People who are critical thinkers and strong communicators may want to pursue careers as criminologists. They 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.
What Does a Criminologist Do?
Criminologists aid police in evaluating criminals. They accomplish this by using biographical, social and psychological factors to pinpoint and analyze criminal patterns. They examine statistics and identify patterns to determine 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 such as:
- Compiling statistical data
- Writing and conducting surveys
- 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.
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 legislative committees or for state, local, and federal governments on policy advisory boards. Other environments include a college/university, where they can both teach and lead research projects.
How Much Are Criminologists Paid?
The salaries of criminologists across the country vary based on their location, the size of the company for which they work, and their experience. According to PayScale, criminologists earn an average salary of about $45,000.
How Do I Become a Criminologist?
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 bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree 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 also pursue internship opportunities to gain valuable experience and become more employable. Once hired, new criminologists are expected to pass a background and security check and maintain a clean criminal record.