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Criminal Justice and Criminology Careers

Learn All About Jobs in Criminal Justice, Criminology and Forensic Science

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Crime scene tape

Crime scene tape marks police line boundaries Copyright 2011 Tim Roufa

Tim Roufa
Badges, guns, cars and cuffs: these are the images that we typically associate with criminology. More likely than not, when people think about careers in criminology, their thoughts immediately turn to law enforcement and crime scenes. The truth, though, is that popular understanding of criminology is much deeper, far more encompassing and much harder to pin to any one subject or industry. As a result, one can find a criminological component to nearly every degree program or career specialty out there.

About Criminology

First and foremost, as a subset of sociology, criminology is a scientific discipline that focuses on all aspects of crime and at all levels of society. This includes the causes of crime as well as its consequences. It also seeks to measure the effectiveness of society's responses to crime and propose ways to both prevent and address criminal behavior. Technically speaking, then, the term "criminology" specifically refers to the actual study of crime, performed by social scientists known as criminologists.

Criminologists and other social science professionals have helped develop policies and procedures for communities and police departments across the country and around the world. They have instituted concepts such as community-oriented policing, predictive policing and environmental criminology.

More commonly, criminology is associated with a whole host of varied and diverse jobs and specialties. In that regard, people tend to understand criminology as anything having to do with crime, including law enforcement, forensics, criminal profiling, and forensic psychology, just to name a few.

Careers in Criminal Justice

Besides the scientific discipline itself, criminology careers are perhaps most often associated with jobs in the criminal justice arena. Criminal justice is, in essence, the practical application of criminology in society. There are three main components to the criminal justice system: law enforcement, courts, and corrections or punishment. Some of the careers options within this area include:

Careers in Forensic Science

In addition to careers in criminal justice, many people associate criminology with forensic science. The term "forensics" actually means "of or having to do with the law," meaning that forensic science simply refers to the application of scientific principles to legal concepts and questions.

Popularly, forensics has become synonymous with crime scene investigation and evidentiary analysis. Careers available within forensic science can include:

Careers in forensic science will generally require a degree in the natural sciences, such as biology or physics.  However, forensics can be applied to almost any area or specialty, including:

Criminal and Forensic Psychologist Careers

Careers in criminology can also be found in other specialized areas.  Because of the sociological component, psychology is a natural fit for studying and counseling people who have been touched by crime. Some of the many careers available for aspiring psychologists who are interested in criminology include:

Education Requirements in Criminology Careers

Careers in criminology or criminal justice may or may not require college education or past work experience, depending on the field and the specific job. It is possible, in some cases, to find very rewarding and lucrative jobs in criminology or criminal justice that do not require a degree.

In cases where a degree is required, it is important to choose the right major for your criminology career.  Some degree programs are closely related.  Your own personal aspirations will go a long way in helping you decide what degree you should earn.  For example, while a degree in criminology may be interchangeable with a degree in criminal justice for someone who wants to become a police officer, a person seeking employment in  the academic or research realm may be better off specifically studying criminology.

There are some jobs within criminology that will require advanced degrees. Criminologists and forensic scientists, for example, will need to hold at least a master's degree in criminology or criminal justice if they want to advance in their careers and earn credibility.  Likewise, those interested in psychological careers will most likely need to pursue a PhD to find significant success.

Something for Everyone in Criminology Careers

No matter what your interests or expertise and regardless of your prior work experience, level of education or physical ability, there are opportunities for careers in criminology and criminal justice for nearly every type of person.  Whether you like to get your hands dirty in the the field, go hands on in a laboratory or prefer to work behind the scenes in research or administration, the chances are you'll find a fun and rewarding career somewhere within such a broad and all-encompassing field.

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