Degree in Criminology: The Inside Scoop

It’s time to break out the cuffs and the donuts folks because today we are going to tell you all about getting a degree in criminology. This is a pretty interesting degree field that has many different avenues that you can travel down when the time comes to get a job. So prop up your feet and take a big bite out of that bear claw that’s sitting in front of you. Let’s book ‘em, Dano!

Degree in Criminology


What exactly is a degree in criminology? Well we’re glad you asked because we are going to tell you! A degree in criminology is a different part of education that has a heavy focus in the many different areas of law enforcement. You will receive a mixed education of studies in areas of social criminal law, political science, forensics, psychology and law. You will also touch on some more in depth subject matter in areas like: corrections, criminal courts and law, criminal justice, American history, statistics, basic computer courses, professional writing and oral communication skills. Once you have retained a good bit of information about these aspects of criminology, you will be able to hit the ground running and maybe even snag one of the jobs that we will talk about later.

Criminology Degree Schools

There are four main types of schools that are available to earn a degree in criminology from. Each one has its benefits and will suit the needs of a specific type of student. We’re going to take a detailed look at each type of school with the hopes that once you are ready to cross this bridge that it will help you to make the best choice for you.


There are quite a few private schools that have criminology degree programs on both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. Private colleges often offer students more accelerated degree programs that will allow you to complete your degree much faster than some public schools. Some private schools are also known for their goals to provide a cohesive learning environment and for providing students with more hands on learning experiences. Some things to remember about private schools though are that they can often be more expensive and at times have more rigid entry guidelines.


There are many public universities and colleges also tend to have criminology degrees at all levels, so that’s a definite plus. Public school also tends to be a bit more affordable and is certainly easier to get into than its private school counterparts. You will also be able to lock in a good education in a public setting, so no worries about receiving a less than awesome education.

Community College

If you are interested in earning an associate’s degree, then a community college is a perfectly viable option for you. Many community colleges offer this type of degree program and it will leave the door open for you to later enroll in a bachelor’s degree program at a four year school. Another plus for community colleges is the fact that you can pretty much guarantee entry if you have a high school diploma or GED along with taking a few entry tests to determine if you need any extra classes. Community colleges are also much more affordable per credit hour and in terms of living expenses too.


You can go down a more non-traditional route and choose to earn your degree through online learning platforms. This will allow you to take your classes from the comfort of your own home and when it is most convenient for you. You can usually earn an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree this way. There are some online schools that offer master’s programs, but there are fewer options and will have some different requirements than regular degree programs. Try to make sure that you stick with accredited online schools too. It would be a pretty big bummer to spend a lot of time and money only to have your dreams of being a criminologist dashed when your degree isn’t worth a whole lot.

How to Choose the Best School for You

There are many important things that go into deciding which school you should attend to earn your degree in criminology. Let’s take a look at the major things to consider before enrolling and shelling out your hard earned money for tuition.

Finding Your Path

The first step to choosing the best school with a criminology degree program will be to decide which career path you plan to pursue with your degree. Picking a school that has strengths in the specialty areas that you are interested in is a great place to start. Having this strong academic background will only prove to help you at a later date and will ultimately lend you a sense of credibility. You can look for a school that has these specialty areas of focus readily available so that you are essentially reading to run right out of the graduation gate.

No Substitute for Experience

This is something that is super important actually. Finding a school that has internship potential or the opportunity to gain some real hands on experience during your time in school will be extra helpful. You may want to take the size of the city you are attending school in, into account as it may help you to find a program that offers these extras. Typically the larger the population the larger the opportunity to work with law enforcement or in the court system.

Getting Ahead and Staying Ahead

It’s super helpful to pick the best school that will allow you to excel in your own niche. You will want to examine the curriculum, professors and the class times from the get go. Making sure that you can take the classes that you want to take, with professors that really know their stuff and at times that work around your job or family, is going to be very beneficial to you success. These key factors are going to be what you need to get to the top of your class and stay there.

