How Relevant is Criminology?

When you are choosing a major field of study, one of your first questions is probably whether or not it is relevant today – and whether it’s going to lead to an actual career in the long run. There’s no denying that some fields present more of a challenge in that area than others (we’re looking at you, philosophy), but some fields are more relevant today than ever before. One such field that holds a lot of promise for students? That would be the field of criminology.

Technically it is the study of crime, criminals, criminal behavior and victims; criminology is a broad-based field that encompasses psychology, sociology, law enforcement and other subjects, to provide a broad-based view of why people commit crimes, how to handle criminal activity and perhaps most importantly, how to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.

If you are considering applying to a Masters in criminology program, consider some of these facts:

Criminology leads to a wide variety of career options. Many people incorrectly assume that getting a degree in criminology will only set them up for a career in law enforcement. While law enforcement careers are certainly an option, the study of criminology is relevant to a large number of career fields. Those who hold master’s degrees in criminology may work as teachers or instructors, investigators for federal, state or local agencies, in corporate forensic investigations or psychology, among other paths. For example, those with a background in criminology may be called in to serve as witnesses in court cases or to assist in an investigation as a profiler.

Criminology can change lives. Studying criminology can lead to a career that helps others avoid crime – whether they commit crimes or become victims of crime. For example, many law enforcement officers are involved with drug prevention programs aimed toward children; these types of programs have been proven effective for keeping kids away from drugs and criminal behavior. By getting a master’s in criminology, you can devote your life to preventing crime and making a difference in society.

Criminology research benefits society. Many criminology masters programs require students to complete original research in the field or contribute to original research projects. This research has the potential to change how crime and criminal behavior is dealt with in society. For example, some criminologists have studied children for signs of criminal tendencies; this research has been used in child psychology and education to provide outreach and develop strategies for early identification and treatment for potential problems. Other research that has influenced the way crime is investigated and handled includes studies of personality traits of criminals, the influence of family life on criminals and studies of types of punishment on crime deterrence.

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Criminology helps people make better decisions. These days, many communities are facing cutbacks, and police and crime forces are feeling the pinch. The research and knowledge provided by criminologists helps guide lawmakers and leaders in how to best use their limited resources to manage crime in their communities. When law enforcement agencies employ those with a background in criminology, or work with outside sources for help in setting priorities and strategies, communities can use resources effectively and see real benefits.

Criminology helps you understand crime. Most people who enter criminology masters programs do so because they have the deep need to understand crime and why it occurs. Whether they or someone they love was the victim of a crime, or they are just fascinated by the stories they see in the media, they want to know why things occurred as much as how they occurred. When you have a background in criminology, you can be a more informed consumer of media, with the ability to understand the truth behind reports and statistics, the motivations for crimes and the likelihood of future crimes occurring.

As you can see, criminology is a very relevant field of study. As the population continues to grow, it seems that incidences of crime also grow; studying and understanding the reasons why is a worthwhile endeavor. With plenty of career opportunities in a wide variety of fields and roles and the chance to contribute positively to society, the question shouldn’t be whether the subject is relevant – it should be why wouldn’t you want to explore this pertinent area?


This article was provided by Jason Brooks. Jason is currently pursuing his Masters degree in Criminology and expects to graduate next fall.

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