Criminology is a branch of sociology that focuses specifically on crime, its types, its causes, its consequences, and its impact on society.
If you are passionate about this subject and harbor aspirations of using your knowledge to research, manage or prevent crime, studying criminology can give you the skill set for this and open several different career paths for you.
One of the benefits of studying criminology is that many higher education courses and degrees don’t require any prior experience in law enforcement.
If you have recently finished high school or college, you are potentially in the perfect position to apply for a criminology course.
Studying, rather than entering the jobs market, is generally viewed as the best path forward as you will need to attain the relevant criminology-based skills that employers require.
What Are the Potential Criminology Career Paths?
As criminology is a subject that includes a range of different elements, from philosophy and psychology to law and public policy, students have an abundance of career options available to them when they eventually graduate.
The working environments, in particular, can be very unique as you could attain a role in prison or probation services, which is vastly different from other potential jobs in government.
This is one reason that pursuing a career in criminology is appealing to both undergraduates and older students who are looking to change careers and pursue a role that can be very rewarding and fulfilling professionally, as well as lucrative depending on the role.
Salary expectations vary depending on the industry and job type
For example, in Canada, early-career private investigators are typically paid around $44,850 annually, but this jumps to around $60,000 for social workers.
One major benefit of studying criminology is that it also opens up careers in roles that are not directly linked to crime and law enforcement.
A criminology graduate could use a degree as a springboard for becoming a lawyer in the future. It is common for lawyers to specialize in a specific subject, such as criminology, before they enter law school and prepare to pass the provincial bar exam.
Other jobs you could use your expertise in criminology for include:
- Social researcher
- Political risk analyst
- Charity officer
- Border services officer
- Adult guidance worker
It is important to remember that employers don’t always look to source workers and accept applicants with a specific degree.
Qualifications in criminology can make you eligible for a wide range of jobs, so while there are recommended career paths, you don’t have to restrict yourself to criminology-adjacent jobs.
That’s why this subject is so popular, as it is broad in scope and is very useful for employability.
Criminology graduates go on to secure roles in a broad range of sectors. The most popular job titles overall include protective service occupations, followed by welfare and housing associate professionals.
This again highlights just how versatile a criminology degree can be.
You can expect to become employed quite quickly after attaining the necessary qualifications or opt for further study or work and study.
Whether you want a job immediately or prefer to pursue a master’s degree or something else entirely, studying criminology is an excellent place to start.
Why Is Studying Criminology Essential for Job Prospects?
You will need to turn your interest in criminology into applicable and relevant skills, each of which can be attained by studying at the degree level.
A criminology degree, such as that offered by Wilfrid Laurier University, will introduce students to topics such as police psychology, mental health and justice, and the psychology of crime.
It will also help you to develop your understanding of both the personal and social effects of crime and cover the different methodologies for observing, analyzing, and interpreting crime-related data and samples, among other tasks.
As a part of this, criminology graduates will also need to make ethical judgments by applying problem-solving and critical thinking in addition to displaying excellent communication skills in the form of writing legal documents and conversing with victims and suspects.
These skills can be used in different working environments after you graduate. Here are 10 careers that could be available to you in criminology:
1. Private Investigator
One of the most common paths for criminology graduates is law enforcement, but you don’t always need to work for the police directly.
Private investigators work independently to legally collect information and investigate crimes.
This job involves conducting interviews, asset searches, background checks, and ongoing surveillance. Investigations can cover a wide range of crimes, from basic fraud to more advanced blockchain forensics.
Studying criminology and earning a degree enables a private investigator to charge higher rates, while an academic education provides the necessary skills and insight for working effectively
Private investigators typically earn around $44,850 a year, but this can vary depending on experience.
2. Social Worker
If your interests lie in helping people in vulnerable situations, then becoming a social worker can be incredibly fulfilling.
Social workers use the knowledge and skills they have learned from criminology degrees to better understand what clients are going through and provide the mental health, financial, and housing support they need.
This career is more than just being empathetic, though, it requires a clear understanding of local and national laws due to the frequent liaising with law enforcement professionals.
This is why it’s important to take a degree or course that covers legal and ethical frameworks and psychology.
Social workers earn approximately $60,000 on average, but again, salaries can differ depending on the location and employer. Common employers include charities and government agencies.
A criminology degree that includes qualitative and quantitative data analysis will also prepare you for work as a criminologist, which is a career where you will examine every aspect of crime and attempt to uncover the reasons why it occurs.
