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Career ProfileCriminologist

What They Do

People who are critical thinkers and strong communicators may want to pursue careers as criminologists. Criminologists help answer the questions of why people commit crime, what can be done to decrease criminal activity and what are effective sentences for preventing repeat offenders.
The purpose of this occupation is to aid police in evaluating criminals. They accomplish this by using biographical, social and psychological factors to pinpoint and analyze criminal patterns. Criminologists examine statistics and identify patterns, determining criminal types based on victim/perpetrator demographics and locations.

When a criminologist arrives at a conclusion, he or she creates profile types for standard criminals; these profiles can be used by law enforcement to educate and better prepare to handle similar future criminals. This, in turn, allows police to catch criminals more quickly and efficiently, and gives them a perspective on possible offender motives.

Criminologists spend their working hours completing tasks like:

• Compiling statistical data
• Writing and conducting surveys
• Interviewing
• Writing recommendations on policy
• Researching and writing papers/articles
• Working alongside police and corrections personnel
• Developing strategies to reduce criminal recidivism

Criminologists also may find themselves being required to evaluate a crime scene or autopsy to draw conclusions about whether a criminal fits a profile, based on the nature of their crime.

Expectations: Salary and Career Advancement

The salaries of criminologists across the country vary based on their location, the size of the company for which they work and their experience. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report specifically on criminologists, it lists the median annual salary for closely related careers in sociology at $74,960. Sociologists can expect their careers to grow by 15 percent by the year 2022.

Work Environment

The job of a criminologist is chiefly research driven. While they may work primarily in a sterile office environment, they may also work from crime scenes and labs. They typically work for state, local and federal governments on policy advisory boards, or for legislative committees. Other environments include a think tank or college/university, where criminologists can both teach and lead research projects.

Education, Special Skills and Other Qualifications

A bachelor’s or master’s degree is a common requirement for criminologists; some states also make it necessary for candidates to pass a licensing exam. Many students who hope to become criminologists study psychology or sociology as undergraduates. However, students who earn a B.A. in Criminal Justice followed by a M.A. in Criminal Justice Leadership will be poised for quick employment and advancement in their careers. It is possible for criminologists to be hired with only a bachelor’s degree, but many go on to pursue higher education once they are established in their careers.

Students interested in becoming criminologists should pursue internship opportunities to become more employable after graduation. The work experience an internship offers is a major advantage for prospective criminologists. Once hired, new criminologists are expected to pass a background and security check, and maintain a clean criminal record.