The field of criminology is multifaceted. It focuses on both sociological and psychological aspects of crime and delinquency. As such, many criminologists are trained not only to apprehend criminals and analyze crime scenes but also to evaluate the effects of crime on the community as well as correlate it with existing societal issues. This is why it is no longer surprising that criminologists play a critical role in upholding justice in a community.
With this in mind, a degree in criminology can lead to plenty of job opportunities, with over 3.95 million graduates currently in the workforce (Data USA, 2021). It can lead to a career path in law enforcement, such as that of an FBI agent, forensic analyst, criminal investigator, or even a social worker. Plenty of job opportunities in the private sector are also available to them.
If you are in the process of choosing a degree or career to pursue, criminology careers are definitely something worth checking out. To help you make an informed decision, this guide will give you the information you need. It will cover the job and salary outlook of this career, what skills you need to thrive in criminology, and what jobs can you get with a criminology degree. In this way, you can better gauge whether criminology is the right career choice for you.
There are many reasons for individuals to pursue various careers in criminology, chief of which include the following:
What can you do with a criminology degree? The discipline has a variety of specializations that lead to numerous career opportunities. Criminology graduates generally have a positive career outlook to look forward to.
If we take a look at the job outlook of sociologists, which typically includes criminologists, the employment rate is projected to grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). This is roughly the same rate as the average employment growth for all occupations. In addition, the median criminology degree salary is $86,110 annually. However, it is best to note that this amount often depends on one’s educational attainment, certifications, specializations, as well as whether they work in the private or public sector.
Meanwhile, when we examine the job outlook of criminologists in law enforcement, particularly police officers and detectives, the demand is expected to increase by 5% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). This is more or less similar to the job outlook of sociologists in general. However, as there is a constant need to uphold public safety, criminologists can expect that there will always be job opportunities available to them in this sector. The only factor that one must consider is that the demand may vary by location and the required skill set.
In addition to these, there are other career paths that criminologists can look into, such as becoming a social worker, entering the legal profession, or even working in academia. In most cases, they offer the same or perhaps even better employment opportunities as well as compensation. However, they generally require the credentials that criminology professionals already possess.
|Correctional Officers and Bailiffs||$47,440||4%|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||$52,920||10%|
|Forensic Science Technician||$60,590||14%|
|Police and Detectives||$67,290||5%|
|Information Security Analyst||$103,590||9%|
Criminology requirements will vary based on the specific job role or agency you are interested in. However, as with any career, there will be technical and soft skills that will be expected of criminologists. Below, we discuss these skills in detail.
The following are some of the technical skills that criminologists must hone:
Criminologists must also possess various soft skills that will help them in performing their duties. Among them are:
Source: WorldSkills UK, 2021
Aspiring criminologists commonly start their careers by earning an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in this area of study or related fields such as criminal justice. In fact, 56.8% of social science graduates currently in the workforce are undergraduate degree holders (Data USA, 2020). They often begin as investigative assistants and legal assistants and go on to become forensic technicians and detectives. However, the entry-level careers list is not limited to job roles that require criminology degrees.
For instance, there are professionals in the industry that start as police officers and correctional officers. One reason for this is that in many states, the basic educational requirement to enter a job in law enforcement is a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. This allows them to start gaining professional experience early on. One thing to note here, though, is that further studies will be required of you should you decide to aim for higher job positions. You may also be asked to take up certifications or additional training programs before you can be promoted.
Having an associate degree leads to several criminology career paths. Here are some of the most popular options.
Police officers are government employees tasked with maintaining public order and safety. They are responsible for pursuing and arresting offenders, enforcing traffic laws, as well as preparing field notes for patrol activities and criminal investigations. They are also expected to respond to emergencies and prepare legal documents such as warrants and citations.
Median Salary: $56,644 (Payscale, 2022)
Correctional officers serve the criminal justice system by supervising inmates and enforcing rules and regulations within prisons. They are expected to maintain the integrity of correctional facilities as well as reinforce the rehabilitation of prisoners. Correctional officers may be assigned to general corrections, juvenile corrections, and other departments. They can also become bailiffs, which are tasked with maintaining safety within courtrooms.
