Criminology is the study of crime and the scientific causes of criminal behavior. The professional field encompasses a wide range of jobs, such as police officer, detective, forensic scientist, criminal psychologist, crime scene investigator and FBI agent. Because there are so many career options in the field, there is no one path to a career in criminology. Several undergraduate degrees options are available, which can be combined with additional training or licensing to work in the field of criminology.
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Some colleges and universities offer a dedicated undergraduate degree in either criminology or criminal justice. These degrees take a broad approach, studying many of the factors that influence criminal behavior, as well as the criminal justice system, public policy and the creation of laws. Some programs, like the one at Florida State University, also require that students complete an internship to learn about the field through hands-on experience. Students work in a law enforcement agency or one that is affiliated with criminology or criminal justice, such as a courthouse, corrections facility or lawyer's office.
Understanding criminal behavior requires study of the psychological influences on criminals. Many criminals suffer from some type of mental illness or personality disorder. Others may experience abuse or traumatic events in childhood that cause mental health disorders. A degree in forensic psychology can provide some insight into these behaviors and lead to career opportunities such as counseling children or adults, advocating for victims, working with prison populations, managing child abuse programs or consulting at trial about criminal activity. Additional training or certification may be required, depending on the career goal. For example, counselors must be licensed in the state in which they wish to practice.
Sociology and Anthropology
Sociology and anthropology study how social structures contribute to social behavior. They study culture, social institutions, and organizations. Anthropology is the study of past cultures and societies, which can shed insight into current societies and legal systems.Those interested in a career in criminology can study sociology or anthropology to understand some of the underlying influences of criminal behavior. For example, a weak sense of community or a lack of community support may be an influence on some criminal behaviors.
Forensic science uses biology, chemistry, and other natural sciences to study evidence for a crime. Forensic scientists both collect and analyze the evidence, helping investigators understand how a crime happened and who might have committed it. Some evidence may also reveal information about the criminal's motive or emotional state when the crime was committed. A degree in forensic science can potentially lead to careers as forensic science technicians, detectives, special investigative agents or even FBI agents.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists
- The American Society of Criminology: About
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Sociologists: What Sociologists Do
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Forensic Science Technicians
- Penn State: Department of Criminology
- Florida State University: Criminology and Criminal Justice Major
- Ohio University: Department of Sociology and Anthropology: Degree Requirements
- University of Maryland: Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Kent State University: Criminology and Justice Studies Undergraduate Program
- University of Denver: Forensic Psychology: Program Overview
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