What is a Criminologist?

Criminologists use social patterns, statistics, and psychology in order to analyze the behaviors of criminals and methods used by criminals in order to help predict and prevent criminal behavior from occurring in the future. Psychological profiling plays an important role in the profession as well. In addition, a criminologist will evaluate how different methods of law enforcement affect crime rates.

A criminologist will use their education in federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies or work as college professors. In addition, criminologists are employed by the FBI, the Secret Service of the United States, and other federal and state agencies.


The majority of criminologists have a bachelor’s degree in either sociology or psychology. Many criminologists often will hold a PhD or master’s degree in one of the behavioral sciences as well. In addition, a criminologist has to be an expert in analyzing statistics and crime rates. They must be able to write reports that are clear and thorough in order to share their findings and knowledge. For this reason, it is recommended that an individual interested in a career as a criminologist take courses in writing, computer science, and statistics.

Becoming a Criminologist

The logical place to start gaining the necessary skills to become a criminologist is by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, sociology, or psychology. Individuals that are currently working in corrections, law enforcement, or have related training and experience,  may only need to complete a bachelor’s degree in order to pursue a criminologist career.

In addition, there are some states that require criminologists to become licensed and other states that do not. It is important to look into the requirements of your particular state when pursuing a career in this field.

In order to be competitive in the field it is recommended that a person pursue a graduate degree in criminal justice, sociology, or psychology as most people working in this field have at least a master’s degree in one of these subject areas. Work experience may be substituted for education in some areas.

There are degree programs available at most major colleges and universities both on campus and online. When choosing a college it is important to make sure that the program that is being pursued is accredited, especially for pursuance of a graduate degree.

Job and Career Opportunities in Criminology

Criminologists are technically referred to as sociologists and can be employed in a number of different areas. There are jobs for criminologists who have graduate degrees in academia working as professors or conducting research. Most commonly, a criminologist will work in a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States, the median salary for a criminologist that works in law enforcement is approximately $72,430 (2013). Those that work in the academic environment earn anywhere from $60,000 to over $100,000. Generally the more education and experience an individual has in the field, the higher a salary a person can earn.