Everything that you learn at the degree level will be applicable here, which makes it a natural career path for post-graduates.
Criminologists often share their work and insights with police forces and the government to shape new policies and laws and improve crime prevention.
Early career pay as a criminologist amounts to an average of $50,000. This increases with experience. Mid-career criminologists earn more, with the average salary overall being $62,000.
4. Correctional Officer
Prisons are another environment where criminology graduates often work.
Correctional officers are responsible for basic tasks such as booking and processing incoming and outgoing prisoners and writing up reports, to more demanding tasks such as resolving conflicts and interacting with and supervising prisoners.
Every day is different for correctional officers who will use the skills from a degree to determine the best course of action for prisoners, especially when attempting to rehabilitate them.
Correctional officers work diligently to ensure prison rules are adhered to and that everyone remains safe and secure.
5. Loss Prevention Officer
Expert knowledge of criminal behavior is highly sought after by businesses and store owners who employ loss prevention officers to reduce the likelihood of theft.
This role requires workers to analyze CTV footage and identify patterns of abnormal behavior which could then lead to shoplifting.
Loss prevention officers also need to apprehend shoppers who break the law.
Studying criminology gives you the tools to complete many of the core tasks in this role, as it requires an in-depth understanding of human behavior.
A psychology of crime program at the degree level would be particularly useful here as this introduces many of the typical explanations for criminal behavior.
Higher education will also enable you to identify the different types of theft and procedures that can be put in place to prevent it. Loss prevention officers typically earn an average of approximately $31,200 per year.
6. Police Officer
Working in the police force is a natural step for people who have studied criminology.
Police officers and detectives work together to investigate crimes though the former is more focused on ensuring and maintaining public safety, while the latter prioritizes solving crimes.
A criminology course again helps with the personal side of crime and the behaviors that drive people to commit offenses.
This helps officers to offer support in the right moments and de-escalate situations before they get out of hand.
Like many of the career paths listed here, the hard skills of criminology must be combined with soft skills such as empathy, patience, critical thinking, attention to detail, active listening, and communication, which are crucial to the role of a police officer.
Skills that you won’t learn from criminology, such as first aid and CPR, are vital too. If you want to make the world a safer place, then this career could be for you.
Most criminology careers are hands-on roles in challenging work environments, but if you want to give something back straight away and are attracted to the idea of teaching, becoming a lecturer is a viable option for a graduate.
You can use your exhaustive knowledge of crime to teach students and help them to question and interpret aspects of criminology and the wider world.
You will also be able to explore many of the concepts and topics you learned about during a degree in greater detail, which will prolong your journey of discovery.
Salaries for lecturers differ depending on the colleges and universities you work for.
You will also be able to command a higher salary if you eventually become a senior lecturer.
Those with their sights set on the most lucrative roles linked to criminology could pursue a career as a lawyer, though this will require additional study at a law school.
Lawyers benefit hugely from learning many of the concepts covered in a law degree such as understanding human behavior, which comes in handy when interviewing witnesses and building cases, among other areas.
Many lawyers study criminology to understand criminal law before entering law school, which they need to then graduate to practice the profession.
The national average salary for lawyers is at the higher end of criminology careers at around $99,000.
9. Probation Officer
If you like the idea of being a correctional officer but would prefer to work outside of the prison system, the role of a probation officer could be for you.
Probation officers monitor the movements of offenders after they leave jail while supporting them through rehabilitation programs.
While you may have to visit prisons from time to time, the bulk of your work will take place in courts and the wider community.
Studying criminology will equip you with the skills to understand why someone committed a crime and help them not to re-offend in the future while getting their life back on track.
This can be very rewarding as you could change a person’s life for the better in the long term.
Salaries differ depending on experience in this role.
10. Crime Scene Officer
For those with a passion for forensics, the role of crime scene officer is an excellent career choice.
Crime scene investigators visit the scene of a crime to gather and record evidence and preserve and protect the scene to help solve crimes.
This role has been popularized on TV shows, so it is an eye-catching career option, but you will probably need to specialize in forensics science after studying criminology to flesh out your skill set.
Crime scene officers are also exceptional critical thinkers and problem solvers. Pay rates for this career often vary depending on the region and line of work.
As you can see, studying criminology opens up a wide variety of rewarding and lucrative career options.
You don’t have to worry about being funneled into a path that doesn’t appeal to you when studying either, as you can use your degree to secure a role in a range of working environments and sectors and potentially a different industry entirely after you graduate.