Human Services Guide

Careers in Criminology

Criminology is a sub-sector within Human Services which involves working with people who have broken the law in various capacities. Some work to catch criminals who have broken the law through investigation and law enforcement. Some work within the legal system with criminals who have already been caught and convicted to help them navigate the legal system. Others work with prisoners in mental health capacities or to help them prepare to re-enter society after they have served their sentences. The common thread with all careers in criminology and related fields is that you are working with those who have broken the law for whatever reason. The ultimate goal of a career in criminology is to teach people that crime does not serve them and that there is a better way. This is true whether one is working in enforcement to show that breaking the law will result in tangible penalties, the legal system to help criminals understand their legally required behavior or in prisons to help rehabilitate criminals in order to prepare them to be able to be productive members of society once more.

There are many different career paths one can take within criminology. In the arena of enforcement there are a multitude of jobs. Becoming a Police Officer is one of the most obvious careers to have and also one of the most challenging as you will be required to work with criminal activities as minor as speeding and shoplifting all the way up to Grand Theft and even Homicide. There are many sub-specializations within the umbrella of the Police department including dispatch, 911 operator and management. Most of these positions will require a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Criminology or a similar degree such as Law Enforcement. Management positions will likely require a combination of a Bachelor’s degree and extensive experience or a Master’s of Criminology or a highly related field.

Within the field of Law Enforcement there are also Federal levels such as working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Secret Service. These will usually require advanced degrees and there are a wide variety of positions from Special Agents in the field to Analysts who work on analyzing data.
Within the field of Law Enforcement there is a sub-sector which is worth further investigation and that is forensics. This could be in the form of a Lab Technician working to determine what sort of bullet was fired, checking clothing for powder burns, or bodily fluids. It could also take the form of a Forensic Psychologist who is trying to analyze patterns of behavior among serial criminal offenders whether they are thieves or murders in order to help Law Enforcement discover patterns of behavior that lead to arrests. It could also take the form of a Pathologist who performs Autopsies to determine if a death was the cause of foul play. There are many specialties within forensics that play a vital role in modern Law Enforcement within the vast field of Criminology. In most cases a Master’s or Doctorate in a scientific field such as Psychology, Chemistry, Medicine or Physics will be required to enter into any of the careers previously mentioned.

Within the realm of helping criminals work with the legal system to ensure they understand their required behavior during and after prison are jobs such as Probation and community control officers who help convicts meet their parole obligations. There are also Corrections Officers who work within prisons to ensure the prisoners do not harm one another and that they are making the appropriate strides towards rehabilitation that can give them a chance at parole and future outside of the corrections system. There are also Correctional Treatment Specialists who work with convicts and as a liaison between the legal system and the convicts in order to prepare them to be able to re-enter society after incarceration. This can include helping prisoners get appropriate mental health counseling, opportunities at education and job training in order to give the convict the best chance to be able to find a productive role in society after they have left prison. In all of these cases the common thread is helping convicts navigate the legal system from processing, to incarceration, rehabilitation and eventual release back into society in order to help prevent recidivism and enable them to create a new life for themselves that eschews criminal behaviors.

The realm of Criminology is vast and there are a great many jobs that fall under this definition. In all cases, the jobs are about ensuring that society is held together through the enforcement of laws with the goal of catching criminals and helping them to reform their criminal behaviors. This is a critical Human Service that does nothing less than hold together the very fabric of society as it prevents us from collapsing into a “might makes right” type of anarchy. By ensuring that convicted criminals are kept safe within prison, have their legal duties explained to them and give them a strength based approach towards rehabilitation, the legal system acts in a just and humane way to ensure that society is held together while giving those who have broken the law another chance to prove that they are capable of abiding by the laws of the land and becoming capable and productive members of society. A career in Criminology takes a special mind set and in most cases it will require that you have a minimum of a Bachelor’s in Criminology or a highly related field. As will all career paths, Criminology offers greater opportunities, more flexibility and considerably higher pay to those who have earned an advanced degree in the field.