Different degree levels

You’ve learned what a degree in criminology is and the different types of schools that you can shoot for, so how about we take it to the next level and talk about…well levels?! We’d like to drag you along with us down the winding road of the many different degree options that are available to you as a student of criminology. This section is pretty information heavy, so close your Twitter and Facebook tabs and pay attention. Ready?


Associate’s Degree in Criminology

The first step on your journey to getting a degree in criminology will be to earn your associate’s degree from a community college or vocational school. During your time in school for an associate’s degree you will learn the most basic of fundamentals in criminology. This is a good first step towards a career in law enforcement as well as a way to get a good basis of knowledge to jump to a high degree level.

An associate’s degree in criminology will take you roughly 60 credit units for your practicum and about 45 credit units for your elective courses. You can definitely expect to take at least 10 units of your schooling in elementary criminology. It’s not a bad idea either to get as many of your elective courses in line with your field of study too. You’re likely to find that it will help you to better understand some of your required course work as well as even gaining a better understanding of the people you will be dealing with in your job later down the line.

Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology

The next stepping stone to earn a degree in criminology is going to be earning a bachelor’s degree. This degree will help to prepare students for many entry level positions in the criminal justice field. Many schools have criminology degrees for bachelor’s degrees that incorporate a law and justice minor jointly. Once you get to this undergraduate level, you will also be required to join an internship program  to gain some heavy duty hands on experience. Internships are usually an important part of your graduation requirements, so take a look to ensure that the school you’re selecting has the right connections in the local law enforcement office.

Here are a few of the courses and their descriptions that are pretty standard when earning your bachelor’s degree:

  • Criminology: This is a class that will introduce you to the broad field of criminology. You’ll spend time covering basic theory, basic assumptions and the definitions of different branches in the criminology field
  • White Collar Crime: This course will cover, yep, you guess it…white collar crimes! The topics that you can expect to cover are: forms of white collar crime, theories and causes, offenders, victims, prosecution and sentencing
  • Victimology: In this class you will thoroughly examine the roles that victims play in crimes committed against them. You will go in depth to learn how the criminal justice system works to report the crimes, help the victims and prosecute the offenders

Master’s Degree in Criminology

You are in the home stretch of your education by the time your reach the master’s degree level. Can I get a “woot woot”?! For the most part, Master of Science in Criminology requires students to enroll in a 30 unit program that is pretty flexible. This is where you will really get into the core studies of criminology and where you will be able to select a specialized area of interest if you have one.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the classes that you will likely be able to take during your master’s degree program:

  • Theoretical Approaches to Criminal Behavior: In this class you will review and compare some of the major historical and more contemporary ideas that will help to explain the behavior of criminals
  • Research Methods in Criminology: This is a pretty interesting class that will provide you will a nice scope of the theories of science, the ethics of research, methods of data collection and the evaluation of research.
  • Topics in Criminology and Criminal Justice: You will learn a good deal about the most important issues that are law enforcement agencies are dealing with today. Some of the areas that you will cover will be: the use of deadly force by police, police conduct review, the unionization of police, police corruption, media relations, civil liability and community policing.
  • **You’ll also be required to complete a thesis before you can graduate**

Ph.D. in Criminology

The very last leg of the journey to becoming an criminologist is getting your Ph.D. This phase is basically saying that you are a smarty pants and that you have busted your hump big time to get to this point. You will be required to complete and present your dissertation. Your dissertation will need to be your own original work that is comprised of your own independent research.

Getting to this point take a lot of blood, sweat, tears and coffee for sure. Completing your doctorate will set you up for many jobs in the field and will have you stacked with educational credentials as well as having some internships behind you too.

Nations Top Schools for Criminology

According to the U.S. News and World Report survey that was conducted, there are four top colleges that have the highest peer rankings, reviews and the largest number of graduates with criminology reviews. Here are the schools that are considered to be the crème de la crème of the criminology degree world:

University of Maryland at College Park

The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice has both an undergraduate and a graduate degree option in criminology. Check out the University of Maryland at College Park’s website to learn more!

