Criminologists look at the patterns of criminal behavior, working behind the scenes with law enforcement agencies to determine why offenders do what they do.

They are researchers who study criminality and the concept of crime to help law enforcement agencies be better equipped to handle it when crimes happen or to prevent them from happening. They could also work for a government agency or social psychology lab at an institution of higher education.

Criminologists are considered sociologists, and their area of expertise and study is abnormal behavior. It’s their job to ask how crime can be prevented. What are some of the factors that cause an otherwise normal individual to turn to criminal behavior? Here, we’ll take a closer look at some of the job duties of a criminologist, what background you would need to become one and how you can get started.

What Does a Criminologist Do?

Most work done by criminologists is done in an office, though some field work and travel could be part of the job. A large part of this role is data collection and analysis. Social, psychological, environmental and even biological factors are all considered when trying to determine the cause of criminal behavior. Other job duties include:

  • Writing reports summarizing their findings
  • Reporting to a crime scene for further investigation
  • Conducting interviews with criminals such as incarcerated felons to gain insight
  • Consulting with law enforcement officials at every level of the command chain
  • Sharing data and findings with other criminologists to advance the field

Criminologists can choose to specialize in a particular area or move between multiple areas.

Career and Salary Expectations

Someone with a background in criminology can branch out into other fields within law enforcement, should they desire to do so. Detective work, for example, relies on the same sort of analytical thinking as criminology when tracking down a culprit. An understanding of criminal psychology can also aid a detective in the anticipation and prevention of crime.

Payscale has estimated the median wage for criminologists specifically at $41,992 per year. The top 10 percent of people working as a criminologist make on average just over $60,000 per year, and all salary levels have a possibility of bonuses. Social scientists and workers in related fields are expected to see an 11 percent increase in job growth through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those entering this field will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in sociology or a related field like psychology or criminal justice. It’s also possible to major in criminology specifically for your undergraduate studies. To give themselves the best chance among the competition, many candidates further their education with a master’s or even a doctorate degree.

Your career in criminology begins with a solid undergraduate degree. Bethel University can help you attain just that with our online social science degree. Taught in a hybrid classroom and online format, this program can help prepare you for a career in criminology or advance you to the next level if you’re already working in the field. Through this accredited program, you’ll graduate equipped to work for organizations in law enforcement, government, higher education and more. You can have your degree in hand through our online program in as little as two years.

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