Criminologists are the masterminds behind cracking cases. Beyond evidence and clues, a key facet of solving and preventing crime lies in understanding what makes the culprits tick. A criminologist learns about the behavior of a criminal, how they think and uses this knowledge to predict outcomes and the impact left on society.
A career as a criminologist is one for the thinkers, those who have a strong interest in the human mind and all of its inner workings and idiosyncrasies and their relation to criminal behavior. Their job isn’t to chase after the bad guys in a car, but instead learn about them from observation and intense study and thus become able to predict patterns, tendencies and help detectives crack codes the criminal may not even be aware they’re leaving behind.
The path to a criminology career begins with an accredited program, and there are criminology degrees offered all the way from associate’s to Ph.D. Whether you’re just exploring a piqued interest in the field or already have a bachelor’s and are considering an advanced degree, the following page will guide you through the types of courses and subject matter you can expect, as well as spotlight some of the top programs in the country.
Featured Criminology Programs
What is a Criminology Degree?
A degree in criminology focuses on the sociological and psychological aspects of crime more than forensics. Those who choose to study criminology have a strong interest in criminal justice, as well as human services and wish to combine these two in order to find a suitable career in law enforcement.
Undergraduate criminology programs introduce students to the broad concepts of sociology, psychology and human behavior, as well as offer courses that strengthen research and analytical methods that are critical to achievement in future careers.
Many criminology degrees combine criminology and criminal justice into one major and cover subject material such as violence, terrorism and constitutional law. Combined with a multitude of psychology and sociology courses, a criminology degree will illustrate the diverse faces of today’s criminals and render students capable of understanding these criminals’ minds, predicting their behaviors and assessing the impact it has on society.
There are criminology degrees available for all levels of higher education students. You can study criminology whether you’re just out of high school, or if you’ve worked in law enforcement for years and want to return to build upon your academic credentials. There are several branches of criminology that one can choose to study, such as:
- Penology: The study of prisons and the prison system.
- Biocriminology: The study of criminology’s biological roots and links to behavior.
- Feminist Criminology: The study of women and their roles in crime.
- Criminalistics: The study of crime scene detection.
With bachelor’s and graduate degrees, you may choose to deviate from a general criminology and focus on a specific concentration.
Associate in Criminology
This is a two-year undergraduate program that can be started right out of high school and allows students to pursue some entry-level jobs and/or transfer seamlessly into a bachelor’s of criminology degree program. This degree covers the fundamental aspects of criminology and ideal for students who want to get their foot in the door with careers while continuing their education in criminology after they’ve earned their associate’s.
Many who wish to enter the police force, private security and some aspects of law will find job opportunities with an associate’s in criminology, but a higher degree is needed for those who wish to work in forensics or federal law enforcement.
Bachelor of Criminology
A Bachelor of Science or Arts in Criminology is a four-year undergraduate program that prepares students to obtain an entry level position across a variety of security and law fields post-graduation. It also lays the foundation they will need to continue their studies in a graduate program if they so desire.
Bachelor’s degrees in criminology can focus on the subject of criminology as a whole, or be focused on a particular division, such as justice studies or forensic psychology. Some may even choose to earn their bachelor degree in psychology or sociology and minor in criminology.
The core curriculum for all bachelor degree programs in criminology include courses such as Introduction to Criminology, Introduction to the Criminal Justice System, Constitutional Law, Introduction to Sociology, Contemporary Psychology, Philosophy courses and more.
Masters of Criminology
Many students who complete a bachelor’s degree in criminology decide to immediately follow up with a graduate program, or go to work and return later in order to increase their knowledge and gain new insight and mastery of a particular division of criminology through extensive research. A master’s degree in criminology is required for many upper-level positions, so it provides professional advancement opportunities as well as intellectual growth.
A Master of Science in Criminology is also a stepping stone for students striving toward a doctoral program, and will give them the advanced knowledge and research-oriented experience they will need to earn their Ph.D.
Most master degrees in criminology focus on exploring the latest theoretical and practical advances made in the field, as well as offer students the opportunity to explore upper-level subjects such as international criminology, criminal justice research and evaluation and criminological theory and practice.
Doctor of Criminology
A Ph.D. in Criminology is the highest degree a student can earn, and opens the doors for executive-level positions in criminal justice, law enforcement and the private sector. The doctoral programs in criminology are rigorous and challenging, intended to elevate students to new levels of understanding and practice of criminology while refining their underlying education and experience.
A Doctor of Criminology is taught by scholars who have dedicate their lives to the advancement of the field, and are best suited for students with very specific career goals in mind with concentrations such as Penology and Police Management available.
The following three schools offer some of the best criminology degrees in the nation, having received both local and international acclaim for their programs.
There are internship programs offered to undergraduate students that allow them to work in law enforcement agencies and law offices to gain real-world experience that enriches their understanding of the program material.
Featured Criminology Programs
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