How to Become a Criminologist

Criminologists are professionals who identify and analyze criminal patterns based on psychological, social and biographical factors. Their work helps law enforcement assess potential criminals, and their services are widely used in the prevention of criminal acts, as well as in the investigation of such acts. Practicing criminologists generally hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Those who specialize in criminal psychology may be required to pass a licensing exam as well, depending on the state in which these professionals intend to work.

Job Description

This line of work involves analyzing the reason behind criminal acts and the patterns of action. Typical criminologist activities involve research data analysis, social background investigation, determination of extenuating circumstances, biological evidence analysis and patterns of behavior, but it tends to stay away from psychological assessment, which is left in the hands of criminal profilers.

Occasionally, they may be tasked with reporting to an autopsy or aiding in crime scene investigations, to determine the nature, the category and the patterns of a crime. Depending on the type of degree or training, a criminologist may also be able to double as a criminal psychologist, a law enforcement officer, or an IT forensics investigator. As criminology is a profession with a very broad spectrum of applications, practitioners may have different types of training and experience, meaning that their duties may also differ from one employer to the next.

Educational Requirements

Criminology is a field that requires not only understanding, but also anticipating criminal behavior. Therefore, many criminologists have a bachelor’s degree or higher in at least one of the following subjects:

  • Forensics
  • Criminal Studies
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Natural Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Genetics)

However, as criminologists are also increasingly used to solve cases of online crime, such as the trafficking of drugs, medicine, organs, people, etc., and some modern investigations require experts in ecology, accounting, and even international development, criminology is starting to expand beyond the previously established scope. Some of the additional qualifications criminologists may be expected to have are experience in:

  • Computing and IT
  • Accounting, Finance and Business Studies
  • International Development
  • Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Pharmacology or Medical Sciences
  • Technology

Career Requirements

Before they work as criminal investigators, some criminologists with undergraduate degrees gain relevant work experience as probation officers or prison guards. As they progress with their studies and obtain a master’s degree, they may have access to research or teaching opportunities.

Upon successfully completing their postgraduate studies, they can offer their invaluable advice as consultants. Criminal psychologists, on the other hand, aspire to secure Doctor of Psychology degrees, which allow them to open private practices, or to work for various law enforcement agencies.