For those fascinated by crime, criminals, and the motivations behind them – a degree in criminology can be a riveting area of study with a rich array of career opportunities. However, the prospect of starting your degree can be both exciting and daunting.
It’s hard to know exactly what the degree will involve, whether you will be any good at it, and what kind of job you will go into after you have finished. That’s why we’ve written this article about everything you need to know before embarking on a degree in criminology. Expect all your burning questions to be answered – from how a degree in criminology works, to where the best places are to study.
What to expect from a degree in criminology
A criminology degree is the study of crime. It combines physiology (which is the study of how human bodies work), with history and sociology. Students learn to analyze crimes, studying how crimes happen, as well as how they can be prevented.
What you will learn
What students learn on a criminology degree can depend on their geographical region. Some degrees may be more focused on understanding organized crime, while others may include more study into youth offenders. However, students will have the ability to choose some of their own modules based on their interests. For instance, if you are more interested in how criminals are contained and dealt with – you may want to choose a model on prisons. Whereas, if you are more interested in what causes crimes to happen – you may prefer a more behavioral module.
How you will learn
Criminology is largely a research-based degree. It’s about learning as much as possible about how people commit crime, what causes them to do the crime, and methods that may prevent that crime occurring in the future. This is so that graduates who go on to work with criminals have an in-depth understanding of crime and its prevention.
Like most research-based degrees, criminology degrees are typically made up of lectures and seminars. There may also be some practical workshops. Assignments include essays, case studies and exams, which require the student to do their own independent reading and studying.
One of the most unique aspects of studying for a criminology degree is that even outside of your studies, the degree becomes part of your daily routine. This is because it will affect how you read the news and watch TV. It makes you more analytical as you endeavor to find meaning and a solution to crimes.
What it’s like to study criminology
When you choose to study criminology in higher education, you can expect to be studying for 3 to 5 years depending on where you go to get your degree. You will also have the option to gain a joint qualification, combining criminology with another subject. Some of the most popular subjects to study alongside criminology are:
Criminology and criminal justice
This pairing makes the most sense for students who are interested in how criminals are prosecuted after their crime. It considers why people commit crimes, and what we should do about it. If you find yourself less interested in studying the crime itself, and more interested in what comes before and after – this could be a good combination for you.
Criminology and sociology
Combining a sociology qualification with your criminology degree allows you to further understand the concept of crime as a social construction. You will learn methods and theories about the act of crime and its consequences, along with the further context to do with class, race, gender, and the law.
Criminology and psychology
For those students who are interested in the human side of crime, and what motivates people to commit them – you will learn about the social values and behavior that lead to crime by combining your degree with a psychology qualification. In this fascinating combination of degrees, you will learn a plethora of theories behind why people commit crimes, as well as why people are treated the way that they are in the justice system.
Is a degree in criminology right for you?
Every criminology student is different. People from all sorts of different backgrounds choose to study this degree. Whether you are fresh out of high school or a mature student re-thinking their career, there’s no doubt that there will be plenty more people like you on your degree. There is no one type of person that this degree is right for. As long as you are interested in what the degree entails and the career options it opens up to you – you can be rest assured that this degree is right for you.
How to prepare for a criminology degree
Whether you are considering a degree in criminology in the future or are about to embark on your first year – you may be wondering how you can best prepare. In this section, we cover everything you need to consider ahead of your criminology degree, from the necessary qualifications to the books you should be reading.
What subjects and qualifications do I need?
Entry requirements for a degree in criminology can differ depending on where you would like to study. Some institutions may require you to have achieved a specific set of grades, while others may require you to have studied a particular subject (such as sociology) at high school. The best thing to do is browse the various criminology degrees out there and make a note of their individual requirements.
It is likely that you will find most criminology degrees accept students who have come from a wide range of educational backgrounds. This is because studying criminology requires students to have good research and critical-thinking skills, which can be developed from studying anything – from economics to religious studies.
Where is the best place to study criminology?
Criminology degrees are offered across the world, leaving budding students with plenty of institutions to choose from! However, you may be wondering about some of the best places to study. You may choose attend a course in person or stay at home and study online. Each of these options has its own long list of benefits. Here we’ll cover all of the pros and cons so that you can figure out the best option for you.
In person study on a campus has a number of benefits. It allows students to meet lecturers and fellow students, who can support them throughout their study. It also means you have the chance to make use of the variety of facilities available on campus such as personal study areas, libraries, and student support departments. However, there are additional costs that can come with in person study, travel and accommodation for example, can build up quickly.
Online study is becoming increasingly as a study option that ensures flexibility when working through your degree. When pursuing criminology study in Canada, the Wilfrid Laurier University’s online course has a reputation for preparing students for a career in crime and justice, focused on building specialized techniques and real;-world experience.
Online degrees are fast becoming the norm for students of all ages around the world. They allow you to achieve a prestigious degree without having to relocate, take out large loans, and put your work and family life on pause. Criminology is a subject that is especially suited to online study because it largely consists of independent research. Not only do online degrees allow you to fit your studies around your own schedule, they also allow you to learn at your own pace – achieving your degree on your own time. Some of the options for online criminology degrees include:
- A criminology diploma
- An advanced criminology diploma
- A criminal psychology diploma
- A criminalistics diploma
Start your reading early
Before you embark on your degree in criminology, one of the last things you can do to prepare is to get ahead of your reading. Reading is a key part of any criminology degree, and you will often be required to do it independently alongside your studies. You don’t have to start your reading early, but it does help you gain a greater understanding of the subject before starting your degree, as well as shrinking your workload once the course begins.
Every college or university will have a different reading list for their students, and this can change annually. Some institutions will make their criminology reading list public on their website, so make sure you have a look on the course page online. You may also find that your institution emails you a summer reading list to prepare you for your course in the fall.
Another important part of your preparations will be reading the news, current events, newspaper stories, and journalist-written articles. Therefore, you can get your brain in the zone by spending the summer paying extra attention to the media. Simply spend a few minutes in the morning and evening scrolling through what has been reported on that day, and pay close attention to the stories that seem especially relevant to criminology. You may find that certain news stories seem biased or controversial, in which case you should seek out a different perspective from a different media outlet. Noting the differences in reporting will help prepare you for your degree.
Get more out of your degree
As with any degree, you will get more out of your criminology course if you have a good idea of the career you want to go into afterwards. This kind of career-focus can give more purpose to your assignments, and help you better pin-point the topic of your personal projects. It will also help you make more efficient use of your college’s networking opportunities, as you can approach alumni in your desired line of work for study and career tips.
Even if you don’t have a specific career path in mind, it will help to begin weighing up your options early. Some of the most popular career options for criminology graduates include:
- Police officer
- Criminal investigator
- Criminal profiler
- Forensic psychologist
- Fire inspector
- Investigative reporter
- Private investigator
- Police analyst
- Social worker
- Criminal defense attorney
- Prison officer
- Probation officer
As you can see, criminology allows graduates to pursue careers in a range of sectors, from Law to the media. Choosing which path is right for you will depend on where your personal interests lie. You may also want to research the typical salaries for jobs in these fields, as these can also vary greatly, For instance, the typical salary for US police officers and detectives is around $65,000 per year. While the average salary of a US criminal defense attorney is around $90,000 per year.
Hopefully this article provided you with some more insight into how you can prepare for a degree in criminology – wherever you currently are in life. Whether you are wondering how to find the right course for you or want to know how you can get ahead when you start your degree in the fall – we’ve covered it all. With this information behind you, you can be confident that you will get off on the right foot with your qualifications and career.