What Does a Criminologist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by © The Balance 2018 

Criminology is a relatively new field, having developed from the broader study of sociology in the 19th and 20th centuries. Though the job of a criminologist is new, society in general, and philosophers, clergy and community leaders in particular, have been studying and learning how to deal with crime throughout human history.

Even though it may not hold the same glamor and excitement of other jobs in criminal justice, a career as a criminologist is no less important. In fact, for those who are of a more academic mind, it may present the best opportunity to contribute to the prevention and treatment of crime.

Criminologist Duties & Responsibilities

The core job of a criminologist is to examine all aspects of crime and find ways to prevent criminal behavior and reduce recidivism. Criminologists gather statistics and identify patterns. They look at types of crimes as well as demographics and locations.A criminologist's job is mostly research driven, and their research might be conducted in a sterile office setting or the field.

Criminologists may interview criminals to learn more about their mindset and motivations for committing crimes. They might also work closely with law enforcement partners, community leaders and politicians to develop policies to help reduce crimes and make sure alleged and convicted criminals are treated fairly and humanely.

Most often, you can find a job as a criminologist through a college or university, where you'll teach and conduct research.

The job of a criminologist often includes:

  • Compiling statistical data
  • Conducting surveys
  • Conducting research interviews
  • Formulating policy recommendations
  • Writing research papers and articles
  • Working with law enforcement and corrections personnel
  • Studying criminal behavior
  • Devising strategies to help reduce crime

Criminologist Salary

Salaries for criminologists can vary widely, based on the specific type of job, who your employer is what your education level may be. For example, university professors, department heads, and policy directors are found at the higher end of the scale. According to Payscale.com, this is the current salary range for a criminologist:

Source: Payscale.com, 2019

Education, Training & Certification

Individuals interested in this job must complete an undergraduate degree at a minimum.

Education: Employment as a criminologist will require an advanced degree under almost every circumstance. Specifically, you need some combination of degrees in criminology, criminal justice, sociology or psychology. Graduate level education is a must for any research position. At the university or college level, a Ph.D. will often be necessary.

 Criminologist Skills & Competencies

In addition to education and experience, there are other skills and interests that can help you excel in this position, such as:

  • Research: The specific job of a criminologist is primarily one of research. If you are academically inclined, you may enjoy working in this field.
  • Public policy interest: A career as a criminologist can allow you to positively influence public policy and help devise new strategies to fight and prevent crime.
  • Good with statistics: You will likely need to have a firm grasp of mathematics, especially in the area of probability and statistics, and people with a talent for interpreting and explaining statistical data, as well as those who have a strong desire to help their communities, will enjoy working as criminologists.
  • Excellent organizational skills: You will need to keep large quantities of data well-organized.
  • Interpersonal skills: Some jobs may require interviewing or meeting with other criminal justice professionals and criminals, so good interpersonal communication skills will also be helpful.
  • Strong writing skills: Lastly, you'll need to have strong writing skills because you may need to write reports that state and summarize the results of your data analysis.

Job Outlook

Criminology is a "branch" of sociology, and for sociologists in general, the availability of jobs is expected to remain stable over the next several years, although it will only experience 1% growth, according to the U.S. Burea of Labor Statistics. Many jobs in the profession rely on federal funding, and a down economy will limit the growth of these jobs.

Work Environment

Criminologists work for local, state and federal governments, on policy advisory boards, or for legislative committees. In some cases, they may work for privately funded think tanks or for a criminal justice or law enforcement agency.

Work Schedule

Criminologists usually work in an office environment, but they do travel occasionally. Typically, these individuals work for large law enforcement entities, government agencies, or social psychology labs at universities or similar institutions.


How to Get the Job


Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. You can also visit the websites of individual companies to apply to existing job openings.


Get guidance by working with an experienced criminologist. You can find internships through online job search sites.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in becoming a criminologist also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries:

  • Mathematician or Statistician: $88,190
  • Economist: $104,340
  • Geographers: $80,300

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017