A degree in criminology can have wide application in the criminal justice job market. Criminology is the study of criminal behavior and the legal system. Those seeking a career in some area related to law enforcement can pursue a more broadly construed sociology degree or the more narrowly focused criminology degree that combines studies in criminal justice, sociology and psychology. Various career options are available for those with a criminology major.
A career in law enforcement is one career option for the criminology major. Although most police officer positions only require an associate degree or the equivalent of two years of college, those with a bachelor's degree in criminology can position themselves for leadership positions and promotion after gaining on-the-job experience. Also, some state law enforcement agencies require a bachelor's degree. Those who do their due diligence can eventually move on to become detectives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for police officers was $55,620 in 2010, while detectives and criminal investigators made $73,010.
Another option for those with a major in criminology is to pursue a career in the court system. For instance, paralegals assist judges and lawyers in case preparation and research as part of their regular activities. Criminology is a field well-suited for paralegal work because of its emphasis upon research. Criminology majors are especially well-suited to pursue paralegal work in the field of criminal law because of their background in understanding criminal behavior. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that paralegals made an average salary of $49,640 in 2010.
A career in forensic science is another career option for those with a criminology degree. Jobs in forensic laboratory science usually require an associate of applied science degree in a field like chemistry or biology. Those who plan on working in the criminology field can first pursue an associate degree in one of these fields and then a bachelor's degree in criminology. A major in criminology with a minor in science would also provide adequate preparation for a forensic science career. Forensics professionals need not work in a laboratory. Some can work as crime scene investigators or criminal profilers. The average salary for forensic scientists was $55,040, as of 2010, reports the BLS.
Another option for those with a bachelor's degree in criminology is to pursue a career in federal law enforcement and intelligence with either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Central Intelligence Agency. The FBI and the CIA both require that applicants have a bachelor's degree and a minimum of three years of continuous full-time work experience to be considered for employment. A criminology major can pursue a career as an intelligence analyst with the CIA or as a field agent with the FBI.