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The Steps You Can Take to Start A Career in Criminology

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You are here because you are interested in the field of criminology, but what exactly does this mean? Often times, people may think about popular crime television series or movie when they think of a criminology role, but this is far from what it truly is. Criminology is not like Making a Murderer.


A criminologist is someone that studies crime, its causes and the social ramifications of it. You will study not only the criminal, but the victim, and society’s perception of the events that unfold. You must be someone that is critical and analytical, and that can act as an advisor. Of course, there is much more to it than this, and so this article will provide you with the steps you can take to start a career in criminology.

Keep in mind at all times whether or not you can personally envision yourself working in this field, as this will make a large difference to your overall success. If you think about it, who is far more likely to be good at their job, the person that wants the day to end, or the one that is passionate about their research and that is in a continuous state of learning because they are interested in the subject matter? Of course, the latter will be the individual that will excel.

Having an interest in the subject matter

First, you need to ask yourself whether you are truly interested in the subject matter, or whether you simply think you are and are romanticizing it. Thus, you must have a much better understanding of what criminology is in the first place. Consider some of the following points:

  1. Criminology in the media

There is no doubt that you have either watched some of the crime television shows that are airing now, or you have at the very least heard of them. One of the first misconceptions that you have to clear up is the fact that working in criminology is as dramatic and filled with action as it is in the movies.

You will not be able to solve a murder mystery in a few hours, and this isn’t what the study of criminology entails, either. Instead, you are trying to understand better the cause of a crime, and the impact that it leaves.

  1. Criminology versus criminal justice

It can be easy to confuse criminal justice with criminology, but you must clearly distinguish the difference between these two fields. The study of criminal justice is one where you are looking at the legal ramifications of criminality and the law surrounding it, as opposed to the social aspect of the crime.

A criminologist is someone that advises on the best policy moving forward as a result of crime, and they will always advise what the best humane course of action to take is. In other words, what are the best options for rehabilitation?

Ask yourself what you want your role to entail, and this will help you determine whether criminal justice or criminology is the best job option for you.

  1. Picture yourself working in the field

If you close your eyes and picture yourself working in your future job, can you imagine yourself working in criminology? Can you see yourself working for a think tank, a government institution, or the police force, advising on future crime policies? Can you picture yourself working as a parole officer or a police officer?

Complete high school

Education is highly valued for getting hired, and your very first step is to complete your high school diploma. Once you have gotten this, you can also apply for colleges to get your higher education.

Getting the necessary bachelor’s degree 

Your bachelor’s degree in criminology is a prerequisite to applying for jobs in the field. The good news is that there are plenty of institutions that offer these programs, but you must choose the best one for yourself. Consider doing some more research about locating what the best colleges are depending on where you are located, such as the best criminology programs in Ontario.

It is in class that you will learn more in-depth knowledge about this area of study, and you will have an opportunity to take courses such as introduction to criminology, the psychology of crime, and much more.

If you are interested in becoming a police officer as your future job, you can even get a combined program of criminology with policing at some places.

Background checks

Getting a background check is likely something that you will need to undergo, especially when you are working in this type of field. It simply helps ensure to employers that you are trustworthy and that you don’t have a criminal record yourself.

Internship opportunities

The college where you are studying should be able to set you up with some internship opportunities, and it’s a great way for you to gain some initial hands-on experience outside of everything you have learned while in class.

Career options for criminology

Next up, you have to consider what your career options are by studying criminology, as you can do more than simply become a criminologist. You can choose to become a parole or probation officer, a police officer, work as a policy advisor or analyst, and so on.

Learn how to network

Learning how to properly make connections in your field and thus network is essential for getting hired. Thus, you should make a point of going to industry relevant events, and make use of the opportunities that present themselves in front of you.

While you are still at school, consider even joining clubs that are relevant to what you are studying, as this simply gives you another opportunity to meet more people.

Choosing the right city and country

Where you live is incredibly important for your career options, and you should thus situate yourself in a city where you can get hired within your respective field. If you think about it, what are the chances that you will be hired as a criminologist if you live in a rural area?

Thus, be strategic about your location, and perhaps be flexible with moving further away if the opportunities are elsewhere.

Advance your degree

Advancing your degree past a bachelor’s can make you even more employable. After all, this shows that you are more knowledgeable in your field, and you can offer more to your future employers. Thus, you should consider:

  1. Continuing education

Have you thought about publishing research in your field, or even getting your master’s degree? Of course, a Ph.D. is necessary if you plan on working as a professor in an academic setting, but even so, it will give you an edge if you want to become a policy analyst.

  1. Choose a specialization

You can always choose to specialize in a particular field of criminology, such as juvenile detention or analyzing environmental crime. The key is to always be in a state of learning, and continue taking courses even after you have graduated if you want to acquire additional certifications.

Ensure you like what you do and develop your skills on the job

The skills that you will develop will often times be while you are working on the job itself. After all, although school will provide you with the general information, you won’t have a clear understanding of the details until you are in the office space yourself, working on a particular problem.

There is no doubt that you will develop your communication, research and even critical thinking skills while you are working. Still, as this article has already mentioned, it’s important that you treat this as more than just a job that you go to in order to waste a few hours of your day, as you will hardly hone any skills if you go into it with this type of mindset.

The initial steps that you take to propel your career forward in criminology is no different to other jobs that you are interested in. Of course, you need to get the appropriate education, learn how to network and develop your skillsets along the way. Above all, though, you need to ensure that this is the right career path for you. Keep in mind everything that has been mentioned thus far, but moreover, it would be in your best interest to speak to someone that works in a particular field of criminology that interests you.

Whether you want to work in an academic institution as a criminologist, as a parole or corrections officer, police officer and so on, getting a better understand of the day to day by speaking to someone that does it will give you a better understanding of the job itself. Moreover, you will need to be interested in the courses that you are taking while at college. If it is your passion and you are interested in learning more about it, you will no doubt be more successful in your job as well, and employers want to find people that are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what they do.

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