Criminology--the study of crime, criminals and the corrections process--is a career option for those who like to solve problems and who are interested in how people behave. Because there will always be people who break or bend the laws, there will always be a need for criminologists.
Criminologists study social behaviours and how and why people deviate from the norms of those behaviours. They develop profiles of specific types of crimes and criminals through the analysis of crime statistics. Often their work helps law-enforcement officials prevent crimes or to quickly apprehend suspects after a crime occurs.
Criminology vs. Criminalistics
The term "criminology" is often used interchangeably with "criminalistics". However, criminologists are concerned with psychology, sociology and social behaviours. Criminalists (also known as forensic scientists) study evidence such as blood stains and fingerprints to help solve crimes.
A criminologist's work day may involve studying behaviours among certain demographics and analysing why they occur or change. She may question suspects to see if they fit crime profiles. She may attend an autopsy or a crime scene and use the information about the victim's death to create a profile about a potential suspect. However, criminologists most commonly work in office settings.
By contrast a criminalist is involved with the physical collection of evidence. He often works in a laboratory setting or at the crime scene.
Criminologists usually have master's or doctorate degrees in criminal justice, with minors in psychology or sociology.
Criminalists have degrees such subjects as criminal justice, criminalistics, forensic science, chemistry or biology. While many criminalists have bachelor's degrees, a master's degree is gaining preference.
Criminologist salaries range between £26,000 and £45,500, according to a leading website. Salary varies depending on experience, education, geographic region etc.
Criminalist salaries range between £19,500 and £32,500.
Criminologists with increased experience and education may analyse and develop crime-prevention strategies. They may work in government, in universities or with private consulting firms.
Criminalists may advance in law-enforcement agencies or specialise in specific types of evidence, such as fingerprinting and handwriting analysis.
Once hired by a law-enforcement agency, few criminologists move on to other levels, according to The Princeton Review. For example, a state criminologist may become a senior officer there, but is less likely to move to a criminology post in the federal government.
Because there is an increased interest in using scientific means to prevent and solve crimes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that science technician jobs, including criminalists and criminologists, will grow much faster than other careers.
However, funding for criminal-justice jobs depend on government budgets, which may vary widely. In times of economic hardship, funding for criminology, as with any government service, may be sharply reduced.