An exciting field for those with the constitution for it, Criminology deals with the science of crime itself. An offshoot of sociology, criminology deals with a broad range of topics related to crime including statistics, psychology, the consequences of crime, and societal or cultural reactions to crime.
There's lots of places you can go once you get started on your criminology, including anywhere from police departments to correctional facilities, and could even lead to you joining the FBI, if you're so inclined. But once you're out of college, where do you start?
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Criminology Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as a Criminology Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for Criminology Majors
Skills for Criminology majors include broad research skills and the ability to look at the issue of crime from a zoomed out, macro perspective. The focus in Criminology is on understanding the statistics behind crime and understanding it from an analytical perspective.
This requires a great memory and concentration, not to mention a creative and active mind. It's certainly not for everyone, but for the brightest and the best, careers can be long and rewarding.
Let's take a closer look at what some of these Criminology skills look like:
Broad knowledge of law and the nature of crimes.
This is an absolute must. If you get through your undergraduate school without much knowledge of the law and the reasons that people break it, then you're pretty much useless to any career you could hope to have in the field. Knowledge should be fairly broad with small areas of specialization -- preferably areas that you hope to expand on with whatever career you go with.
Computer literacy/research skills.
Another absolute must. For almost any career in Criminology, you'll be spending a lot of time on computers going through mounds and mounds of data. You have to have some way of processing and understanding this information. A good understanding of computers is particularly important nowadays, given how important the internet has become to society, and how much of it is used as an accessory to (or even medium for) crime.
Along with being able to conduct research and locate relevant data, you'll need to be able to come up with creative and useful interpretations of this data in order to solve the complex problems that the Criminology field often presents.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Criminology Degree
There are lots of internship opportunities for Criminology majors, as there are a variety of criminal justice-related fields, but some of the more plentiful you'll find are related to law enforcement in one way or another. These assorted groups and government agencies are always looking for new blood, especially when that (metaphorical) new blood is willing to take a look at some actual blood. On an unpaid basis, no less.
These internships allow you to gain a small amount of field experience as well as let you see how an organization that interests you functions in the real world.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. Available Jobs For Criminology Majors
Jobs for Criminology Majors exist in many different fields, but for the most part, you'll find them in either government positions, private correctional facilities, or in security. Other jobs in criminology are more related to rehabilitation -- helping ex-convicts adjust to life outside of prison, rather than putting or keeping them there in the first place.
These are all very different fields, but in all of them there's much to find that might be interesting or exciting to you regardless of how you choose to specialize. In fact, the job choices ahead of you might become somewhat overwhelming with the size of the options available.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.). But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Criminal Justice major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting entry-level jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Probation and parole officer
Probation and parole officers handle individual cases of those who have gone through the correctional system and are now on probation or parole. The role requires a lot of empathy as well as the ability to project authority, as it requires talking one-on-one with and giving directions to ex-convicts. Due to the unique difficulties of the position, probation officers tend to specialize in certain kinds of cases.
Paralegals are people who are trained for tasks related to legal duties and to provide legal assistance, but who cannot offer legal services on their own (depending on local laws). For the most part, paralegals work through attorneys, who they assist or otherwise represent.
FBI field agent
FBI field agents are some of the best of the best when it comes to the Criminal Justice field. It takes a series of tests, both physical and mental, just to be accepted, and only those within the age range of 23-37 are allowed to give it a shot. If you manage to get in, you'll spend months training at the FBI's facility in Quantico, VA, after which you could be shipped to almost anywhere. It takes a lot to be a field agent, but those who make it through the process are as passionate as they get.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Criminology Majors
Most jobs in the criminology field, including things like social work and positions requiring community involvement, will benefit from volunteer work in at least some way. And there are lots of things you can start doing right away that you can use to pad out your resume while also getting relevant experience to your work.
Volunteering to work with prisoners is one of the biggest ways you can use volunteer work to get ahead in this field. Prisoners are some of the most overlooked members of society, and working with them allows you to gain insight into the psychology of the people that commit crimes while also making a difference in society. Volunteers need to register with the appropriate state organizations and depending on the program they enter, they may need to take on additional training. People with almost any field of interest or specialty can make themselves useful in prison volunteer work -- common programs involve creative writing classes, yoga or exercise classes (or other hobbies related to cultivating mindfulness), religious ministration, and more.
One way or another, the most likely employer for your first job in a criminal justice career is going to be related to the government in some way. It's the government's laws that criminals are breaking -- it stands to reason that the most jobs related to criminal justice would be coming from Uncle Sam.
So before you scour the depths of the internet looking for any company desperate enough to hire someone with lots of debt and no experience, check out the US Government's USAJobs site, where empty government positions are posted.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in Criminology
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd -- but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Master's degrees and PhDs in Criminology are more useful than would be the case for other criminal justice related fields due to the relatively research-based/academic focus of criminology specifically.
Unlike some PhDs -- which tend to be primarily for academic research, teaching, and study -- Criminology PhDs are able to work in applied settings, especially those wherein policy decisions are made. These jobs tend to include mostly higher up governmental positions in either the judicial system or in a separate agency like the FBI or CIA.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with Criminology degree normally consider:
Master's in Criminology
- Good for increasing competitiveness in the job market and bumping up starting pay. Additionally, the skills gained through an effective Master's program will give you a significant leg up on your fellow employees when you're just starting out, as they may not have the critical skills or specialized abilities that you now take for granted as a Master's student
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology)
- Good for conducting research and remaining on the academic side of the Criminal Justice field. However, many PhDs also act as high level consultants and work with public policy groups, both of which allow Criminal Justice PhDs to have an active role in both the public and private sectors of the Criminal Justice field
6. External Resources
American Society of Criminology (ASC)
A professional organization dedicated to the field of criminology, the ASC offers membership benefits like annyal meetings, criminology-related journals and publications, continuing education opportunities, and more.
Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS)
A professional organization dedicated to the study of criminal justice. Like most professional societies, there are membership benefits including publications and certification offerings, and the ACJS offers professional development opportunities in the various subfields of criminal justice as well.
Enter "Criminology" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.