How To Study Criminology

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How To Study Criminology

Criminologists study physical aspects of crime scenes and seek to understand the sociological causes and implications of crime. In some cases, they also study the psychology of criminals and may develop criminal profiles (think of TV shows like “Criminal Minds” and “The Profiler,” only more realistic). Their work involves helping to solve crimes and to prevent them. Criminologists usually work for local police, state or federal government agencies, although some do research for private companies.

Part1Getting an Education

  1. 1Get a high school education. You can start thinking about a career in criminology while you are still in high school. Concentrate on doing well in all academic subjects, since this will help you prepare for a criminal science program in college.
    • Good high school courses for a future criminologist to take include sociology, government, history, psychology, and statistics.
    • Some high schools offer courses in criminology, criminal justice, or related areas. If yours does, be sure to take them.
    • In addition to academics, seek out extracurricular activities to broaden your education and deepen your interests. You could join or start a Criminology Club, for example, as well as participate in common activities like Mock Trial, Debate Club, Math Team, etc.
  2. 2Get a bachelor’s degree. It is essential to get at least an undergraduate education if you want to become a criminologist. Some colleges and universities have degree programs in criminology, but there is no set subject your degree must be in. Whatever your chosen major subject is, make sure to take courses in areas like sociology, psychology, criminal justice, statistics, writing, and computer science. Criminologists enter the field from a variety of academic backgrounds, including:
    • Criminology
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
  3. 3Look for internships. These offer opportunities to gain first-hand, real-world experience while you are still getting your education. Work with your school to develop an internship plan that fits your educational and career goals. You might seek internships with:
    • A police department
    • A law office
    • State or Federal government offices
    • Community organizations
    • Research groups
  4. 4Get an advanced degree. Many criminologists choose to further their education either before or after beginning work in the field. Earning a master’s degree or even a doctorate can help you gain more advanced positions, greater responsibilities, and higher pay. You can earn a graduate degree in a field such as:
    • Behavioral Science
    • Criminology
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
  5. 5Get your license. To work as a criminologist in most locations and with most law enforcement agencies, you must pass a written examination and earn a license. In most cases, this is separate from any degree in criminology or a related field that you might earn. In other words, even if you earn your degree, you may not be able to practice as a criminologist until you pass the licensure examination.
    • The specific format of the examination will vary depending upon your location and the agency you want to work for. Expect the examination to be rigorous, however, so study hard beforehand.

Part 2 Gaining Experience

  1. 1Join a professional association. Professional groups provide opportunities to network, present and learn about research, continue your education, and find jobs. There are a number of organizations serving the field of criminology, such as:
    • The International Society for Criminology
    • The American Society of Criminology
    • The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
    • The Law and Society Association
    • The Midwestern Criminal Justice Associaton
    • The Western Society of Criminology
  2. 2Look for a job. Individuals trained in criminology find work in numerous careers. While you may look for an entry-level position at first, there are usually good opportunities for advancement. However it may be difficult to cross fields. For instance, if you are hired with a state agency, it might be more difficult to later get an advanced job at a federal agency, and vice versa. Criminologists find positions with:
    • Police departments
    • The FBI
    • State and local governmental agencies
    • Colleges and universities
    • Consultancy agencies
  3. 3Pass background checks. During the process of being hired for a job in criminology, you can expect to have to pass background and security checks. As participants in the fight against crime, criminologists are expected to have good records and impeccable ethics.
  4. 4Excel at your job. Your day-to-day work as a criminologist will vary depending upon your specific position and area of expertise. Most jobs in the field, however, eventually involve some combination of fieldwork, analysis, and reporting. For instance:
    • You might be present at a crime scene, to help gather evidence and determine exactly what occurred.
    • You might investigate how the crime is related to social issues. For instance, you might consider how crimes are related to other problems, such as drug abuse, poverty, and corruption.
    • You might be involved with cataloging information, processing data, and writing reports based on criminal investigations.
    • You might be involved with helping policy makers determine how to respond to and eliminate crime.
  5. 5Investigate alternative careers. Many individuals trained in criminology wind up working in jobs that do not bear the title “criminologist.” Nevertheless, these careers can be just as fulfilling, and draw on your skills, training, and experience. Job titles of people with a background in criminology include:
    • Border Patrol Agent
    • Compliance Officer
    • Court Administrator
    • Evidence Technician
    • Federal Protection Officer
    • I.R.S. Agent
    • Legal Assistant
    • Penologist

criminology salary

If you’re considering earning a degree in criminology or criminal justice, chances are you’re going to want to think about your earning potential at some point. Certainly, money isn’t everything, but it’s always a good idea to have an idea of how much you can expect to make when deciding on a career path.Which is exactly why you need to know up front how much money you can earn in a criminal justice job.

