Criminal justice professionals fall into one of two categories — those who enforce the law and keep people safe and those who work to either solve crimes or understand criminal behavior. Professionals in this second category utilize many scientific and analytic skills in addition to those common in all criminal justice career paths.
Criminologists fall into the latter category since they’re typically specialized analysts or scientists who seek to understand why criminals behave as they do. Rather than focus on solving individual crimes, a criminologist works to discover what causes the behaviors most often associated with criminal activity. The findings are then used to aid police officers in their investigations.
Due to of the nature of their jobs, criminologists also are often college-level educators. Working in higher education gives them time to conduct research in conjunction with teaching criminal justice courses. In fact, three of the most common places a criminologist might work are large law enforcement agencies, government agencies or within sociology departments and social psychology labs at colleges and universities.
Typically, at least a bachelor’s degree is required for this position, usually in sociology. However, it’s becoming more common to require a post-graduate degree such as the online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice from Arizona State University. This degree helps develop the research, analytical and communication skills criminologists can utilize to help succeed in their careers. By learning these skills, as well as studying crime within a larger context, you’re also developing abilities that can help you succeed as an educator should you decide to pursue a career in both areas.