Career Paths In Criminology

A criminology degree offers a myriad of opportunities throughout a person’s career. Over the years you may change jobs as you gain experience or simply get older and want something a bit different.

Criminology is a fascinating field with a lot of room for growth. If you like to solve complex problems and have a strong interest in psychology, then criminology may be a perfect fit for you.

Here are a few of the jobs you can qualify for with a background in criminology.

Victim advocate

Victim advocates provide critical guidance and support to victims of crime and their families. In the aftermath of a crime, healing and recovery can take a lot of time and resources. Many people have no idea what services and resources are available to them. It can be difficult for them to concentrate on finding help when they are trying to mentally process what has happened to them and the overall impact on their family.

A victim advocate provides support during court trials and helps victims find financial resources and counseling and any restitution they are legally entitled to.

Parole officer

Parole officers work with offenders to make sure they are following the rules and conditions for their release after being convicted of a crime. The type of crime may range from petty crimes all the way up to manslaughter, murder, and other violent crimes. Typically, parole officers deal with offenders that have committed less serious crimes. Parole is mostly granted to those that show the most promise of being rehabilitated into society and not repeating the criminal activity.

Officers may work with juveniles or adults but usually not with both. Parole officers offer guidance and support but are also responsible for reporting all instances where a parolee breaks their parole. This often results in a warrant for arrest and parole being revoked. Offenders may then be forced to serve their full sentence in the prison system.


Detectives often start as police officers; however, you may be able to get there a bit faster if you have a degree in criminology. In larger jurisdictions, different types of detectives are employed by a department. For example, in larger cities, there are detectives that specialize in homicide; however, that doesn’t mean they do not do other detective work when they do not have an active investigation themselves. Some detective positions in specific departments may be much harder to get than others.

Police officer

There is a lot of demand for police officers. Although many departments have been defunded, the sentiment has shifted somewhat as the public has realized that their neighborhoods and communities are much safer when there is a more active police presence. Unfortunately, over the last few years, many officers have either left police departments and found employment elsewhere or retired.

Now is an excellent time to become an officer because departments are competing to fill vacancies. In the future, there will be a lot of room for rapid advancement and promotion.

Loss prevention officer

Unfortunately, shoplifting and theft are major problems at stores. Larger retail stores or even small-to- mid-size luxury retailers hire loss prevention officers to prevent the loss of merchandise. In some areas, this has become necessary due to a high rise in losses due to shoplifting.

This job is entry-level in many cases, but some retailers may require at least some prior experience, especially if you will be supervising other officers. Most of the job involves patrolling the store to prevent theft but there may be times when officers need to apprehend a suspect and call in the police or sheriff to arrest them if the store wishes to press charges.

Jury consultant

Selecting jurors for cases can get complicated, especially if a case is getting a lot of media attention or if any party involved in the case is very well-known inside the community. A jury consultant interviews and performs background checks of potential jurors to help ensure that the trial is fair and just. This level of research and consultation significantly reduces the risk of any juror being overly biased before the trial begins.

Jury consultants prevent costly mistrials and injustice. Having a criminology background is beneficial because the consultant will have studied the human mindset.

Forensic science

Many criminology graduates are fascinated by the science of a crime scene. A forensic scientist gathers important evidence that can make or break a case. If you have an eye for detail and love to figure out complex problems, then forensic science offers you such opportunities. Of course, this job sometimes involves working very odd hours, being on call a lot, and some messy and disturbing situations. Forensic experts need to be very stable and able to handle the grotesque.


Getting a degree in criminology can prepare you to apply for law school. It is important to double check the degree program and make sure all the prerequisites are met, but in most cases, there is no problem. When choosing electives, you may want to consider what branch of law most interests you.

At the same time, it is important to understand that a degree in criminology does not necessarily mean you have to be a criminal lawyer or only take criminal cases. Practicing all types of law can provide the balance that so many desire.

Going to law school is something you can do at any time throughout your career. Of course, law school is not something you can do entirely online either, so it can be hard for some to achieve later in life.

