Professional criminologists offer skills to law enforcement to locate criminals and also present expertise to federal, state and local governments to write official policies dealing with crime and punishment. Criminology classes help students develop the skills to evaluate behavior, including predicting patterns and defining motives for personal actions. The duties of criminologists range from attending autopsies to sorting through data to predict future criminal trends, according to the Princeton Review. The foundation for a career in criminology rests with academic preparation, and appropriate class selection helps students build solid backgrounds to do the complex research work and investigation required during the job.
Criminal Justice Courses
Criminology students typically take undergraduate courses that give an overview of the field. Required classes feature topics dealing with local, state and federal law; law enforcement administration; forensic science; juvenile delinquency and treatment; and a survey of contemporary theories in the field. Advanced electives cover topics highlighting theories and research in white-collar crime, corrections law, victimology, offender corrections, race, drug dealing, and industrial and retail security administrations. Comprehensive university departments allow students to develop major fields of study such as juvenile delinquency or criminal justice by careful selection of undergraduate courses.
Economics and Mathematics Classes
Criminologists frequently investigate financial fraud, and students need advanced-level coursework in economics, math and statistics to discover illegal activities. Money laundering, hiding illegal profits from drug operations, counterfeiting or organized crime activities in legal operations accounted for an estimated $1.6 trillion in laundered cash in 2009, according to the Financial Action Task Force and the United National Office on Drugs and Crime. Classes teach sophisticated math and accounting techniques to evaluate financial records to discover illegal operations.
Behavior and Theory Requirements
Crime analysts and criminal profilers use skills learned in sociology and psychology classes to help set policy to fight crime and locate criminals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines behavioral science as an understanding of human behavior, and criminology students take courses that teach information and techniques to understand and predict criminal behavior. The goal is for criminology majors to understand what makes criminals tick, and classes in psychology, sociology, communication and conflict resolution help supply this knowledge.
General Education and Electives
Colleges require criminology majors to take elective classes in general education. This means students must enroll in a variety of courses in different departments, but students can expand the study field for the major by taking classes that enhance knowledge for the degree. The general education requirement in the arts and humanities category, for instance, typically asks students to choose from a list of classes from behavioral science, culture, writing and natural science, but completing requirements by enrolling in classes in sociology or psychology also helps build your understanding about human nature and the criminal mind, as well as meeting GE requirements.
- University of Maryland Undergraduate Catalog 2013-2014: Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS)
- Penn State University Bulletin: What is General Education?
- UCLA Division of Undergraduate Education: General Education Requirements
- The Princeton Review: Career -- Criminologist
- Financial Action Task Force (FATF): What Is Money Laundering?
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Behavioral Science
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