Criminologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Criminologists require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Criminologists represent a subset of sociologists who specialize in criminal behavior. They use their analytical backgrounds to assist law enforcement in identifying and understanding criminal behavior. A bachelor's or master's degree is required for this field, and some states require licensure.

Essential Information

Criminologists determine and analyze criminal patterns based on biographical, social and psychological factors to aid law enforcement in assessing potential criminals. Criminologists are required to have a bachelor's or master's degree for employment, and some states require criminologists to pass a licensing exam.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree
Licensure Required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 1% decrease for all sociologists
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $73,760 for all sociologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of Criminologists

Criminologists study a variety of factors to determine why criminals commit crimes. They consider psychological and social concerns, research crimes and arrests and study the backgrounds of criminals to determine if any biological factors led them to commit their crimes. While studying the criminal, criminologists unveil past incidents that may have influenced their crime.

Given all this information, criminologists then create profile types for typical criminals, which are then used by other law enforcement personnel to evaluate future criminals. The data accumulated by criminologists is used to help law enforcers apprehend criminals more efficiently and better assess their motives.

Criminologist Job Duties

Criminologists review criminal acts and assess a pattern of action, demographics and motivation. They may also report to a crime scene or an autopsy to determine whether a criminal falls into a specific category based on the nature of the crime.

They are usually required to write a report encompassing all of their findings. These reports are held on file and may be referred to when a similar crime is committed to compare criminals and crimes.

Requirements to Become a Criminologist

Educational Requirements

Criminology is a highly intellectual field, especially because the majority of the job's responsibilities rely on determining and analyzing criminal patterns. As such, many criminologists majored in sociology, psychology or criminology as undergraduates. These majors allow the criminologists to better understand human nature and their actions. Other common majors for criminologists include criminal justice and history. It is possible to enter the field of criminology with a bachelor's degree, but some criminologists choose to go on to pursue a master's degree in behavioral science.

Career Requirements

There are many internship opportunities available in criminology for students who are considering the field. This work experience is a vital addition to a resume when looking for a full-time job. After being hired, new employees are subject to thorough criminal background and security checks. In most states, criminologists are expected to pass a licensure exam before beginning work.

Career Info

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have information on criminologists specifically, it does offer statistics related to careers in sociology, of which crime was listed as an area of specialization. According to the BLS, sociologists can expect a decrease of 1% in job opportunities from 2014-2024. The BLS also reported that these professionals earned a median annual wage of $73,760 in May 2015. reported that the median annual salary for criminologists was $44,083 in January 2016. This statistic, however, was based on a sample of only 31 individuals.

Criminologists must be expert researchers and have a good understanding of statistics and human behavior. A background in sociology, psychology, criminology or a related field is essential. In addition to a bachelor's or master's degree, licensure is required in many states.

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