How To Become a Criminologist (With FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Criminologists play a vital role in keeping our communities safe by working closely with the criminal justice system and law enforcement. Criminologists develop an understanding of criminal motives through the research of criminal behaviour. Learning how to enter the criminology job market can help you plan your career path. In this article, we discuss how to become a criminologist, outline the duties of this role, describe relevant skills and provide answers to common questions about criminologist careers.

How to become a criminologist

Below you can find an easy guide on how to become a criminologist:

1. Complete a bachelor in criminology

Criminology involves more than one field of study. It relates to the criminal justice system and the psychology of humans. A bachelor degree in criminology can help you reach your goal of becoming a criminologist. Students in this course learn why people commit crimes and what can be done to prevent them.

A bachelor degree in criminology can take up to three years of full-time study and practical work to complete. Having this degree may present you with new work opportunities that can help you further your skills and work experience. StudyAssist provides more information on applying for a higher education.

2. Gain experience in the criminology field

Gaining experience in criminology can help you decide what job path is best suited for your strengths. Many state governments offer volunteering and internship programs. Volunteer work can show potential future employers that you are dedicated to and serious about working in criminology.

Previous work experience roles may offer lessons and courses that might apply to your studies. Many criminologist roles are a part of government organisations. One of these organisations is the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC). You can apply online through job boards for jobs related to criminology.

3. Complete post-graduate studies

Completing a postgraduate degree in criminology can help you gain a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system. Post-graduate degrees typically take up to two years to complete but can provide you with invaluable knowledge and specific skills. Criminologists work with several branches of justice, from anti-terrorism to cyber crime. Having an area of specialisation as a criminologist can help to widen your job prospects.

Post-graduate degrees can offer courses that improve your technical and soft skills. You can gain knowledge of the legal system from several post-graduate degrees. A degree relative to criminology, such as psychology, can share many of the same units. Both psychologists and criminologists study human behaviour and work with the community.

4. Apply for a job

If you have a bachelor or postgraduate degree and relevant work experience, you can apply for criminologist roles. One of the requirements for working in the criminology industry is to have a police clearance. You can obtain this online or at your local Australia Post.

Before you start applying for jobs, aim to check your resume to ensure it's displaying updated and current information. Aim to include work and education achievements related to criminology in your resume. You can submit different versions of your resume based on the description of the roles you're applying for to show hiring managers you're the ideal candidate for a position.

Related: Cover Letter Checklist: What To Review Before You Submit

What does a criminologist do?

Criminologists work closely with law enforcement and the community. They commonly find employment with government agencies and private organisations. The job of a criminologist involves conducting extensive research and interviews to gain a better understanding of criminal behaviour. Insight into the minds of criminals can help to form effective crime prevention strategies. Criminologists may also form policies on the humane and fair treatment of convicted criminals.

Regular responsibilities and duties of a criminologist may include:

  • Studying criminal behaviour to understand the motives of criminals

  • Conducting surveys to gain information and statistics from the community

  • Analysing data and research to understand human behaviour

  • Working closely with law enforcement and the criminal justice system to assist in investigations

  • Writing articles and research papers related to criminology

  • Creating policy recommendations based on extensive research

  • Forming strategies to reduce and prevent crime

  • Conducting interviews with convicted criminals.

Relevant skills for criminologists

Below you can find some of the relevant skills of a criminologist:

Communication

As criminologists often conduct research interviews with criminals and the community, a large part of their job is translating information they have gathered into a policy or research article. They may use vocal abilities to extract valuable information from an interviewee and use strong written skills to translate this data into research papers. Practising active listening can be effective for improving your communication skills, as can attending skill workshops.

Organisation

Criminologists often work on several research papers at a time. Being organised ensures they can focus on their work and not become overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities. Creating goals, planning and managing your time can help you become more organised.

Adaptability

The field of criminology is regularly changing as new research becomes available. The ability to adapt to new teachings and form new policies is a vital part of being a criminologist. Having new experiences, making mistakes and learning from others can improve your adaptability.

Problem-solving

Crime prevention is one of the most important parts of being a criminologist. Keeping communities safe and trying to prevent crime can require good problem-solving skills. You can improve your problem-solving skills by using strategies such as brainstorming and analysing different solutions.

Technical writing

Criminologists' research can often become published and used to form new policies. Articles and research papers require strict formatting and writing knowledge. Because of this, educational courses in technical writing are most likely taught in your chosen study pathway to become a criminologist.

Teamwork

Criminologists are often required to work with law enforcement and other criminology agencies. The ability to work well with others can be a crucial skill for a criminologist to have, as it allows diverse perspectives and innovative ideas. Having a positive mindset and knowing everyone's responsibilities can help to create a positive team dynamic.

Patience

Studying criminology requires complex research that can take time to complete. A criminologist's key responsibilities include forming new policies to help prevent crime, which can take time to edit and perfect. Becoming organised and reducing stress in your life might help to improve your patience.

Frequently asked questions about criminologist careers

Below you can find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about working as a criminologist:

How long does it take to become a criminologist?

A popular pathway to becoming a criminologist is to complete a masters in criminology, psychology or criminal justice. Master degrees can take up to five years to complete. Some roles as a criminologist only require a bachelor's degree, which usually takes up to three years to complete. Completing a bachelor's degree is not always a requirement. If you have relevant work experience in criminology, you may find employment organically.

Do criminologists get paid well?

The average national salary for a criminologist is $59,237 per year. There is potential to earn less or more than this figure, depending on what level of experience or qualifications you have completed. The bottom 10% of yearly salaries are near $40,000. If you have completed a masters degree in criminology, psychology or criminal justice, you may reach a higher paying salary. Highly trained and experienced criminologists can have a yearly salary of over $100,000.

How hard is it to get a job in criminology?

Jobs in the criminology field can be very accessible. The majority of criminologists work for government agencies, meaning job availability may vary between territories. Be sure to check for any private organisations that have criminologist careers available. If you are thinking of forming a career in criminology, becoming a police officer can be a good start.

Where do criminologists work?

Researching, analysing data and writing articles can likely take up most of your tasks as a criminologist. Because of this, your workplace may often be an office environment. As a criminologist, you may also work at an educational institute. Here you can teach students criminology and criminal justice studies. You may also conduct interviews at prisons and other criminal justice departments.

Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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