For those of you who are on the fence about choosing a career or course of study, or if you’re wondering whether a career in criminal justice or criminology will be worth your time, here’s a list of the types of jobs available and what you can expect to earn at the start of your career.

Salary data comes from the United States Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, SimplyHired, and, and provides estimated starting ranges, not earning potential over time. Salary may vary significantly based on the level of education, geographical region, and prior experience.

Crime Analyst – $34,000 to $50,000

Dumpster and Crime scene tape
Mark Wineman / Getty Images

Crime analysts provide intelligence gathering and statistical analysis services to law enforcement agencies. They detect trends and identify emerging issues that may require police attention or intervention.

Analysts help police commanders determine how to allocate their resources and personnel best to prevent crimes, and they review police reports and other data sources to help investigators solve crimes.

Criminologist – $40,000 to $70,000

FBI and CSI doing research
South_agency / Getty Images

Like crime analysts, criminologists study data and trends. Unlike crime analysts, criminologists apply their knowledge to learning how crime affects society.

Criminologists are likely to work in a college or university setting conducting research or with a legislative body making public policy proposals.

They study crime, its causes, and impacts and advise lawmakers and criminal justice agencies on how best to develop appropriate responses to reduce crime on a societal level.

Corrections Officers – $26,000 to $39,000

Prison Warden holds cell keys
Eric Larrayadieu / Getty Images

Corrections officers have a very difficult job and are often paid on the lower end of the scale when it comes to jobs in criminal justice and criminology. However, that doesn’t take away from the important service they provide.

Corrections officers work in jails, prisons and other correctional facilities and guard prisoners. They serve to protect the inmates they guard from each other as well as protecting the public from the inmates.

Detectives and Criminal Investigators – $36,000 to $60,000

Detectives investigate a crime scene
Vasko Miokovic / Getty Images

If solving a crime is your thing, then working as a detective is a great option for you. Detectives may be assigned to any number of specialized crimes and take on complex investigations that can prove both challenging and fascinating.

Working as a detective provides valuable skills that can be used to advance your career, while at the same time providing enough variety and challenge to spend an entire career.

Typically, working as a detective is not an entry-level job but a transfer or promotion from within the police ranks. If you’re considering a career in law enforcement, though, working your way to detective is a great goal to strive for.

Forensic Science Technician – $33,000 to $50,000

A crime scene chalk outline on a wooden floor.
Caspar Benson / Getty Images

Forensic science technicians may serve as civilian crime scene investigators or as laboratory technicians. They help collect and analyze evidence and ensure that the chain of custody is maintained.

Forensic science technicians must have a background in the natural sciences and also a respect for, knowledge of and interest in the criminal justice system. Forensic science technicians provide vital support to investigators in solving all sorts of crimes.

Forensic Psychologist – $57,000 to $80,000

A man sitting at a desk with lights pointed at him.
Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

Forensic psychologists work within nearly every component of the criminal justice system. They may evaluate and counsel inmates, serve as expert witnesses, and determine a suspect’s suitability to stand trial or their level of culpability for a crime given their mental status.

Some forensic psychologists work with attorneys as jury consultants, or with law enforcement as criminal profilers. In rare cases, forensic psychologists can find work with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

To be truly successful and maximize your earning potential, though, you’ll want to earn a combination of degrees in psychology, criminology, sociology or criminal justice and advanced degrees in related fields.

Loss Prevention Specialist – $11 to $16 Per Hour

Loss prevention specialists monitor inventory and prevent retail theft.
U.S Airforce / Getty Images

Loss prevention is a great entry-level criminology career. Working as a loss prevention specialist can provide the needed work experience for other great careers, such as police or probation officers.

Loss prevention specialists work for retail companies to prevent and mitigate theft by both customers and employees. While earning potential may start low, loss prevention managers can earn upwards of $50,000 per year.

Police Officer – $31,000 to $50,000

Police officers in a drill
Serge Mouraret / Getty Images

Perhaps one of the first careers that come to mind when you think of criminology, police officers are on the front lines of society’s response to crime.

Officers patrol their communities, help disabled motorists, make arrests and help resolve disputes. The primary function of the police is to enforce laws and ordinances, but that role has expanded significantly into all manner of community service.

Working as a police officer can provide opportunities for advancement and necessary experience to move into a detective or investigative position or get hired as a special agent.

Polygraph Examiner – $56,000 (Average)

Polygraph machine
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Polygraph examiners are trained in administering lie detector tests. They receive highly specialized training and are found at all levels of law enforcement as well as in the private sector.

Their services may be used for pre-employment screening or administrative and criminal investigations. While many polygraph examiners are sworn law enforcement officers, it is not necessarily a requirement.

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