Criminology, a social science closely affiliated with sociology and psychology, emphasizes the causes and effects of crime and the connections between the legal system and social justice. Criminology focuses on the impact of crime on victims and offenders, on families and communities, and on society at large.
An online criminology degree qualifies graduates for many career opportunities. Students find placements in law enforcement, corrections, and legal fields. Many graduates also enter the social services, counseling, and education fields. This guide provides information for students interested in an online bachelor's in criminology, including common career paths and salary potential.
While criminology bachelor’s degrees vary by school, all programs highlight the study of deviance and crime as social phenomena. Featured classes include classical and contemporary theories, juvenile delinquency, deviance and social control, and policing in society. Most programs require research and statistics courses, and applied practicum or internship experiences.
Programs that lead to a bachelor of science in criminology emphasize scientific inquiry and quantitative skills. Bachelor of arts in criminology and psychology, or programs that combine criminology and sociology, train students in the behavioral and social science applications to the study of crime and deviance.
Most programs offer a multidisciplinary curriculum that enables students to select electives and concentrations reflecting their interests and career goals, in areas such as policing and corrections, juvenile justice, law and society, victimology, and community and social services. This versatile degree offers graduates a promising employment outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% growth in protective services jobs through 2026. Social and community services, forensic specialties, and information security positions are projected to experience faster-than-average growth rates compared to all occupations in the U.S. In fact, information security analysts, with a projected growth rate of 28% from 2016 to 2026, rank among the most rapidly growing careers in the nation.
In addition to the myriad career options associated with this degree, a bachelor’s in criminology is an excellent undergraduate major for students planning to attend law school. It also prepares students for graduate work in master’s and doctoral programs in social science, social work, and counseling.
This versatile degree addresses the impact of crime on society. Students gain exposure to specialized areas such as penology, legal informatics, and restorative justice. Criminology leads to career paths like police and probation officers, attorneys and social workers, victim advocates, and researchers. The following section discusses how the skills obtained in an online criminology degree translate into rewarding career possibilities.
Because a bachelor of criminology draws from a wide variety of social scientific disciplines and specialized applications, students graduate with the knowledge and practical skills that give them a competitive advantage in the job market. The best online criminology degrees equip students with communication and decision-making skills, training in scientific methods and quantitative analysis, computer literacy, and an understanding of racial, ethnic, and gender diversities.
After undergraduates complete their required foundational courses, they choose electives or concentrations to help them achieve their goals. Internships, professional certifications, and licensure also provide students with a competitive edge in the marketplace. For example, students interested in counseling and conflict mediation roles should take coursework that develops strong communication skills and an understanding of group dynamics and cultural competencies.
They should also investigate specialized certifications in these areas. The expansion of employment prospects in information security, forensics and investigative services requires professionals with expertise in computer technology and data analysis. In addition to conventional courses in law enforcement, students interested in police and corrections work can pursue shadowing opportunities with local police departments or apply for internships in regional and federal agencies.
Students who intend to enter the helping professions can improve their chances for employment by augmenting their coursework with field placements at social service agencies and community centers working with groups like juvenile offenders, substance abusers, and youth-at-risk. Pre-law majors can distinguish themselves from other law school applicants by maintaining a high GPA and supplementing their criminology courses with electives in areas such as political science, economics, and language arts.
Although salaries and job growth vary by industry, geographic location, and required skills, many criminology graduates find employment in high-paying and rewarding positions. Local, state, and federal governments rank among the top employers for criminology graduates. The demand for graduates with expertise in computer technological and forensics continues to expand. Students can also consider nonconventional careers, like those in research and teaching. This section provides examples of career possibilities and salary prospects for criminology bachelor degree holders.
Annual Median Salary: $62,960
The specific responsibilities of police and detectives vary by state and law enforcement agency. Generally, these law enforcement professionals conduct surveillance and uncover evidence for criminal investigations.
Annual Median Salary: $51,410
These professionals work with individuals on probation or parole helping them fulfill the conditions of their release. Their duties include connecting clients with services such as drug counseling and training.
Annual Median Salary: $26,960
Security professionals work in a variety of facilities including gambling casinos and shopping malls. They protect property against theft, monitor closed-circuit surveillance and alarm systems, respond to emergencies, and detain suspected violators.
Annual Median Salary: $59,003
These investigators and auditors uncover fraudulent activity and financial theft, usually working in insurance and banking industries. They examine data for irregularities, interview relevant parties, and report their findings. They also develop fraud prevention and detection plans.
Annual Median Salary: $81,306
Special agents work for federal law enforcement agencies investigating violations of federal statutes. They conduct surveillance and field work, sometimes in an undercover capacity. They often work in task forces and must pass rigorous background and security checks.
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