Solving problems, profiling criminals and studying crime are all aspects of a criminologist’s job. As a branch of sociology, criminology involves analyzing how certain factors make individuals deviate from social norms. A career in this field may begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities in the occupational category of sociologists will grow at a steady rate through 2024. Job growth is expected to occur as demand increases for incorporating sociology into research. Individuals with advanced degrees and well-developed research skills should have stronger career options, the BLS notes.
Criminologists are employed by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. They are responsible for a variety of job duties, including analyzing the behavior and methodology of criminals to predict or prevent additional crime. They may also review how various law enforcement tactics affect crime rates.
Questioning suspects, studying demographic data and behavior, and creating criminal profiles are other aspects of a criminologist’s work. They also maintain extensive records and write reports of their findings.
With experience and educational qualifications, criminologists may advance to positions with consulting firms, government agencies or universities and work on developing crime prevention policies.
Potential Salary Range
According to May 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sociologists nationwide had an average annual wage of $78,810, with the top 10% earning more than $127,890. Location, sector, experience and education level are all factors that play a role in compensation.
Recent bachelor’s graduates generally start out toward the lower end of salary ranges, and can increase their compensation as they gain experience, certifications and specialized training. Numerous factors influence potential salary ranges, including a candidate’s education and work history, as well as the type and size of law enforcement agency.
Education and Training
Entry-level criminologist positions generally require a bachelor’s degree. Some employers also require previous experience, which students may obtain through internship programs while pursuing their degree.
In degree programs such as a bachelor’s in applied psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology coursework can include social psychology, integrated theories of crime, courtroom psychology, and research methods in applied psychology.
Graduates of an applied psychology program should be able to:
- Understand theories relating to probable cause, policing and rules of evidence
- Understand concepts of applied psychology such as empirical findings, trends and theory
- Critically examine clinical assessment methods
- Examine human behavior, crime and criminality from various viewpoints
Some employers offer opportunities for continuing education. As such, it may be possible to gain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and use a tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.
Could a Career as a Criminologist Be a Good Choice for You?
If you are interested in studying crime and human behavior, and have good problem-solving skills and excellent attention to detail, you could find a career as a criminologist to be challenging and rewarding. Other important attributes for this career can include responsibility and integrity, as well as the ability to take a broad view of an issue and think logically.
By honing these traits and earning an applied psychology degree with a concentration in forensic psychology, you could be on track for a criminologist career.