Criminology is a branch of sociology, a science that specializes in group behavior. Criminologists conduct scientific research to analyze criminal behavior and the factors contributing to it. Likewise, criminologists evaluate the measures societies institute to fight crime and rehabilitate criminals. They also evaluate how evidence is analyzed, hereditary, social, and psychological factors contributing to crime, the effectiveness of investigative methods, and the effectiveness of various types of criminal rehabilitation programs.

Criminologists are sociologists with expertise in criminology who organize and conduct research to evaluate social behaviors. They analyze acceptable and deviant behaviors prevalent in society. Since they research and specialize in numerous subjects, criminalists enjoy various career opportunities.

Where do criminologists work?
Criminologists typically work at colleges and universities organizing and conducting research and teaching classes on corrections, juvenile justice, law enforcement administration, criminal ethnography, drug abuse and addiction, theoretical criminology, and other related courses. When criminologists conduct research, they typically analyze the psychological, sociological, and biological factors contributing to criminal behavior. Certain criminologists consult with elected officials and law enforcement agencies, publish articles in scientific journals, and participate in anti-poverty programs. Some criminologists set-up and manage consulting firms.

Common career paths in criminology
Individuals who pursue an occupation in criminology or earn a degree in criminology often find themselves in one of the following career paths.

  • Counseling
  • Corrections
  • Diversion Programming
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Forensics
  • Financial and Insurance Fraud Investigation
  • Intervention Programming
  • Judicial / Courts
  • Medical Investigation
  • Law Enforcement
  • Rehabilitation
  • University Research
  • Psychopathology Specialist
  • Private Investigation
  • Federal Agencies
  • Retail Investigation
  • Women's Studies
  • Teaching
  • Youth Counseling
  • Other Sociology Careers

Agencies and institutions that employ criminologists
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Local, State, and Federal Courts
  • Financial Service Firms, Insurance Companies, and Banks
  • Counseling Agencies
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Department Stores and other Retailers
  • Private Investigation Firms

Federal Government

  • Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • The Border Patrol
  • Department of Homeland Security

State Government

  • Correction and Rehabilitation Departments
  • State Highway Patrol
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Youth Services

Local Governments: County, City, Township, Village

  • Public Safety Departments
  • Local Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Local Treasurer Departments

Education and Training
If you're interested in criminology, you should complete undergraduate courses in sociology, criminal law, psychology, government, constitutional law, juvenile delinquency, and criminal theory. You will also benefit by completing courses in business management, behavioral science, statistics, corrections, forensics, and abnormal psychology. Many students also enroll in social work courses related to corrections, the criminal system, and rehabilitation. Additionally, you should take classes in computer science, English, and philosophy/logic.

Most criminologists hold bachelor's and graduate degrees in criminology. Criminologists conducting research and teaching at universities are usually required to hold doctorate degrees in criminology or related fields. To enhance your career opportunities and earning potential, it's recommended to obtain a graduate degree.

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Areas of Specialization in Criminology
There are numerous sub-specialties within criminology. Many criminologists specialize in age groups, such as elementary, junior high, high school students, young adults, and the elderly. It might seem odd that some criminologists specialize in elementary school children, but many children are now committing violent crimes. In fact, some drug dealers recruit children to sell drugs, and some children have been caught with firearms at elementary schools. Likewise, many elementary school children are abusing drugs and alcohol. Crime committed by children increases crime rates nation and worldwide.

Criminologists frequently specialize in specific crimes, such as murder, rape, prostitution, fraud, and assault. Other criminologists specialize in corrections, criminal rehabilitation and investigation, crime prevention, and correctional facility privatization.

Profilers are skilled and highly trained criminologists that create detailed profiles of suspected criminals by analyzing behavior. Profilers typically analyze groups and specific populations and develop profiles after evaluating attitudes, behaviors, and other characteristics common in criminals. Effective profilers can identify psychological characteristics, probable age range, and other features shared by individuals committing specific crimes.

Criminologists can utilize their training and skills to conduct research, advocate on behalf of victims, improve juvenile justice procedures, investigate white collar criminals, analyze DNA and other physical evidence, and utilize forensic technology. Many criminologists participate in social policy initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels, and work with non-profit organizations to rehabilitate convicted criminals and alleviate poverty.

Organizational Resources
  • American Society of Criminology (ASC)
    This internationally renowned organization is comprised of criminologists who conduct research to improve crime prevention, criminal rehabilitation, and learn more about factors contributing to criminal behavior.

  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences
    This professional organization is comprised of forensic science specialists. They utilize their training and knowledge to improve criminal investigations. This organization is made up of teachers, document examiners, forensic scientists, engineers, anthropologists, lawyers, toxicologists, dentists, doctors, and criminalists.

  • Society for Research In Psychopathology
    Psychopathology is used to solve various crimes. This organization is made up of members who specialize in modern psychopathology's impact on the criminal justice system, public, and individual people.

  • British Society of Criminology
    This organization is Britain's largest criminological organization. The British Society of Criminology is dedicated to enhancing the study of criminology and criminal justice and providing research opportunities for criminologists.

  • International Association of Women Police
    This organization was setup to improve employment opportunities for women in various law enforcement and criminal justice related fields.

  • General Council of the Bar
    The General Council of the Bar is involved with various areas of criminal justice, including justice administration and relations with the federal government, European Union, and other justice systems around the world.

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