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Crimes happen. People rob banks, they hold up stores. People are mugged, attacked and killed. Cars are stolen, homes broken into and children are kidnapped. Some crime is random, some is planned and plotted. Some criminals are desperate, while others are mentally ill.

Criminologists are the people who study crimes and criminal behavior. They look for answers to questions like, how does crime affect communities? What are the victims doing years later? How do the police handle serial killers? Why do people commit these crimes? And, most importantly, they try and solve the ancient riddle, how can crime be controlled?

Criminologists gather information on crimes and criminal behavior. They look at past crimes, victim statistics and social groups and areas most affected by violence and criminal activity. They look at the country's policing system and the punishments and rehabilitation of convicted criminals. They read reports, studies and statistical analyses written by police officers, lawyers, correctional officers and other criminologists. They interview detectives, criminals and victims. They visit crime scenes, autopsies and courtrooms. They look at the frequency of certain activities, they look for trends and repeat crimes. They try to track crimes and criminal trends over history and come up with conclusions about density, poverty and its effect on people. They look at racism, classism, and other stigmas, and determine the effects these things can have on crime rates.

While all criminologists concern themselves with these things, what they actually do with their findings and conclusions depends on where they work, and their training and experience. Criminologists usually specialize in one area, like sociology, psychology or history. They work for the government, and might present their information regarding poverty's effect on crime during restructuring of welfare programs. Some criminologists work with the police force, and help them with community outreach programming. Criminologists may work independently as consultants to community activism groups, and private companies. They are often professors, teaching criminology and psychology to university students, and some work as teachers in community colleges.

Criminologists are interested in crime and the criminal mind. Their work is important in controlling not only crime, but regulating the police force, adjusting the criminal justice system, and implementing criminal outreach programs in at-risk communities.
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Liberty University

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Programs Offered:
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security
  • AA in Criminal Justice
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in a career in criminology? Criiminologists need to be analytical, patient,methodical and thorough researchers. They should be interested in psychology, criminal behavior, and cause-and-effect type science. You need to be a good communicator, both in written and spoken form. They must be good with computers, and able to use the Internet and other online sources in their research. An interest in the law and the criminal justice system, as well as an interest in and respect for all people, no matter what their background community, will benefit individuals in this career.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study effects of crime on victims and society
  • Study effective crime prevention
  • Document findings, write reports
  • Monitor police work and the criminal justice system, including courts and prisons
  • Perform surveys, interviews and statistical analyses
  • Advise banks and insurance companies about safety measures and risk management
  • Advise governments, justice workers, and social activists about criminal behavior and trends
  • Run classes and mark papers
  • A criminologist will spend a lot of time reading studies, poring over police reports, and reading historical cases, court documents, and academic essays and publications about criminal theory. Criminologists spend each day trying to prove theory or establish new theory about criminal trends and behaviors. They will meet with government officials, other criminologists, and business executives to share their knowledge. This job will not entail much travel, but there are opportunities to meet all sorts of people, including hardened criminals and powerful politicians.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Where criminologists work depends on the type of work they are involved in. They most often work in private and public offices, libraries and police stations, as well as government departments, prisons, courts, universities and community colleges. Their work may take them to crime scenes and forensic labs. They work alone, or in small teams. They usually work regular workweeks. However, on difficult or urgent cases they may find themselves working longer hours. Criminologists may double as police officers or psychologists.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Where a criminologist can advance to depends on their level of training and experience. There is always teaching at colleges, researching with universities and government agencies, and becoming an administrator with the justice system. Those with computer experience will have more opportunities for research positions. Criminologists can also become police officers, lawyers, psychologists and writers.

  Educational Paths  
There are many paths an individual could take to become a criminologist. The easiest path, that covers all the bases, is to complete a bachelor's degree in sociology, psychology or criminology. Then they can join the police force and work as a criminologist in the thick of crime solving. They can go on to law school, and become a criminal lawyer. Or they may also find work with a correctional institution. However, if individuals would like to go on to work in universities or as a senior researcher, they will need to complete at least a master's degree, and potentially their PhD, in criminology. Some people choose to do their postgraduate degrees in psychology, in order to work as criminal psychologists.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

Featured Schools

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Liberty University

100% Online & No Standardized Testing

Programs Offered:
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security
  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • And more...

Purdue University Global

Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Global delivers a fully personalized online experience that's tailored to working adults.

Programs Offered:
  • BS in Criminal Justice - Forensic Psychology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • MS in Criminal Justice
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Grand Canyon University
Pursue a Bachelor's or Master's in Criminal Justice online
Programs Offered:
  • M.S. in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

American InterContinental University Online

You’re serious about success. With your busy schedule and the desire to move your career forward, you can earn an accredited associate, bachelors or master’s degree at a pace that works for you anywhere, anytime, 24/7.

At AIU, the Serious U, you can get started to get ahead.

For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to:

Programs Offered:
  • Bachelor's (BSCJ) - Generalist

UEI College

At UEI College, we want you to succeed. We’re like a family and we want you to be a part of it.

Programs Offered:
  • Criminal Justice (11-Month Diploma Program)

Saint Joseph's University

Saint Joseph’s University is a comprehensive, regionally accredited university. Our national rankings and AACSB accreditation in the Haub School indicate the high quality of our undergraduate, graduate, and executive programs both online and on campus. Guided by a faculty committed to both teaching and scholarship, students develop intellectually, spiritually and emotionally through a unique curriculum, and advanced study in a chosen discipline.

Programs Offered:
  • MS in Criminal Justice - General Track
  • MS in Criminal Justice - Behavior Management Track
  • MS in Criminal Justice - Behavior Analysis Track

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