University of Albany, State University of New York

There is a special School of Criminal Justice at this university that also offers a bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. The University of Albany, State University of New York has a lot of really helpful information on their website, so be sure to take a look if you are interested in going to this school

University of Cincinnati

The College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services that if offered by the University of Cincinnati has tons of resources for students that are interested in the criminology field. There are bachelor’s and master’s degree programs available as well as a Ph.D. program. Definitely take a look at the University of Cincinnati’s website to see all that they offer.

University of Missouri at St. Louis

If you are interested in a Midwestern education in criminology, then the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri at St. Louis is the place to be. Students that attend this school will be able to earn a bachelor’s, master’s and/or a Ph.D. in criminology. Feel free to check out the University of Missouri at St. Louis website to gather some more information if you are interested in attending this school.

Movie Time!

We’ve found a pretty great video for you on the old interwebz that has a pretty good bit of information. We know that the young lady in the video is attending Glamorgan University that is located in South Wales, but her information is still too legit…to quit. She tells us all about the degree process and what you can expect to learn. It’s only a little over five minutes long, so you better watch it…or else!


Criminology Jobs

One thing that can help you to decide if a criminology degree is right for you will be, knowing what types of career are going to be available to you. Let’s take a look at some of the career choices that you will have at your fingertips once you have completed your degree programs.

Special Agents:  You can definitely get a job being a special agent once you have earned your criminology degree. It will be possible to get a job as an FBI agent, NCIS agent, DEA agent, ICE agent or even as a Secret Service agent. As an agent for one these agencies, you will act as an investigator and use the knowledge that was earned while in school to aid you in a great many job functions.

Police Identification and Records Officers: This job description is more or less a fancy way of saying that you can become a police officer with a criminology degree. While doing this job you may work responding to crimes, identifying evidence, collective fingerprints and performing any necessary analysis of the case you are working on. You’ll work closely with other police officers to make sure that the perpetrators are convicted.

Immigrations and Customs Inspectors: Who would have thought that a criminology degree would come in handy when getting a job as an immigrations and customs inspector? Well not us, that’s for sure! If you decide to go down this road when the time comes and your degree is done, you will mainly work to enforce the laws that the United States has in regards to who and what can enter.

Police Detectives and Investigators: The option to have a career as a police detective or an investigator is kind of a given being that both of those jobs in in the criminal justice arena. As a police detective you will work hard to solve the most complicated crimes and cases while keeping the working police officers underneath you in check. If you decide that you would like to be a detective, you will start off as a police officer and work your way up. You will eventually investigate cases for your state or local agency.

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement College Instructor: It makes total that you could become a college instructor in the criminology, criminal justice or law enforcement areas. You would also be able to snag this job after you worked one of the others that we have mentioned to gain some extra experience with the final intention of becoming an instructor. You’ll be able to work as an instructor at a community college, vocational school, police academy and maybe even at a university level.

Corrections Officer: A career in corrections is pretty ideal when you have a degree in criminology. You’ll certainly have the information tucked away safely in your noggin for how to properly deal with inmates. As a corrections officers, you will work in jails and prisons for the most part and your main task will be to keep all of the inmates safe, healthy and out of trouble.

Fire Investigators: This is another job possibility that we found to be an interesting and out of left field option. Fire inspectors apparently often have criminology degrees that come in very handy during arson or other criminal fire related cases. You will be one of the first people on the scene when there is a fire to investigate and you will also be in charge of writing reports, filing reports and even make arrests when appropriate.

Forensic Science Technician: This is another one of those no brainers for a possible job to get with your criminology degree. As a forensic science tech you’ll spend a god amount of time in the lab testing evidence from the crime scene as well as at actual crime scenes. You will be the right hand man or woman to police officers when it comes to collecting, processing and analyzing evidence.

Fish and Game Warden: Here is yet another random option for employment once you get your degree in criminology, but a job is a job, right! As a fish and game warden you will act as a conservation officer. The main goal of your job is to ensure that hunter, boaters, fishers and any another people that are outdoors are abiding by conservation and environmental laws that were set in place.6

Sources and Recommended Reading

As someone that is interested in studying criminology, we are sure that you will appreciate us using sources just as you would appreciate a fine piece of evidence pointing you in the direction of a lead in a case. Here are the helpful sites that we have used to provide you all of this information today. Have a look and a click!

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