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PhD in Criminology: Program and Degree Overview

Doctoral programs in criminology train students to be researchers and educators. Students may specialize in a specific area of criminology, such as drug abuse, court systems, public policy, policing and criminal etiology. Continue on for details about Ph.D. programs and possible careers.

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Essential Information

Criminology is the study of crime, criminals and their motives, criminal justice and correctional systems. Most positions in the criminal justice field - police officer, corrections officer, investigator - only require candidates to have at the least academy training and at the most a bachelor's or master's degree. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Criminology might appeal to those individuals who are interested in researching or teaching criminology as opposed to those who want to work directly in the field. Students can obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Criminology in approximately five years through a university program, and are often required to create a dissertation and possibly complete a residency. Some possible program specializations include drug abuse, court systems, public policy, law enforcement and criminal etiology.


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Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology

Students interested in a criminology Ph.D. must have at least a bachelor's degree for admission to a Ph.D. program in criminology, although some schools require a master's degree, generally in criminology, sociology or a related field. Most doctoral programs in criminology include training in criminal law, statistics, quantitative research methods, demographics and research design. In the final years of most programs, doctoral students must pass qualifying exams after completing their coursework, and must compose and defend a dissertation. Common courses include:

  • Capital punishment
  • Corrections
  • Crime and drugs
  • Crime prevention
  • Juvenile justice
  • Sentencing

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

In most cases, Ph.D. programs in criminology are designed to lead students to careers in either research or academia. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies criminologists as a subset of sociologists (www.bls.gov). Sociologists were expected to see a 1% decline in jobs from 2014-2024. In May 2015, most sociologists worked for scientific and research development firms. At that time, the median annual wage for all sociologists was $73,760.

From 2014-2024, job prospects for postsecondary school teachers were expected to increase 13%. In 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for postsecondary sociology teachers was $69,230, while the median annual salary for professionals teaching criminal justice or law enforcement was $58,770.

Criminology is a field that studies the different aspects of crime, the criminal justice system law enforcement and legal policy. Although a Ph.D. in criminology is not often required for most of the jobs in this field, it may be necessary for those who wish to pursue in-depth academic research and teach it at the postsecondary level.

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