numerous career opportunities. These options are not limited to a crime scene, as you may think. Criminology degree holders can also have a career in the classroom and other environments.
As one of the more unusual courses, professionals are relatively scarce, and you’ll be able to find a job quickly. It also pays well depending on the position, and making your way to the level of criminology professor will enable you to earn very high rates and a great deal of respect.