So What Exactly is Criminology?

Hello! Welcome back. In this blog post, I thought I’d start with the basics, and talk about what Criminology actually is. This post is inspired by a few messages I’ve received recently, asking from friends how to go about being a criminologist too, so I’ve taken those questions and answered them here.

Disclaimer: This was a tough post to write!! I thought this would be a very easy one, but then I realized that everyone kind of categorizes social policy differently, and the opinions on what you can do as a criminologist are also different.

For example, if you are a nurse, you can work overseas and just make people better, and there is universally pretty similar methods of treating a sick person. With anything that has a social base, there is always conflicting opinions, because people have different ideas about what is best to support people and communities, and how to deal with crime within a community. For example, America is the only Western Country to have the death penalty. Some people will argue that it prevents crime and acts as a deterrent, others will say that it simply doesn’t work as a deterrent, and therefore shouldn’t be used.

So in this post, I’ve covered the basics only, and what is a generally agreed upon idea of what criminologists do, and this post is based on my experience in Australia in regards to the study pathways to become a criminologist.

What is Criminology?

Basically it’s the study of crime – who causes it, why and how to prevent it. Then the idea is that you can use that information once you are employed to better understand and respond to crime, and prevent it in the future.

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology (link here – ) criminology is technically quite a small field, with criminologists being a small pool of researchers, teachers and policy advisors. Criminologists are employed by universities to research and teach, or in forensic and government fields as policy and technical advisors.

What do you actually do as a criminologist?

In summary – you write lots. Investigative reports require a lot of evidence, and you need the ability to clearly communicate in writing what you are finding. If you get a job as a policy writer, you’ll write lots. If you start your career as an analyst, you’ll type up your notes.

Here are some ideas of job titles:

  • Policy officer
  • Crime Scene Analyst (requires specific subjects)
  • Security Professional
  • Researcher
  • Teacher
  • Tutor
  • Investigator
  • Project Officer
  • Crime Prevention Officer (requires specific training)
  • Community Development Worker (usually also specialized training)

Criminologists are typically hired in government, defence or tertiary institutions, such as local or state government, within the police or defence forces, and at university as a researcher and teacher. You use your background in criminology to teach others in it, and use the theories learnt in your degree to inform policy and practice at work. For example: one of the subjects I did at university was Situational Crime Prevention. Part of what I learnt in that course was that you can often stop people from committing a crime of opportunity (petty theft at a store), by placing a sign reminding them of the consequences. When you are working for a local council after graduating, you would then use this knowledge to encourage local shopkeepers to put a sign up in the store change room to reduce the chance of petty theft. Here’s an example from the Victoria Police website:

why risk getting court

So it’s not like CSI or SVU?

Nope. On Law and Order, they are police officers. They go through the ranks to become a detective, and you are watching the procedure of how they solve crimes, which is very cool. If you like that work, joining the police force is definitely your best bet as a long term career as a detective. You do general duties for a few years, then get the chance to try for more specialist units.

On CSI, they are crime scene analysts who also do detective work. These jobs in real life aren’t done together – the police are the detectives, and the analysts provide information on the crime scene to assist the police in solving the crime.

How do I become a Criminologist?

Study at university and get a degree specifically in the field. In Australia, if you are unable to get into university immediately, you can usually enter via an alternate study pathway, and study at TAFE (usually called Criminal Justice) and apply for a transfer. Good Jobs Guide Australia has a fantastic link for jobs in geranial, and you can even drill down into what’s required for each state, and where to apply for jobs:

How can I get a job if I decide to study Criminology?

There’s a really interesting link to Kent University in the UK. Each year, they follow up with their students to find out what they’re up to after graduating.

I’ll go over my own experience in getting a job in more detail next blog post. However, I would look for a course that has a work experience component. I’d also look into graduate programs, as they are fantastic stepping stones. If your course doesn’t have work experience, as your teachers if they have any ideas or connections to people who can give you experience.

Also, always have other experience that not just study related. By far my greatest asset in getting a job was knowing how to work, and how to engage with people – and this came from working in hospitality and being engaged with other people – not from the degree itself.

Finally, if you are really attracted to the criminal justice field, consider being a police officer. They have fantastic pathways, into detective work, as well as doing prosecutions. It will also be a cheaper way to study, as there won’t be any costs to you, just a lower work pay for the first couple of years.

Thanks for reading! Any questions or comments, please pop them in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Emma 🙂



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: