Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

Law enforcement is an appealing career field that offers many opportunities. One of the most common jobs in law enforcement is that of the police officer. However, there are many other career opportunies within a police department that you can choose from.

When you start browsing the job openings in law enforcement, you will notice that there are a lot of criminology jobs. If you are wondering whether this field is the right one for you or if you want to make sure that you will choose the right criminology job for you, you should learn a few details about criminology. The best way to do that is by getting answers to the most common questions such as: “What kind of jobs are offered in the field of criminology?”, “What is the average pay?”, “What are the main duties and responsibilities?”, “Do I qualify for a criminology job?”, etc. Below, you will find a list of the most frequently asked questions and an answer to each of them that will facilitate your choice.

What are criminology and criminal justice?

One of the first things to learn about criminology and criminal justice is what stands behind these terms. The term of criminology was first proposed by the Italian law professor Raffaele Garofalo back in 1885. Criminology is part of sociology and deals with all aspects of crime. It tackles questions related to the cause of crime and its prevention as well as the consequences of crime and its repercussion on all levels of society. The professionals working in this field are broadly called criminologists and they study crime and propose ways to address criminal behavior.

Criminal justice is the actual application of criminology in practice. It is a system of practices and government institutions that control, mitigate and deter crime and sanction those who violate the laws. In the United States, criminal justice policy has been in place since 1967 and there is a special law dedicated to it since 1968. Basically, there are three main areas of criminal justice, in which you can find realization, law enforcement, courts, and corrections.

This, in summary, is what criminology and criminal justice means and what you shall expect if working in the field. You should know that there are a great variety of jobs that require different skills and education levels as you will see below.

How to choose the right criminology job for you?

One of the toughest decisions to make is how to choose the right job for you. The best advice you can get is to choose the criminology job in line with your strengths and passions. Since there are a great variety of jobs, you should be able to find a position that makes you happy. If you enjoy research, or you are more of the administrative type, or you are keen on fieldwork, there is a place for you in criminology. It is fair to say that within the scope of criminology and criminal justice there are a great variety of fields with different positions within each field. If we take the investigators as an example, there are specialties with each one specific to the type of crime being investigated. You can focus on securities fraud and more specifically on cyber-security, and do different work compared to the person who is dealing with domestic violence or drugs.

Therefore, you need to find your passion and the things you are good at, then apply for the respective criminology job. If it is combined with the proper education, you will no doubt make the perfect candidate for the job.

What kind of criminology jobs you can choose from?

As we already mentioned, there are a great variety of jobs in criminology and criminal justice that you can choose from. One of the best things is that you can follow a career path, which is more traditional and directly related to law enforcement and corrections or you can choose a non-law enforcement job. While most of the workplaces are in local or state government, there are a lot of opportunities to develop in the private sector as well. So, here is an example of these three main types of careers, that you can pursue:

  • Law enforcement criminology jobs

The criminology career path is most often associated with jobs in the sphere of criminal justice. Those jobs are distributed within the three main areas – law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Among the most popular positions in law enforcement is no doubt that of the police officer, but you can also choose from:

  • Detectives
  • Criminal investigators
  • Correction officers
  • FBI special agents
  • US border patrol agents
  • US marshals
  • Non-law enforcement criminology jobs

It is true that criminology jobs are most often associated with police officers, however, there are other possible career paths within this field. One of the most popular is the position of the crime analyst, who is a valuable asset for every police department. The crime analysts analyze trends and patterns based on the information collected and give ideas about preventing or solving crime issues. Other popular law enforcement positions include:

  • Police dispatchers
  • Criminologists
  • Forensic scientists
  • Forensic psychologists
  • Forensic accountants
  • Ballistic experts
  • Criminology jobs in the private sector

The main three private sectors, where someone interested in criminology can start a career, are loss prevention, security, and consulting. Within these three areas, there is a range of specific jobs. You can either work for a big private company or work independently, mainly as a consultant. In general, it is better to start your career path in a governmental agency, gain some experience, and then develop further in the private sector. Criminology is also a good field for an ex-police officer, who wants a change in their career.

A college professor in criminology is also a good job in the field, especially if you have the proper education combined with the relevant experience.

Victim’s advocates quite often have previous experience in criminology as well. This job is perfect for those who are familiar with the system and would like to help prevent and fight crime from a different angle.

