Forensic Criminologist: Job Description and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a forensic criminologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certificate options to find out if this is the career for you.

Forensic criminologists engage in research involving criminal behaviors. Their research aids the criminal justice system and helps law enforcement understand the crimes they may investigate.

Essential Information

Forensic criminologists study the behavior of criminals and the processes that make the criminal justice system work. They typically hold graduate degrees in criminology or criminal justice, though certificate programs in forensic criminology are available. Their focus is usually on research meant to keep the criminal justice system current and effective.

Required Education Bachelor's degree for entry level, while graduate degrees and/or certificates may lead to greater career prospects
Other Requirements Clean criminal record, reputable work and credit history
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -1% for all sociologists (including forensic criminologists)
Median Salary (2015)* $73,760 for all sociologists (including forensic criminologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Forensic Criminologists

Forensic criminologists examine the criminal justice system from a sociological perspective. They are trained to assess court systems, prison facilities and law enforcement agencies on the federal, state and local levels. Some forensic criminologists specialize in various criminal populations, such as juvenile offenders or the mentally ill. Their research often focuses on the sociological causes of various types of crimes as well as what motivates the criminals who commit them.

Forensic criminologists' research can be used to evaluate legal procedures and create new public policy when necessary, explains a career description from Brigham Young University's microbiology and molecular biology department ( Lawmakers use the analysis of forensic criminologists to ensure that all aspects of the justice system meet a society's legal needs.

Job Requirements

Forensic criminology professionals should have a clean criminal record and a reputable work record and credit history, explains Texas Wesleyan University ( Those employed in entry-level research or administrative positions usually hold a bachelor's degree. A doctoral degree is required for most research positions, explains BYU's career description. Common areas of study include criminology or criminal justice. Coursework usually includes topics such as criminal law, forensic psychology, criminological theory and crime control policies.

Certificate Options in Forensic Criminology

Certificate programs in forensic criminology also teach aspiring forensic criminologists to assess criminal behaviors and identify personal characteristics and other factors that may be related to criminal activity. Though not very common, certificates in forensic criminology are available on the undergraduate and graduate levels. Not just for criminologists, they may be taken by people in other professions related to the justice system. Courses included in such programs include forensic investigation, forensic sociology and criminal psychology.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data specifically on forensic criminologists, it does report on the field of sociology, in which forensic criminology is included. In 2015, the BLS reported that the median salary for sociologists was $73,760 per year, with the top 10% of earners in the profession making almost $145,250 or more annually. The BLS projects a 1% employment decrease for sociologists from 2014 to 2024.

Research skills are crucial for forensic criminologists as they primarily engage in sociological studies of crime and criminal behaviors. Writing and analytical skills are also important for conducting research, as is a foundation in statistics. Forensic criminologists perform important work for the criminal justice system and must be good social scientists.

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