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Criminologist Job Description, Career as a Criminologist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Advanced degree

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Criminologists study the social and psychological conditions that cause crime, the criminals themselves, and methods of rehabilitation. One branch of criminology, called criminalistics, develops scientific ways to detect and solve crime. All criminologists work toward the same ends: to ensure that laws are just and practical, to protect society, and to help criminals reenter society as useful citizens.

Criminologists study data about crimes, arrests, and convictions to determine the social background from which most criminals come. They ask—and attempt to answer—such questions as "Are most criminals poor?" and "Why do some members of a social class commit crimes?" Their answers may lead to changes in social conditions so crime can be diminished.

Criminologists study data about crimes, arrests, and convictions to learn about criminal actions and to suggest practical methods for controlling and rehabilitating criminals. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Some criminologists study the criminals themselves, examining their personal histories to reveal incidents that may have influenced them. The conclusions they draw can suggest ways to help at-risk individuals before they turn to crime.

Other criminologists study the history and theories of crime and the nature of the criminal justice system. For instance, they investigate the effects that arrest and conviction have on criminals. Their studies may suggest ways to impede the influence hardened criminals have on people sent to prison for minor crimes They may also determine that certain punishments do not prevent crime.

Criminologists interested in crime detection develop scientific methods, such as lie detector tests and fingerprinting, to study clues. When crimes are committed, these and other techniques are used by crime laboratory technicians to try to identify the criminals.

Criminologists are employed as teachers and researchers at colleges and universities, as administrators of large social agencies or prisons, and as directors of crime prevention projects. A few criminologists put their theoretical knowledge to practical use as police commissioners.

Education and Training Requirements

Applicants need master's or doctoral degrees in subjects related to criminology, such as juvenile delinquency, abnormal psychology, and statistics.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to agencies or colleges that hire professionals in the field. School placement services and professional organizations are other sources of employment information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement in the field of criminology depends on education and experience. Doctoral degrees are generally required for professors, directors of research departments, administrators of large social agencies or crime prevention projects, and police commissioners.

Comparatively few positions exist for criminologists. The number of new jobs in the field depends entirely on public funding for crime prevention projects and agencies.

Working Conditions

Criminologists in social agencies generally work in offices. Those involved in casework may counsel or interview criminals in prisons, while professionals in the field of criminalistics work in laboratories. Administrators, such as police commissioners, usually have high-profile jobs and must respond to the public's concerns about crime. Criminologists generally work more than forty hours per week.

Where to Go for More Information

American Board of Criminalistics
PO Box 1123
Wausau, WI 54402-1123

American Society of Criminology
13142 Kinnear Rd.
Columbus, OH 43212-1156
(614) 292-9207

International Association for the Study of Organized Crime
PO Box 50484
Washington, DC 20091-0484

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries of criminologists vary according to the responsibilities of their jobs and the size of the population served. Both training and experience affect their earnings. Beginning criminologists earn about $28,000 per year, while those with experience can earn up to $50,000 per year. Police commissioners, prison administrators, and others who administer public or private agencies or crime prevention projects earn higher salaries. Those who work as consultants on special projects are paid on a fee basis. Retirement plans, health insurance, and paid holidays and vacations are generally available.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service