How to Find The Best Schools to get a Criminology Degree

Crime will always be something society must contend with, and we must train the dedicated few who commit to preventing crime and bringing criminals to justice. There's a whole world of options when it comes to diving into criminal justice, so there is no perfect path that can suit just about anybody.

The criminal justice field continues to expand, and there will always be a need for highly trained workers. If you're interested in a career path in law enforcement or even the study of the criminal mind and behaviors, you can either elect to study criminal justice broadly, or you can choose to study criminology. Both career paths are different in many ways, but specializing in criminology can be an incredibly rewarding pursuit.

If the broader career path in criminal justice doesn't fit your interests, students can earn either their bachelor's or master's degrees in criminology and begin their new careers in just one to two years. With that said, the next step once a student has decided to take this path is to choose a school or masters program to get the training they need. After receiving an education in criminology, graduates will look attractive to prospective employers both inside and outside of the criminal justice industry with critical thinking, analytical and communications skills.

Criminology Defined

According to Wikipedia, "criminology refers to the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, control, consequences, and prevention of criminal behavior, both on the individual and social levels." This interdisciplinary field touches on both social and behavioral sciences, relying on the research of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, and of course, respected scholars in law.

Criminology falls under the umbrella of sociology, but it also relies on teachings and research from other fields of study such as of biology, statistics, economics, and anthropology. There are several sub-groups of study within criminology like feminist criminology, biosocial criminology, and so on.

Careers & Lines of Work

Believe it or not, just working in the criminal justice field will automatically impart some knowledge regarding the study of criminology. If you become a police officer, you will deal with crimes on a somewhat regular basis, but becoming an officer doesn't necessarily mean having a criminology degree is a prerequisite for the job.

In fact, there are several criminology related jobs where you don't need a degree. Some of these careers include:

  • Corrections Officer
  • Police Officer
  • Loss Prevention Specialist
  • Police Dispatchers
  • Border Patrol Agents

It should be noted that while a degree in criminology is not required for the above, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has several studies which suggest that a degree can help with career advancement regardless of career path.

If you decide to take the route of becoming a criminology major, you have quite a few options available to you once you obtain your master's. Some of the top jobs for criminology graduates include:

  • Governmental Agency Investigator & Law Enforcement Officer (FBI, ATF, DEA, etc.)
  • Probation & Parole Officer
  • Social & Youth Worker
  • Criminology Researcher
  • Criminal Justice Professor & Educator
  • Crime Scene Examiner
  • Paralegal & Court Reporters
  • Lawyers & Judges

Finding the Perfect Criminology School

The first step in trying to identify schools that will provide a world-class education in criminology is what type of degree you're working to attain. Not every school offers both master's and bachelor's programs, and some programs are certainly better than others.

The next step is evaluating your budget for schooling. Typically, numerous public institutions provide a good criminology education, so there's not necessarily need to only consider expensive private colleges. With the exception of pursuing a legal career, incomes vary for criminology graduates wildly from state to state, so you probably want to mitigate any chances of being left with vast amounts of college debt. Of course, always investigate any scholarships available and see what student aid you may qualify for.

Some schools offer some form of experience placement where students will receive real-world experience and get a feel for a particular area of work while building up good contacts for employment. It's best to think about the type of career you may want after school and position yourself to get experience beforehand to see if it's the right fit for you.


So when it comes to weighing all of your options when selecting the criminology school of your dreams, you'll need to consider the following:

  1. How reputable is the school I want to attend?
  2. What is the curriculum?
  3. How much support does the school provide in finding experience outside of the classroom?
  4. How much does it cost? Can I apply for scholarships or student aid?

Once you've figured that out, you'll be well on your way to finding a career as a criminology student.
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