What can you do with a degree in criminology? | Best graduate schools


Many law-abiding people who have no desire to commit crimes themselves are nonetheless fascinated by the psychology and behavior of criminals. Someone who is obsessed with detective fiction or true crime stories may want to consider a degree in criminology.

What is criminology and why might someone study it

Criminology is a social science that focuses on understanding where, how, and why crime occurs, and what policies will deter potential criminals from harming others. It is the study of the causes and effects of crime, how to prevent it, who does it, why people engage in criminal activity and what makes someone vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime.

Criminological research often explores questions surrounding what should be done after a crime has been committed, so criminology researchers often debate the most appropriate types of criminal penalties. Criminologists discuss how victims of crime and their families should be treated, how the wounds of victimized people can be properly addressed and remedied by criminal laws, and the right balance between justice and mercy.

Criminology sometimes involves a discussion of how to reorient those who may be tempted to commit a crime, and it includes research into the rehabilitation strategies that work best with inmates and those on parole.

For some who pursue a degree in criminology, interest in the field is driven by curiosity about the criminal justice system and a desire to improve it. Prospective criminology students may also want to learn more about the mindset of criminals so that they can use insight to deal with crime empathically and appropriately.

Austin Handle, a former police officer with a bachelor’s degree in criminology, says the lessons he learned from his degree helped him convey compassion in conversations with members of the Georgian community where he served as law enforcement officer in a way that shows the system may be black and white, but we care about their history. “

Handle – whom the Whistleblower News Network identified as “whistleblower of the week” in early September because of his public comments on a scandal at his former police department – says a degree in criminology offers a bird’s-eye view of the criminal justice system. criminal justice, which can inform policy choices.

“It helps us identify the issues in the system and how we can fix them in the future,” says Handle, the founder of Apollo AI, a Georgia-based technology company that provides tools that can be used by first responders. . It recently won a national award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the United States Department of Commerce.

Handle notes that the study of criminology sheds light on why police misconduct occurs and how to mitigate it. He says knowledge of criminology can clarify why and how dishonest police officers might violate their police department’s policies. Handle adds that the principles of criminology could also be used by business executives and business leaders who are trying to understand employee breaking rules.

Criminology vs Criminal Justice: What’s the Difference?

Experts say that although criminology degrees are somewhat similar to criminal justice degrees, there are some differences.

Handle explains that while criminal justice tends to focus on law, criminal procedure, and criminal statistics, criminology tends to focus more on “the study of the offender” and why criminals act the way they do. make.

He says questions about the appearance of reality are essential in criminology because the field clarifies the factors that most increase the likelihood of criminal activity.

Texas attorney Joseph Hoelscher, who specializes in criminal defense and child protection law, says criminology tends to be more theoretical while criminal justice is application-oriented.

“Criminology is more abstract, creating a greater depth of theoretical knowledge and can help graduates be more flexible to adapt to the jurisdiction in which they are hired,” wrote Hoelscher, who is on the board. from the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, in an email. “Applied knowledge doesn’t travel as well because each jurisdiction will have different ways of doing things. Really there is a lot of overlap, but criminology should be the place to start for anyone intending to move forward. towards higher degrees. “

There is a wide range of degrees in criminology, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Doctorates in the field are designed for future researchers, and a master’s degree can accelerate a person’s path to management. While an associate’s degree may be sufficient for some jobs in the criminal justice field, many jobs in this industry require a bachelor’s degree.

Jobs related to criminology

Because it is helpful to understand how and why crime occurs in many contexts, a degree in criminology is useful in a variety of jobs, including:

  • Criminal defense lawyer.
  • Criminal investigator.
  • Criminal profiler.
  • Criminal prosecutor.
  • Criminologist.
  • Professor or researcher in criminology.
  • City administrator.
  • Correctional officer.
  • Detective.
  • Field investigator.
  • Fire inspector.
  • Forensic psychologist.
  • Investigative journalist.
  • Investigation analyst.
  • Internal affairs investigator.
  • Police officer.
  • Loss prevention specialist.
  • Responsible for an investigation unit.
  • Paralegal.
  • Parole Officer.
  • Policy analyst.
  • Private detective.
  • Social worker.

“One of the most overlooked areas of investment for criminology graduates is with insurance companies,” wrote Stacey Giulianti, general counsel and general secretary of Florida Peninsula Holdings, in an email.

“Each state requires insurance companies to maintain and employ special investigative units, better known as the SIU department,” added Giulianti, whose company has two insurance subsidiaries.

Giulianti explained in a telephone interview that with insurance fraud amounting to billions of dollars a year, there is a huge demand for criminology graduates in the insurance industry. He notes that no matter what a criminology graduate does, whether in the public or private sector, there is usually a public service component.

“They are providing their ideas to provide action plans to stop the crime,” he says.

Salaries and career prospects in the fields of criminology

Since criminology graduates have a wide range of career options, the route taken will affect earning potential.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of American police and detectives, for example, was $ 65,170 in May 2019. Employment in these jobs is expected to increase by 5% by 2029. , according to the office.

How to decide if a criminology degree is worth pursuing

Hoelscher says criminology degrees typically don’t lead to astronomical salaries, so people who pursue a degree in the field generally see it as a personal calling rather than a way to make big bucks.

“People rarely get rich working in criminal justice, so those that last have to do with the job itself,” he says. Criminology degree holders who become expert witnesses can be paid generously, but these jobs are very difficult to obtain, he adds.

Salaries vary depending on where a criminology graduate works, according to Hoelscher. “Income varies by jurisdiction because government wages set the private sector wage floor.”

Hoelscher notes that a desire to serve others is necessary to thrive in any position related to criminology or the criminal justice system.

“Don’t go into criminal justice unless you want to help the people you work with,” he says. “They can be frustrating, but they deserve to be treated with as much respect as anyone.”

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