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Comprehensive Guide to Criminology Degree Programs and Careers

Discover the ins and outs of Criminology Degree Programs with this comprehensive guide, covering degree levels, specialties, courses, and career paths.

Criminology Degree

Ever wondered how experts unravel the mysteries behind criminal behavior and help create a safer society?

The fascinating field of criminology lies at the heart of this quest.

Criminal justice degree programs play a vital role in equipping aspiring professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills.

As true crime stories and psychological thrillers capture the public’s imagination, the demand for skilled criminologists is on the rise.

Interested in joining the ranks of these sought-after professionals? Let’s dive into the specifics of a Criminology degree.

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What is a Criminology Degree?

A criminology degree is an interdisciplinary academic program that examines the causes, consequences, and crime prevention through the lens of psychology, sociology, law, and criminal justice. 

Criminology is crucial in a world that is constantly changing, and its significance cannot be emphasized enough. Society is confronting new challenges, such as cybercrime, terrorism, and organized crime, which call for innovative and evidence-based solutions.

Pursuing a degree in Criminology will train you to do just that, plus enable you to analyze intricate criminal patterns, create crime prevention policies, and make a valuable contribution to your community’s safety and welfare.

What are the Criminology Degree levels?

So, you’re considering diving into the world of criminology, but you’re not quite sure where to start?

Begin by examining the various degree levels that are offered.

Each level offers unique benefits and caters to different career aspirations.

Let’s take a closer look at each level to help you make the best decision for your future in criminology.

Certificate in Criminology

A Certificate in Criminology is an introductory program that provides foundational knowledge of the criminal justice system and criminological theories. These programs often require 15-30 credit hours and can be completed in less than a year.

Earning a Certificate in Criminology can help you gain a competitive edge in the job market, preparing you for entry-level roles such as a correctional officer or victim advocate. Additionally, a certificate can serve as a stepping stone toward more advanced degrees in criminology.

Entry requirements:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Assessment tests (if required by the institution)

Associate in Criminology (AC)

An Associate in Criminology (AC) encompasses approximately 60-semester credits and is typically completed within two years. This degree level offers a comprehensive understanding of criminological theories, criminal justice procedures, and the legal system.

Upon obtaining an Associate in Criminology, you may qualify for positions such as a paralegal or a law enforcement officer. The degree can also pave the way for further education, allowing you to transfer credits toward a bachelor’s degree in criminology.

Entry requirements:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Standardized tests (such as SAT or ACT), if required by the institution

Bachelor in Criminology (BC)

The Bachelor in Criminology (BC) is a four-year program requiring approximately 120-semester credits. At this level, the studies delve deeper into criminological theories, research methods, and data analysis, equipping you with the skills to analyze and address complex criminal issues.

A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in criminology.

Entry requirements:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Standardized tests (such as SAT or ACT)
  • Letters of recommendation and personal statement (if required by the institution)

Master in Criminology (MC)

A Master in Criminology (MC) is a specialized degree program that generally takes two years to complete and requires 30-45 credit hours. 

Holding a Master’s in Criminology can open doors to higher-level positions, such as research analysts, policy advisors, or university lecturers. The degree also serves as a stepping stone toward a doctoral program in criminology.

Entry requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in criminology or in a related field
  • GRE scores (if required by the institution)
  • Letters of recommendation and personal statement

Doctorate in Criminology (Ph.D.)

The Doctorate in Criminology (Ph.D.) is the highest level of education in the field, typically requiring 4-6 years to complete. It emphasizes original research and prepares for careers in academia, research institutions, or high-level policy-making positions

A Ph.D. in Criminology offers the opportunity to make significant contributions to the field through original research, publish in academic journals, and shape the future of criminological theory and practice.

Entry requirements:

  • Master’s degree in criminology or a related field
  • Strong academic record
  • Research proposal

Disclaimer: The entry requirements for a degree in Criminology may vary depending on your university and state. However, here we have outlined the general qualifications that are frequently asked for.

What specialties and concentrations can you find in Criminology Degree programs?

Like a detective on the trail of a case, you should hone in on a specific area of criminology that piques your interest to get the most out of your studies. Lucky for you, criminology degree programs offer a variety of specialties and concentrations that cater to different passions and career goals. 