Median Salary: $41,538 (Payscale, 2022)
Contrary to popular belief, one need not have a degree in paralegal studies in order to become a paralegal. You can pursue this path even with a degree in criminology. Paralegals are professionals who assist attorneys in preparing for court cases. They are expected to conduct legal research, draft summary reports, prepare pleadings and appeals, and take notes during court proceedings. In many cases, they may also be tasked with daily administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, handling client correspondence, and the like.
Median Salary: $52,070 (Payscale, 2022)
There are a lot of jobs with a criminology degree requirement available to graduates and many of these are decently compensated. As such, our team of researchers has put together a criminology jobs list for bachelor's degree holders. It also indicates the median forensic criminologist salary as well as those for other occupations.
Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators are law enforcement personnel specializing in collecting, preserving, and analyzing evidence from crime scenes. They must know how to keep crime scenes from getting contaminated, properly label and transport evidence, as well as prepare comprehensive documentation reports that will be used in the investigation process. This requires proficiency in using advanced investigative analytics software tools. Also called evidence technicians and forensic investigators, they often collaborate with police officers and detectives to piece together theories on how crimes are committed based on collected evidence.
Median Salary: $71,987 (Glassdoor, 2022)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents comprise the United States of America’s chief investigative unit. They are tasked to look after the political and security interests of the country by gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance activities. They work with state and local law enforcement to investigate and curb violent crimes, public corruption, cybercrimes, organized crimes, white-collar crimes, and more. These said, they are not only expected to perform in-depth research but also accomplish fieldwork such as raids and arrests as well as suspect interviews.
Median Salary: $67,731 (PayScale, 2022)
Forensic Science Technician
Forensic science technicians assist criminal investigators by collecting evidence. Similar to crime scene investigators, forensic science technicians also handle the processing of evidence. However, the key difference is that they are tasked with conducting laboratory tests on the samples. They may perform microscopic, chemical, or biological analysis on various types of evidence, ranging from fingerprints and DNA to ballistics. Hence, criminologists who end up in this industry usually have a strong background in science. And, more often than not, have a forensic science degree or, at the least, extensive training.
Median Salary: $60,086 (Glassdoor, 2022)
Criminology requirements typically include an associate or bachelor's degree. While you may enter law enforcement with only a high school diploma and a certification, you will still need to earn undergraduate credentials before you can perform criminological fieldwork, such as investigating crime scenes and processing evidence.
As an alternative, a student may decide to take up a certification and get some professional experience in the industry as frontline employees in the criminal justice system. After which, they can pursue further studies and gain the necessary credentials to practice criminology hands-on. In many cases, students can transfer their previous credits or have their professional experience converted into credits to accelerate their degree program.
Source: Data USA, 2020
Continuing education is a critical factor when seeking higher positions in nearly any career. In criminology, professionals who seek leadership positions can certainly benefit from taking up a master’s or doctorate degree.
Having advanced degrees can allow you to specialize in a particular aspect of the industry. For instance, you can become an expert on specific crimes. Alternatively, you can build knowledge of certain aspects of the criminal justice system such as criminological research, policy reform, rehabilitation planning, and the like. There are also criminologists who end up in the legal field as lawyers and judges. Meanwhile, some explore cyber security careers to keep up with the current tech-driven landscape.
Consequently, landing these higher job positions also means gaining a higher earning potential. According to recent research, the median weekly earnings of doctoral degree holders are relatively higher compared to those with lower educational credentials (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). In addition, they also have a lower unemployment rate than other professionals.
Careers with criminology degree for those who graduated from a master's program are prestigious and sometimes offer managerial roles. So, how much do criminologists make? Many jobs pay over $80,000 each year and a managerial position in information security yields more than $100,000 annually.
Criminologists with extensive field and research experience can become college or university professors to hone the next generation of criminologists. As a member of the academe, they prepare lesson plans, deliver classroom instruction, and prepare students to become professionals in the field. In many cases, they also pursue their own research alongside these tasks and/or remain as practitioners in the field.