No matter in which of the above fields you have chosen to develop your career, the thing that is common for all of them is that you need to have strong attention to detail and to be passionate about what you do, as this is the recipe for a successful career growth.

What kind of education do I need to start a criminology job?

The next logical question that you are probably asking yourself concerns the level of education you need in order to start your career in the field of criminology and criminal justice. The answer is not that straight since there are different education requirements for the different positions. The truth is that you need to do a research for the specific job you are considering, since for some positions no degree is necessary, while for the others, you might need a master’s degree (criminologists or forensic scientists) or even doctorate (Ph.D. for those interested in psychological careers). There can be some difference in the requirements of the specific states or agencies as well, so make sure to double check prior to applying.

Usually, people who are interested in developing a career in criminology or forensic science get a degree in criminal justice or criminology or in a specific science – biology, sociology, psychology, chemistry, computer studies and the like. A lot of people combine a few majors and minors from these areas, depending on their preferences. The more prepared you are, the better chance you stand at getting your dream job. In most of the cases there is also an on the job training as well as the possibility to add some skills while working.

Where to look for a job in criminology?

Once you have determined the best criminology job for you according to your interests and education, you need to find it. This is not so difficult if you know where to look and how to search for the best available options. Most of the positions are in the public sector and basically, there are three main options to check if an agency is looking for candidates like you:

  1. Check the agency website

One of the best ways to find a job in the field of criminology and criminal justice is by checking the websites of the city, county, state, or federal agencies you are interested in working for. Your main focus shall be on law enforcement agencies or agencies which have or support a law enforcement function. There you will find a list of job openings along with the requirements for each position. Often, you will also be able to find an FAQ section, where most of your questions will be answered.

  1. Search on job sites

Another excellent opportunity to find a position in criminology is by visiting specialized job sites. There you can check for current vacancies in the job field you are interested in. In addition to that, most of the sites offer plenty of other useful resources such as informative articles concerning the application process or the job requirements, links to exam preparation sites, etc.

  1. Visit your local entities

In our digital world, it is more common to check for a job opening online, however it is still ok if you personally visit the local police station, courthouse or sheriff’s office. You will not only be able to find a list of the vacant positions but quite often you will also be able to submit your application by hand. On top of that, you might be able to speak with someone about the position you are interested in and find out some more details or specific requirements of the particular agency.  You can also get an idea about the working atmosphere that you might soon be joining.

In addition to the public job openings, there are many career opportunities in the private sector as well. The same three steps can be applied when looking for a job with a private employer.

In both cases, it is important to read and understand all the details and requirements of the position prior to applying. Keep in mind that there might be some factors – education, experience or background issues – that may prevent you from getting the job.

What is the importance of the background check for getting a criminology job?

In order to get most of the jobs in criminology and criminal justice, the successful candidate must pass a thorough background check. Most of you are aware that this is a very critical step in the application process of a police officer, and it should be pointed out that the background check is equally important for the other jobs as well.

The major disqualifiers that can prevent you from getting the desired criminology job include drug abuse, felonies, and certain misdemeanors. This would include both detected and undetected since they may be revealed during the background check. Also include would be any domestic violence, and also a history of poor work behavior.

Make sure to answer honestly all the questions you are asked and don’t try to hide anything as this will be counterproductive. In some cases, if the issues in your past are minor and enough time has passed, the agency may decide to overlook them and go ahead with your application. However, keep in mind, that it is always better to keep your background free of issues.

How much would I earn from a criminology job?

Last but not least, one of the most important questions when getting a job is how much you would get paid. When we are talking about a job in the field of law enforcement, it is clear that you choose it because of your desire to serve and protect and not because of the fiscal reward. Nevertheless, payment is an important issue and you need to be aware how much you can expect from the job.

Since there is a great variety of criminology jobs, no single amount can be given as an example. The salary can be anything from $30,000 to $100,000 annually depending on the position, your qualification, education, and experience. It will also depend upon the area of the country

Most of the job openings contain information about the starting annual salary and you can also ask about the possibilities for career growth in the given agency.

These were some of the most important questions and answers concerning the jobs in criminology and criminal justice. The conclusion to draw is that you need to put some effort in order to find the best position for you, however, it is all worth it since when you do something you love, it is worth the effort. If law enforcement is your calling, then finding the right criminology job is your mission and we hope our guide above will help you.