Selecting a concentration in your criminology degree program can boost your career opportunities and enable you to distinguish yourself in the job market.

Cybercrime and Cybersecurity

As our society increasingly relies on technology, the threat of cybercrime continues to grow. This concentration focuses on understanding cybercriminal behavior, investigating digital crimes, and developing strategies for cybersecurity. 

Concentrating on cybercrime and cybersecurity, you’ll find yourself leading the charge in this dynamic field, safeguarding people and businesses from digital dangers while fostering a more secure online environment.


Victimology examines the experiences of crime victims, the repercussions of crime on their lives, and the interplay of psychological, societal, and legal factors surrounding victimization, as well as the resources and assistance available to those affected.

Specializing in victimology will help you become an expert in advocating for victims’ rights, developing prevention strategies, and improving victim support systems.

Juvenile Justice

This concentration delves into the distinctive obstacles and possibilities present in the juvenile justice system. It thoroughly examines the factors contributing to delinquent behavior in young individuals, proposes prevention tactics, and delves into the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.

With a specialization in juvenile justice, you’ll be equipped to work with at-risk youth, design intervention programs, and shape policies to reduce juvenile crime and recidivism rates.

Criminal Profiling and Behavioral Analysis

Criminal Profiling and Behavioral Analysis involve analyzing criminals’ behavior, motives, and patterns to solve crimes and prevent future offenses by gaining insight into their thought processes.

Having this specialty will let you develop the skills to work with law enforcement agencies, assisting in investigations and contributing to a safer society by identifying and apprehending criminals.

Corrections and Rehabilitation

The concentration of Corrections and Rehabilitation focuses on managing, treating, and reintegrating criminal offenders. You will gain the necessary knowledge and skills to work in correctional institutions, develop rehabilitation programs, and contribute to the reform of the criminal justice system.

By dedicating your efforts to corrections and rehabilitation, you’ll have a significant impact on lowering reoffending rates and encouraging a more equitable and empathetic approach to the criminal justice system.

Courses & Curriculum in Criminology Degrees

You are ready to immerse yourself in the fascinating study of crime and justice. But what exactly will you learn in a Criminology Degree program? What kind of classes and curriculum can you expect? 

Some of the standard courses you can find in your curriculum include:

Introduction to Criminology

A foundational course that offers an overview of the field, covering key criminological theories, types of crime, and the various factors that influence criminal behavior.

Criminal Justice System

Explore the organization and function of the criminal justice system, with a focus on understanding the responsibilities of law enforcement, courts, and correctional facilities.

Research Methods in Criminology

As an introductory course, it equips you with the skills to design and conduct research in the field of criminology, covering qualitative and quantitative research methods, data collection, and analysis.

Criminological Theory

 A deeper exploration of the major theoretical perspectives in criminology to help you understand and critically evaluate the various explanations for criminal behavior.

Criminal Law

This course introduces the principles of criminal law, exploring the elements of criminal offenses, defenses, and the legal process.

Policing and Law Enforcement

Examine the role of police in society, the organization and operation of law enforcement agencies, and contemporary issues in policing.

On-campus vs. Online Criminology Degrees

Imagine standing at a crossroads, trying to decide which path to take on your criminology adventure. On one side, there’s the traditional on-campus experience, while on the other, the digital realm of online education beckons. 

Deciding between an on-campus and online criminology degree can be challenging, but worry not! We’re here to help you weigh your options and make the right choice for your unique circumstances. 

To choose, you must consider your preferred learning style, available time, financial status, and personal preferences. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what works best for you and your unique circumstances.

On-campus Criminology Degrees


Direct face-to-face interaction with professors and classmates

Access to campus resources and facilities (libraries, labs, etc.)

Networking opportunities with fellow students and faculty

Structured schedule for classes and activities

Opportunities for extracurricular activities and involvement in campus life


Less flexibility in scheduling and course pacing

Commute time and costs

Limited options for degree programs, depending on location

Higher overall expenses (tuition, housing, transportation, etc.)

