We are fascinated with the criminal mind. From shows such as ‘How to become a murderer’ to CSI and Criminal Minds… we are all intrigued about what makes criminals tick and what possesses them to commit the crimes that they do.
But how can you turn this fascination into a career?
What is criminology?
Criminology – in its simplest form – is the scientific study of crime which explores the nature, extent, management, causes/explanations, controls, consequences (e.g. responses from law enforcement) and methods of prevention (on an individual and social level).
The subject itself is interdisciplinary consisting of both behavioural and social sciences, and draws upon the research of sociologists, neurologists, psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, biologists and social anthropologists, as well as utilises statistics, economics and law.
Yet it does more than explore common-sense assumptions. It also delves deep into the complexity and contentious nature of crime, and the purpose of criminal justice.
Similarly, just like criminology is a sub-group of sociology; criminology has got it owns sub-groups including: penology (study of prisons and the prison system); biocriminology; feminist criminology (women and crime) and criminalistics (study of crime detection).
What is the goal of criminology?
Honestly? The primary goal of criminology is to understand why people break the law.
By finding a connection between the crime, the criminal and how our laws define the crime e.g. by looking at trends in crime; criminologists can then begin to understand the cause of the issue and take steps to efficiently eliminate it.
For instance, their work can result in the strengthening of legislations; the creation of new laws, and the removal of others (which are no longer effective).
What is the difference between criminology and criminal justice?
If you’re interested in building a career in this field or enrolling onto criminology courses, then it is important to know the difference between criminology and criminal justice, as they are not the same thing.
Do they have complementary fields of study? Yes, but they are arguably different sides of the same coin.
- Criminology – criminology looks at crime as a social phenomenon (therefore a social problem). Like we explained before, they study all aspects of crime and how it impacts on society, making it the more academic of the two.
- Criminal justice – this field varies as it focuses on the system upon which crime is detected, prosecuted and punished.
Training in criminology
Criminology may have a strong academic focus, but it is still possible to build a future in this field without going to university. Instead you can start by working in an entry level job (e.g. a PCSO) that overlaps a little bit with criminal justice.
However, if you want to advance yourself faster, then a degree in criminology will give you an edge, and increase your chances of being hired or promoted.
For instance, with a bachelor’s degree in criminology you can work as a policer officer, corrections officer, forensic science technician, probation officer or as a loss prevention specialist.
Alternatively, you can explore these career fields:
- Criminologists – a masters or doctorate degree is typically required for this role as your job will be to improve police activities and functions. Alternatively, you can choose to specialise in a particular aspect of this field.
Criminologists work within a range of environments including: colleges and universities (as professors); think-tanks; police departments; legislative bodies (as advisors) and public policy (which can help prevent crime).
- Forensic psychologist – this fascinating role can lead you into a career as a criminal profiler; jury consultant; prison psychologist; expert witness or within psychological services. For any of these, you will need a masters or doctorate degree in psychology (alongside qualifications in criminology).
- Private investigator
- Community development officer
- Security specialist
- Insurance fraud investigator
- Attorneys – here you can use your criminology background as a foundation/starting point for building a career in law
- Social welfare – social worker; drug rehabilitation; mental health support and housing
- Adult guidance worker
- Data scientist
- Forensic computer analyst
- Local government officer
Criminology Courses and degrees
Naturally, you want to load your CV with the best possible qualifications to help boost your employability. However, if you’re hesitant to jump straight into a degree, then doing a smaller online criminology course could help to bring your mind into focus.
Designed for home study, you can discover everything you need to know about this subject; the knowledge you’ll acquire; job expectations, and the range of careers you can try.
And this is perfect for anyone struggling to make a decision, as you’ll be able to dip your toe in and see if you genuinely like it – all without sacrificing years of your time studying or paying out thousands of pounds on a 4 year degree.
They basically can offer you an insight into this world, as well as supply you with a decent qualification that can be used as a stepping stone to enrolling onto a criminology degree later down the line.
What can you expect on criminology courses?
The most important thing you’ll walk away with is a deeper understanding of the criminological theories and key disciplines that form criminology e.g. sociology, psychology and history.
From examining crime control and punishment, to discussing specific types of crime i.e. violence; you will also be given the chance to develop your research skills and learn how to collect and analyse data/findings.
In addition, you will learn about the ethical issues of criminology research.
Should you get work experience?
In any career niche, work experience is invaluable. Within criminology you have got a choice of paid and voluntary opportunities that you can try. For example, you can find work within social care, criminal justice agencies and community education departments, as well as can assist offenders or victims of crime.
For more specific job roles, you can work as a special constable; get involved with prison visitations and can help out with drug treatment schemes or within youth hotels (helping young offenders).
There is also the fact that a lot of criminology degrees offer one year placements. This means you can easily combine your studies with practical training.
In any case, where you choose to get this experience will depend on where you see yourself working in the future. Once you know, you can start contacting the appropriate bodies.
What qualifications will you need?
If you choose to start off with an online course, then you will be expected to have a minimum of a C in English Language and Mathematics.
For criminology degrees, you will be expected to have at least one A Level in the following: accounting, economics, finance, business studies, government and politics, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, English literature and English language; biology, chemistry, physics; communication studies and geography.
Taking your natural interest in the inner workings of criminal minds can definitely open a lot of doors career wise. So if you are genuinely interested in establishing a career in this industry, then why not consider trying out an online criminology course first? These courses can help you decide if this field is the right fit, before you apply for a degree.
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