More and more law enforcement departments and agencies are employing criminologists to help them track down suspects and close cases. Criminologists study crime, criminal behavior patterns, and the impact crime has on society. The work they do can help law enforcement agencies have a better understanding of a suspect's behavior and thought patterns. This information can greatly improve the chances of catching the suspect. Because of the spate of TV shows glamorizing the job of criminologist, this is one of the most popular criminal justice jobs these days.

Job Description

Criminologists do not typically work out in the field apprehending and arresting suspects. These criminal justice jobs are heavily focused on research. A criminologist is basically a social scientist. The research they provide is used by police officers, detectives, and federal agents to help track down the perpetrator. Criminologists do not just work on high profile criminal cases. Their expertise may be needed on juvenile justice issues, petty theft crimes, child abuse, or domestic violence cases. A department may ask for a criminologist's assistance in designing effective crime prevention programs for schools and communities.

Criminologists develop behavioral profiles on suspects. They examine the suspect's life to see if any particular events may have triggered the crime or violence. They may look at his employment status, his family situation, the people he associates with, his emotional stability, and financial situation. Based on this information, criminologists can begin building a profile. For example, they may determine that based on previous behavior he is more likely to commit a crime against a particular group of people. Detectives will use this information to protect the public and eventually arrest the suspect.

A large portion of this job is dedicated to researching criminal patterns and crime statistics. In order to be successful, you will need to have strong analytical skills, the ability to process complex information, and excellent communication and presentation skills. The research a criminologist provides does is not limited to helping detectives arrest suspects. A department may ask for research to be conducted on the causes of criminal behavior in a particular area. The results might demonstrate a disturbing pattern and indicate crime will continue to rise if something is not done quickly. The police chief presents this research to the city council requesting extra funding for more officers and implementing crime prevention programs.

Research and report writing are not the only job duties a criminologist will perform. Often, they are called to testify in court about the suspect's pattern of behavior. The prosecution will want to show that the suspect knew exactly what he was doing when he committed the crime. Defense attorneys will want to prove that the suspect's behavior was caused by factors out of his control.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree used to be enough to find work in this field. You can still find entry-level jobs without a bachelor's degree, but will find your advancement opportunities limited. This is a research oriented criminal justice job. Experience in the field will help, but you must have a thorough understanding of criminal behavior and crime to be truly successful. A bachelor's degree will provide you a basic understanding. An advanced degree in criminology, criminal justice, or forensic science will give you greater exposure to research and quantitative methods that are essential in today's job market.

Salary Potential

Criminologist positions can be found with local, state, and federal agencies, universities, and private industries. Job growth is anticipated to be strong as more agencies use criminologists' expertise to help solve crimes. However, public sector job opportunities may decrease if local, state, and federal agencies receive reduced taxpayer funding.

According to, a criminologist can make between $36,000 to $50,000 a year. However, the salary you earn will be determined by your level of experience, your degree, organization you work for, and your location. A criminologist who works for a university as an associate professor can earn over $64,000 a year.

Last Updated: 09/18/2014