Online Criminology Degrees


Flexibility in course scheduling and pacing, allowing for work and family commitments

Access to a broader range of degree programs and institutions

No need to relocate or commute, reducing costs and time spent traveling

Lower overall expenses (no housing, transportation, or on-campus fees)

Ability to work at your own pace and learn from the comfort of your home


Limited face-to-face interaction with professors and classmates

Potential lack of access to campus resources and facilities

Networking opportunities may be less frequent or require additional effort

Requires strong self-motivation and time management skills

What to consider when choosing a Criminology Degree?

As you continue your quest to find the perfect Criminology Degree program, it’s essential to remember that not all programs are created equal. 

Regardless if you’re leaning towards an on-campus or online experience, there are certain factors you’ll want to consider to ensure you’re making the best choice for your future. 

Let’s explore some actionable tips for selecting the right criminology degree program.

1. Program reputation and ranking

Research the prestige and ranking of the Criminology Degree programs you’re interested in. Look for programs with strong faculty, positive student reviews, and a history of successful alumni.

2. Accreditation

Ensure the program you’re considering is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. Accreditation is a quality assurance process that verifies the program meets established academic standards. It’s essential for transferring credits, pursuing higher education, and obtaining professional licenses. You can confirm if a program is accredited by checking its official website or the database of the accrediting agency. In the U.S., the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education maintain databases of accredited institutions and programs.

3. Cost and financial aid

Evaluate the overall cost of the program, including tuition, fees, and any additional expenses. Research financial aid options such as scholarships, grants, and loans to help offset the cost of your education.

4. Curriculum and specialization options

Compare different programs’ curriculum and specialization options to ensure they align with your career goals and interests. Choose a program that covers the specific areas of criminology you’re most passionate about.

5. Flexibility and course format

Consider the flexibility and course format of the program, especially if you have other commitments such as work or family. Ensure the program’s scheduling and delivery method suits your lifestyle and learning preferences.

6. Support services and resources

Investigate the support services and resources available to students, such as academic advising, career services, and access to research facilities or online resources. These services can significantly impact your success during and after the program.

What can you do with a Criminology Degree?

Criminology has impacted the criminal justice system and led to reforms in recent years in several ways, including challenging mass incarceration, addressing racial disparities, advancing voting rights, and promoting youth justice.

Due to these reforms, the need for experts in criminology continues to increase. Those pursuing a degree in this field can anticipate a diverse range of career opportunities and the potential to impact the criminal justice system in the years ahead significantly.

Career Outlook

Although the employment rate for police and detectives is expected to increase by only 3% from 2021 to 2031, which is somewhat slower than the average rate for all professions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are still expected to be around 68,500 job openings in this field on an annual basis over the next decade.

Salary Potential

Salaries in criminology-related professions can vary widely depending on experience, education, and geographic location. 

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for police and detectives was $66,020 as of May 2021. Private Detectives and Investigators, on the other hand, earned a median annual salary of $59,380 during the same period.

Top Job Positions with a Criminology Degree:

First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives

Mentor and lead criminal case investigation, providing officers with guidance and knowledge while ensuring protocols are followed by laws and regulations. Make precise police operations to subordinates to aid them in executing their tasks properly. Educate personnel on correct practices of police work.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$98,760 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

High School

Criminal Investigator

As a Criminal Investigator or Detective, you will join forces with other law enforcement professionals to unravel and decipher criminal cases. Your job responsibilities include examining evidence to deduce suspects’ identity and intentions, conversing with witnesses and potential perpetrators, and documenting all the exploration in your case files for future reference.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$90,370 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators are the go-to professionals when it comes to locating information related to legal, financial, or personal matters. Their services range from verifying people’s backgrounds and testimonies and finding missing persons to investigating computer crimes – providing an invaluable asset for those needing answers.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$59,380 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level

High School

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers

This job involves teaching criminal justice, corrections, and law enforcement administration courses. This includes individuals who primarily teach and those who conduct both teaching and research.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$81,730 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Social Workers

Social workers assist people, families, and groups in managing and preventing issues that arise daily. Clinical social workers are responsible for identifying and addressing mental, emotional, and behavioral health concerns.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$50,390 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


*Please be advised that the average salary provided by BLS may deviate significantly from state to state and occupation, depending on various factors.

