Criminology focuses on the study of crimes and their causes, their effects, and their social impact. It is the job of the criminologist to analyze data and observe behavior to determine why the crime was committed and determine if there are ways to deter, predict, and prevent future criminal behavior.
Criminologists may be found at crime scenes, in laboratories, or in police stations, where they collect and log data that is used in criminal investigations. The work of criminologists may also be used in policymaking decisions. Criminologist jobs may be found within federal and state agencies, with local police departments, with private companies, and within colleges and universities as part of their research department.
Criminologist Job Description and Duties
Criminologists are responsible for examining and studying all aspects of crime, thereby finding ways to reduce recidivism and better understand the criminal mind. Their research-driven work involves compiling statistics and identifying trends and patterns.
These social scientists may interview criminals to better understand their motivation, rationale, and mindset; they may work closely with law enforcement partners, including investigators; and they may serve community leaders and politicians who are developing policies to help reduce crime or ensure that convicted criminals are being treated humanely. They may work on policy advisory boards or for legislative committees, and they may also be employed by privately funded organizations or think tanks.
The typical job duties of a criminologist include:
- Writing research papers and articles
- Conducting surveys
- Compiling statistical data
- Conducting research interviews
- Formulating policy recommendations
- Devising strategies to help reduce crime
- Working as part of a corrections or law enforcement team
To achieve a career as a criminologist, individuals must, at a minimum, earn a bachelor’s degree in criminology, applied psychology, forensic psychology, or a related area of study. Criminologists working in research positions or at the university level must achieve a master’s or Ph.D. in an area related to criminology, psychology, or sociology.
Specialized Criminology Careers
There are a number of specialties within the field of criminology. Criminologists may attend crime scenes, witness autopsies, or interview suspects. They may also develop a profile to catch a serial rapist or work for security companies, providing private consultant work.
Their work involves:
- Considering both psychological and social concerns
- Researching data about crimes and arrests
- Studying the background of the criminal to reveal any incidences that may have influenced their crime
- Creating profile types for typical criminals
- Reviewing criminal acts and assessing a pattern of action, demographics, and/or motivation
- Writing reports that encompass their findings
- Studying a criminal’s psychosocial background to develop methods of rehabilitation
- Forming deductions about the criminal’s social and personal background from statistical information
- Studying cases using theoretical modules and postulates
- Serving as consultants to police and forensics departments
- Studying the effectiveness of criminal rehabilitation laws and sentencing guidelines
- Identifying populations who are most vulnerable to crime
Profiling – A criminologist in a profiling capacity spends a good deal of time studying past crimes as to create a composite of the criminal, taking into account the criminal’s psychological behavior, environmental factors, and economic indicators.
Profiling criminologists then convert the gathered statistics into active profiles that are used by law enforcement personnel, such as detectives, to better identify crime trends and the motivation behind specific crimes. In high-profile cases, criminologists may work even with the public and the media.
The majority of profiling work is closely related to police investigations and criminal trials; therefore, they spend part of their time consulting with investigators and arresting officers and sharing information with the appropriate personnel.
Research and Academia – Some criminologists dedicate their work to research, many in academic settings. Criminologists who focus their careers on academia and research also typically teach at the university or college level.
Regardless of the field in which they work, criminologists must have excellent communication skills, creative and analytical minds, a genuine interest in human nature, and a strong sense of morals. They must also be able to draw conclusions based on the psychological indicators of a specific crime, and they must be able to think critically and judiciously when writing reports based upon their findings. Finally, they may need to possess strong presentation and teaching skills, particularly when working in research and academia areas.