Doctorate in Criminology: Degree Program Overview

Oct 12, 2019

While earning a PhD in criminology, students develop social science research skills and learn how the criminal justice system can prevent crime and rehabilitate offenders. Find out more about the curriculum and what candidates do after graduation.

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Essential Information

Most Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in criminology cover the causes of crime from a sociological standpoint. While earning this degree, students learn how to collect research data and how the criminal justice system can prevent crime and rehabilitate offenders. Programs focus on research methods, legal theory, and behavioral analysis in criminology. Prior to graduation, students are expected to complete a dissertation, which usually emphasizes a specific area of criminology, such as law enforcement methods, incarceration, or sociological patterns. Students might also focus on a certain type of crime and what leads to that crime's occurrence.

Regardless of specialization, all students learn how to teach at the college level, give lectures to law enforcement professionals, and develop presentations on new research and trends. Doctoral programs in criminology prepare students for careers as sociologists and college professors. In order to apply, students must usually hold a master's degree in psychology, law enforcement, sociology, or law before enrolling in a doctoral program. However, some candidates can begin their study with only a bachelor's degree if they complete master's degree requirements in the first year of study.


Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology

Doctoral students usually take seminars on the court system, juvenile corrections, legal theory, and behavioral analysis in criminology. Their independent research might focus on certain demographics of the population, including women, youth, people in certain income brackets, and ethnic populations. Common course topics include:

  • Theory in criminology
  • Qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Violent crime
  • Law enforcement theory and organization
  • American jurisprudence
  • Statistics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Sociologists need a four-year degree for many positions, but those with graduate degrees have the best job prospects. Employers also look for advanced math skills. Many of these jobs focus on public policy analysis and research. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of sociologists is expected to see faster than average of 9% growth between 2018 and 2028. In 2018, the median annual salary in the field was $82,050.

The BLS also indicates that postsecondary criminal justice and law enforcement teachers earned a median annual salary of $61,900 in 2018. Demand for all college instructors is expected to increase by 11% in the 2018-2028 decade, with the trend driven by increased student population.

With the advanced knowledge of criminology that they gain from Ph.D. programs in the field, graduates are ready to pursue advanced research and teaching positions.

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