What Does a Criminologist Do?

Criminology is the study of criminal behavior and type of crime committed, focusing on psychology, statistics, economics, and anthropology. It is the job of a criminologist to analyze the crime, how it was committed, perform crime scene investigation, and work in collaboration with law enforcement.

Criminologists are also involved in profiling different types of criminals and keeping authentic records of all crimes committed to prevent it from happening again. To become a criminologist, a minimum of bachelor’s degree is required in a related field. Most people who want to pursue a career in this field opt for a master’s degree in criminology, criminal justice, legal studies, justice studies, psychology, or any other related field.

Education & Career Info

Education RequiredMaster’s Degree
Training RequiredNone
Key SkillsKnowledge in Sociology and Anthropology, Social Perceptiveness, Active Listening and Learning
Job Growth (2020-2030)5% (Sociologists)
Average Mean Salary (2021)$96,260 per year (Sociologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020) and O*Net Online

Steps to Become a Criminologist

Sociologists who study crime and specialize in the field are called Criminologists. It’s their job to understand the reason for crime, focusing on social, economic, and political aspects. To become a criminologist, it’s recommended to start with a bachelor’s degree in criminology, sociology, or psychology, and later advancing to a master’s degree.

Earn a College Degree

  • Education requirement to become a criminologist can vary in different states, but a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required in a related field. Bachelor of Criminology students are involved in interdisciplinary coursework, studying social violence, criminal behavior, and crime analysis.
  • Master’s degree examines other disciplines as well, like law, sociology, and psychology. Students acquire knowledge on cultures of crime, juvenile delinquency, neighborhood dynamics of crime, social control and deviance, terrorism, criminal justice, and forensic science.
  • Students are also given practical experience, preparing them for a career in criminal investigation.

Apply for License or Certification

  • Most states require a license or some form of certification to pursue a career as a criminologist. It is important to research beforehand and look into the requirements of the state you live in.

Apply for Job as a Criminologist

  • Also known as sociologists with specialization in criminology, criminologists can be employed in different areas.
  • Hands-on criminologists can work as crime scene investigators, private investigators, correctional officer, or clinical social worker.
  • Behind the scenes jobs in criminology include forensic scientists, criminal profiler, criminal psychologist, and research.

Criminologist Salary and Career Outlook

Criminologists most commonly work in a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. Coming under the umbrella of sociologists, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States has recorded the average mean salary for a criminologist to be $96,260 (2021). BLS forecasts a 5% increase in wages and employment opportunities for all sociologists and criminologists between 2020 and 2030. Below are the top paying states for criminologists.

StateAnnual Mean Wage 
Illinois$ 117,710
North Carolina$ 110,000
California$ 102,230
Massachusetts$ 99,040
New York$ 97,170

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021)


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides complete hiring and employment statistics of jobs related to criminology. In 2020, the BLS noted that there were a total of 3,000 individuals hired as criminologists/sociologists. The overall employment of criminologists is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030. Below are the states with the highest employment level in criminology.

North Carolina200
New Jersey90

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021)

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