What is the Best Degree to Get Become a Criminologist?

The field of criminology encompasses a variety of career paths, but you may be wondering what the best degree to get to become a criminologist is since this field offers so many opportunities. Criminologists work primarily in law enforcement, investigation and other similar fields, often studying specific criminals or crime patterns in an effort to reduce or eliminate criminal behavior. Getting degrees that support research, sociology, criminal justice and related subject areas would be most beneficial, but a criminologist can come from any background.

Diverse Career Paths

Criminologists study crime, which means that they perform a wide range of duties while working in various career paths. Though there are many job options for criminologists, there are two specific areas in which criminologists work: criminal justice and forensic science, according to Criminology Careers. In the criminal justice field, criminologists might work as police officers, U.S. marshals, detectives or investigators, FBI special agents and Secret Service special agents. Criminologists who choose a forensic science route may work as ballistic experts, toxicologists, DNA experts or forensic anthropologists. Criminologists work collaboratively, and science plays an important role in their work. As sociologists, they also assess criminals to determine how crime happens in the first place. Through these efforts, criminologists play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of crime and reducing or eliminating it altogether.

Important Subject Areas

Working within the field of forensic science and criminal justice requires knowledge in specific areas, such as the natural sciences. These include courses in biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry and physics. Criminologists also need to study social sciences because criminology is actually a subset of sociology. Courses in this field cover human behavior, which can be a broad area of study depending on the school. Typically, social sciences cover sociology, psychology, political science and economics, among other similar subjects. If you’re wondering about the best degree to get to become a criminologist, then focusing on these areas of study will help you in your career goals.

Education and Training

More schools are offering specific degree programs in criminology. U.S. News and World Report ranked the top schools in 2009 with the University of Maryland – College Park in the top spot. Even if you don’t attend a school that offers a specific track for criminology, you can still take courses to support this career path as listed above. Degrees in sociology, psychology, criminal justice and political science would all be useful to a criminologist. Since criminologists work with other people, communication-based degrees could also be beneficial. English majors, anthropology majors and biology majors could bring a unique perspective to the field. Criminology requires a specific set of skills, including analytical thinking and pattern recognition. Any major that focuses on these areas would support a criminology career.

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Criminologists help to stop crime by studying its effects, analyzing criminal activity, and working to understand motive and criminals themselves. For this career path, certain degrees would be more useful, such as those in the natural or social sciences. When determining the best degree to get to become a criminologist, look for programs that speak to your interests and overall career objectives within the field.