Criminologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

What is a Criminologist?

Criminologists do work that straddles the line between sociology and law enforcement. Like sociologists, they study human social behaviors but they often do so in the service of law enforcement, looking at behaviors that deviate from the norm. They might look back at a crime to analyze what caused it and if there were warning signs, or they might use predictive data to understand when and where a crime is likely to happen again.

What Are the Duties of a Criminologist?

The job duties of a criminologist can look quite different from day to day. Some days might be spent analyzing hard data, looking at research and identifying patterns; all from behind a desk. Other days, a criminologist might be called to a crime scene to collect data or interview a suspect. Criminologists might also be used to create a profile (based on the evidence in the case) of a suspect that has yet to be found. These criminal profiles, which often include social, psychological and biographical information, can help law enforcement narrow its search.

Some criminologists work primarily in scholarship, sifting through data and conducting research to find new patterns of abnormal social behavior. These criminologists might publish papers or reports that alter our understanding of a particular demographic.

Criminologist Education Requirements

Criminologist degree requirements typically include at least a bachelor's degree, though some employers look for candidates with a master's degree or higher. There are free online criminology courses available, but many criminologists pursue a degree in criminal justice, criminology, or sociology. Some criminologists may even pursue a graduate degree in psychology. Criminologist college coursework should include logic, statistics, computer science, and writing. Programs with internships offer real-world experience, which can be invaluable for aspiring criminologists. Some states require criminologists to pass a licensure exam.

Other Criminology Requirements

Aside from a bachelor's or master's degree, criminologists need a specific set of skills to succeed in the field. Criminology is a science, to be sure, but there's an art to it as well. They need to be able to not get lost in the minutia of facts and figures, but they also need to be able to zoom out and see the big picture. They need to look at data impartially, but they also are tasked with applying that data creatively through the lenses of economics, politics and race, which often requires out-of-the-box thinking.

How Much Are Criminologists Paid?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't offer salaries specifically for criminologists, but it does have data for sociologists, which is a comparable field. According to the BLS, sociologists made a median wage of $82,050 as of May 2018., which relies on self-reported income from criminologists, offered a much lower salary of $41,986 as of June 2019. Criminology is a competitive field; the BLS predicts little to no rise in available jobs in the sociology field between 2016 and 2026 and suggests that candidates with Ph.D.s in the field and a background in applied sociology will fare the best.

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