Median Salary: $89,273 (Glassdoor, 2022)
Criminologists who want to specialize in money-related investigations can take up a master’s degree in financial crime and compliance to become financial examiners. These are professionals who monitor financial institutions by reviewing transactions and balance sheets, assessing operations, and conducting risk assessments. They may also be tasked with investigating crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, and the like.
Median Salary: $86,565 (Glassdoor, 2022)
Information Security Manager
Crimes happen in cyberspace as well and in an increasingly digital world, some professionals in the field choose to specialize in cyber criminology to become information security managers. These criminologists focus on protecting an organization’s computer network against data breaches and cyberattacks. Part of their job is to assess security risks, identify the digital needs of an organization, implement compliance policies, and maintain network infrastructure.
Median Salary: $121,931 (Payscale, 2022)
Doctorate degrees lead to the most prestigious professions and typically the highest criminology major salary. Besides jobs that require doctorate degrees, graduates can enter jobs for master's degree holders and attain high job grade.
As this field is closely tied to social science degree jobs, criminologists with a Ph.D. can also become analysts who help with policymaking activities in the government. They are often needed for their expertise in criminal research, knowledge of deviant behavior, as well as an understanding of legal frameworks. These are what will allow them to effectively evaluate existing and proposed policies, particularly concerning the criminal justice system.
Median Salary: $84,046 (Glassdoor, 2022)
Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminologists may also pursue a Juris Doctor degree to become criminal defense lawyers. Their duty is to represent defendants in the criminal court system. Be it at the local, state, or federal level, defense lawyers must prepare for arraignments, settlement conferences, as well as other court proceedings to ensure that their clients are getting a fair trial. Their background in criminology will surely be helpful in conducting research and presenting relevant evidence in court.
Median Salary: $104,531 (Glassdoor, 2022)
There are other ways to further one’s career in criminology other than earning post-graduate degrees. For instance, there are profession-wide certifications that you can take up to prove your competency in this career. These can also help you gain more experience and boost your earning potential. In some cases, these certifications may also be required for certain job roles.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020
A professional with a degree in criminology does not always land a job in this particular field, similar to graduates of other programs. One reason for this is that their foundational skillset can be applied to a variety of other jobs. It is also partly due to the increasing globalization of economic activities and the wider access to various information on the internet. In fact, according to a 2020 survey, 84% of professionals reported being willing to take a job that is unrelated to their current industry or job role (CareerBuilder, 2020).
This is echoed in a study by Sherry Sullivan and Akram Al Ariss published in the Human Resource Management Review. In their paper titled “Making sense of different perspectives on career transitions: A review and agenda for future research,” the authors noted that “due to increased globalization, rapid technical advancements, and shifts in how individuals view and enacted their careers, the nature of career transitions has dramatically changed (Sullivan & Al Ariss, 2021).”
The authors added that “the number of career transitions is expected to continue to increase as members of the millennial generation, who are projected to comprise almost 50% of the global workforce by 2020, are more likely to make a greater number of job and organizational changes than members of previous generations.”
In the case of criminology, professionals can opt to pursue occupations that may not be directly related to the field but still employs the knowledge they learned in the program. Some examples are detailed below.
Working as a criminologist is a fulfilling career, especially if you have a passion for serving the community. It certainly fits individuals with an eye for detail and a knack for solving problems as it allows them to maximize their capabilities. In addition, the tasks criminologists perform are anything but boring as they are exposed to different circumstances throughout their careers. Meaning, working in this industry for a long time can only mean learning new things from different fields of study.
Another advantage to pursuing criminology is that while it is a highly challenging job that involves long hours, it offers a high level of job security. Criminologists can also receive competitive compensation for their services as they advance in their careers.
Should you think that this is the path for you, creating your career plan for criminology does not have to be too difficult. You can begin your journey towards this career path by checking out some of the top schools for criminal justice, police science, and law enforcement majors.