Criminologists are social scientists who study crime and how it relates to the law and to society. Criminologists may work to provide theoretical explanations of criminal and delinquent behavior, or they may be called up to analyze criminal law and the behavioral patterns of criminals. These highly educated and skilled scientists are generally involved in research and teaching, although policymakers and law enforcement agencies employ these professionals to help them do everything from criminal profiling to providing lawmakers with statistics and data necessary to introduce or revise legislation.
Because the job duties and job description of a criminologist may vary widely from one position to the next, accurate salary statistics in this profession are hard to come by. The salary for criminologists may vary based on:
- The agency, university, or private institution for which they work
- Their job duties
- The experience and education they possess
Salaries for sociologists, a closely related profession, may provide some insight into salary expectations for criminologists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of May 2012, sociologists earned a median annual salary of $74,960, with social scientists and related professionals earning a median annual salary of $69,290 during the same period.
The BLS also reported that the top 10 percent of earners in this field earned more than $129,760, as of May 2012.
Criminologist Salary Factor #1: Industry/Field
The expertise of criminologists is valued by legislators; federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; universities and colleges; and private organizations and companies. Criminologists may work as policy advisors to lawmakers or as criminal profilers for law enforcement agencies. Therefore, salaries for criminologists are likely to fluctuate extensively from one establishment to the next.
Non-profit organizations and think tanks hire criminologists to carry out a range of evaluation, forecasting, and modeling research functions, while police departments often hire criminologists to conduct complex studies into crime prevention and criminal profiling.
Crime prevention organizations work with criminologists to better understand crime and its impact on society and the community, while in a university environment, criminologists teach and research, particularly at institutions that have a strong research focus. It is typical for criminologists to teach such topics as legal studies, law, sociology, criminal psychology, criminal justice, and criminology.
The courts also hire criminologists to serve in administrative and case management roles. They may work in policy development and serve as policy analysts, or they may also serve as operational advisers who assess the implications of legislative change.
Criminologists may also work as:
- Police officers
- FBI agents
- Medical examiners
- Drug enforcement agents
- Customs professionals
- Private investigators
- Parole officers
- Policy advisors
Criminologist Salary Factor #2: Job Duties
Another significant factor that may determine the salary of a criminologist is their job duties. Again, because the role of a criminologist may be quite different from one establishment or organization to the next, the salary range for this profession is typically broad. The specialty in which they work (criminal investigation, crime prevention, legislation, corrections, etc.) likely dictates the type of work criminologists engage in.
In other words, the major job duty of criminologists working for a nonprofit organization may be working with statistics and data, while criminologists working for a law enforcement agency may spend the better of their day profiling criminals as to gain insight on deviant behavior.
Criminologists working in academia may teach undergraduate or graduate courses and study the history and theory or criminology. Still others may spend their time conducting their own research or conducting research for corrections departments who are developing rehabilitation programs and crime prevention strategies.
Criminologist Salary Factor #3: Experience/Education
Just like most professions, criminologists with experience typically receive higher salaries than their less-experienced counterparts. Salaries in this profession, however, are largely dictated by education, as degrees for criminologists can range from bachelor’s degrees to doctoral degrees.
Criminologists in research often possess bachelor or master’s degrees, while those in teaching or those working alongside policymakers generally possess a Ph.D. in criminology or a related field. Criminologists may earn their undergraduate degree in psychology, sociology, or criminal justice, for example, and then earn a master’s degree in criminology, psychology, sociology, or a combination of the above.
Individuals who combine the study of criminology with other areas of study may find that their professional opportunities increase. Just a few of the other areas of study that blend well with criminology include:
- Political science
- Business management
- Political science
- Social work
Criminologists may also find a wealth of professional opportunities, and thus an increase in salary, as members of criminology associations, such as:
- The American Society of Criminology
- Western Society of Criminology
- International Society for Criminology
The publication of research in a professional journal may also allow criminologists to demand a higher salary by achieving recognition in the profession:
- Criminology and Public Policy
- Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
- Criminal Justice and Behavior
- Crime and Delinquency
- Journal of Criminal Justice
- Journal of Quantitative Criminology