Criminal profiler

A criminal profiler helps investigators see patterns of criminal activity and develops a psychological profile of a perpetrator that is useful in apprehending them. This job requires a love for getting to the root of what motivates criminals. Profilers do a lot of their work from a desk but sometimes find themselves in the courtroom or working in the field.

This particular job is competitive, so for many it is a possible career only after they gain experience in another area of criminology.

Social work

Some social workers work in places where a degree in criminology would be very useful. Schools, prisons, non-profits, substance abuse and recovery centers, and more all have a need for social workers. In high-crime areas and neighborhoods, having a background in criminology could be helpful when formulating solutions to problems and connecting with people in the community.

College professor

While requirements for teaching will vary by college, eventually teaching college-level criminology classes is a career option that is particularly appealing to mid and senior-level criminologists. If you love to share your knowledge with others, teaching is a great path to consider.

Some criminologists only teach part-time. If you have room in your work schedule, teaching a class or two a semester may be something to look into if positions are ever available.

Forensic psychologist

While forensic psychology requires a psychology degree and licensing, having another degree in criminology would be invaluable. Forensic psychologists perform evaluations of suspected criminals and declare them fit or unfit to stand trial.

Forensic psychologists determine if suspects are suffering from mental illness and how much that has affected their judgment and daily life. Some mental illnesses are not enough to keep a person from being tried in a court of law whereas severe mental illness is something that has to be considered.

How do you start a career in criminology?

While there are a few jobs that don’t require a degree, most do. Security guards or loss prevention officer positions often do not require a degree, but employers tend to favor employing those with prior law enforcement or security experience.

Some police officer positions require extensive training and certifications but not a formal college degree. A WLU criminology degree combines criminology and policing classes. The Combined Honors BA in Criminology and Policing can be done entirely online and qualifies you for the jobs and career growth opportunities discussed in this article.

Relocation may be required for some job opportunities, but graduates often find positions in their area. Those that choose to enter criminology and policing at a young age may want to look into the employment options carefully since some criminology jobs are in high demand. Many police departments are struggling to fill the positions left by retiring officers.

Who should consider a career in criminology?

If you want an exciting career where you are always learning something while helping others then criminology can offer that.

Criminology is great if you get bored easily

There is always something to be analyzed or learned during the workday no matter what position you are employed in. Some jobs, like a detective or forensic analyst, require a good understanding of science.

A love for solving problems and mysteries will suit you well if you choose to pursue criminology; however, it is important to remember that real life is worlds apart from the detective and police dramas so many people watch. While some intrigue is involved in all cases, many are not nearly as exciting or complicated as others.

Highly motivated and dedicated individuals

Criminology requires being a self-starter who doesn’t stop until a puzzle is solved. There is no room for slacking on the job. Some areas of criminology are very competitive. If you want to be a lead detective or forensic scientist, for example, then you need to always show your best work and dedication.

Some problems may be very perplexing and require a lot of extra work. Workers need to be able to keep working towards a solution even if they meet a lot of dead ends.

You are looking for a lifelong career with a lot of options

Once you are working in the criminal justice system or a smilar branch, chances are you can stay in it as long as you keep up with the expectations of your job. Many stay working for the same department even if they switch job titles a few times.

On the other hand, there is such a strong demand for criminal justice jobs that you can make bigger changes throughout your career if that is something you want to do.

You want a rewarding career where you know you are helping others on a daily basis

Criminology jobs help keep people safe and secure. In many occupations, you are working in your community to make sure justice is served, and those that are victims of crimes find the help and resources they need to heal and recover as much as possible.

While there is bound to be some highly stressful and upsetting days, the one thing you can definitely count on is the feeling that you are helping people in your community.


Criminology offers many lucrative career options. Deciding which career path you want to take initially may take some time. While earning a criminology degree, you will have a lot of opportunities to explore various areas of criminology to see what appeals to you the most. It is also essential to be realistic about what roles are open to you as a new graduate. Although there are many open positions in the criminal justice system, some are more desirable and competitive than others.

There are also some positions that require work experience before you can be seriously considered as a candidate. A good example of this is detective work.

Being flexible and willing to relocate may help you get the position you want faster. New graduates that are willing to move may secure a better salary, but they should always compare the cost of living to that salary before making any major decisions.