Popular Colleges with Criminology Degree Programs

Ready to explore some of the most renowned colleges of criminology degree programs? 

Like intrepid adventurers, many aspiring criminologists set sail to these top-notch institutions, seeking knowledge and experiences to prepare them for future success.

University of Maryland

As you wander through the picturesque campus, you’ll soon discover the University of Maryland’s commitment to cutting-edge research in criminology. 

Their Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice boasts a rich history of producing leading scholars and practitioners, offering a supportive environment for students eager to unravel the complexities of crime and justice.

University of Pennsylvania

Nestled in the heart of Philadelphia, this Ivy League powerhouse is known for its pioneering spirit. As you enter the campus, you’ll be swept up in the refreshing atmosphere of a community focused on achieving academic brilliance.

Their Criminology program skillfully intertwines theoretical, research-based, and practical aspects, creating an ideal springboard for those aiming to make a significant difference.

Florida State University

Radiating like a guiding star in the Sunshine State, the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University stands out as a trailblazer in criminological research and instruction.

Here, students immerse themselves in an interdisciplinary approach, harnessing the power of diverse perspectives to tackle the challenges of crime and justice head-on.

University of Cincinnati

At the University of Cincinnati, innovation and collaboration take center stage. The School of Criminal Justice nurtures critical and inventive thinking, equipping students with the expertise and insight necessary to flourish in various criminology-related professions.

Michigan State University

While walking along the picturesque Red Cedar River, you’ll soon find yourself enveloped in the deep-rooted scholarly culture of Michigan State University. Their School of Criminal Justice delivers a robust Criminology program that combines theoretical comprehension with hands-on experience, grooming students to become impactful catalysts in crime and justice.

Featured Colleges

FAQ about Criminology Degree Programs

A Criminology Degree will equip you with diverse skills, including critical thinking, analytical reasoning, research methodologies, problem-solving, effective communication, and ethical decision-making. 

You’ll also gain a comprehensive understanding of criminal behavior, the criminal justice system, and the societal factors contributing to crime.

The duration of a Criminology Degree depends on the level of education pursued. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years, while a master’s degree takes around two years. A doctorate in criminology can take anywhere from four to seven years, depending on the program and research focus.

After completing a Criminology Degree, you may pursue further education through advanced degrees, certifications, or specialized training programs. 

You can also attend workshops, conferences, and seminars to stay updated on the latest research and industry trends. Additionally, professional associations often provide resources and networking opportunities to support ongoing professional development.

Apart from traditional criminology-related careers, individuals with a Criminology Degree can explore alternative career paths, such as private investigator, security consultant, insurance fraud investigator, risk analyst, or journalist focusing on crime and justice issues.

A Criminology Degree provides the foundational knowledge and skills necessary for various careers in the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, corrections, forensic science, and victim advocacy. 

Job opportunities may include roles such as police officer, probation officer, crime analyst, researcher, or policy analyst, among others.

Criminology degree programs often offer research opportunities through faculty-led projects, research centers, or partnerships with external organizations. To get involved in research, you can contact faculty members, inquire about research assistant positions, or pursue independent study projects under faculty supervision.

Prerequisites for admission to a Criminology degree program vary depending on the level of education and the specific institution. A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for undergraduate programs, along with a solid academic record and standardized test scores (such as SAT or ACT). 

For graduate programs, a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, prior coursework in criminology or related fields may be required. Other prerequisites may include letters of recommendation, a personal statement, or a resume.


  • Criminology Degrees offer an in-depth understanding of criminal behavior, the criminal justice system, and societal factors influencing crime.
  • Degree levels range from certificates to doctorates, each with unique benefits and entry requirements.
  • On-campus and online degree options cater to different learning preferences, with pros and cons for each.
  • When choosing a Criminology Degree, factors include accreditation, program reputation, and personal preferences.
  • Criminology Degrees open doors to career opportunities in law enforcement, corrections, research, and more.

As you can see, a Criminology Degree can open doors to a wide array of fulfilling careers with promising outlooks and salary potential. 

So, buckle up and get ready to embark on an incredible journey into the captivating world of criminology!

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