Many popular films, television shows and podcasts these days are based on true crimes or actual criminal cases. These forms of entertainment bring viewers and listeners closer to the story, as the police collect evidence, interview witnesses, identify suspects and even solve the case.
The drama and suspense in these stories often hang on the work of criminologists. Their job is to understand the mind and motivations of the criminal, as well as the influence of environment or societal conditions on the crime. However, the field of criminology is far more vast and interesting than a single story can capture.
You will find graduates of criminology degree programs doing many kinds of jobs that benefit society. In addition to forensic science, law enforcement and policing, criminologists work in the adult and juvenile justice systems, in prisons and as probation officers. They also work in areas of healthcare such as behavioral treatment, drug rehabilitation, risk management, and security for private companies as well as colleges and universities conducting crime and social justice research.
Criminology is defined as the scientific study of crime and criminals. It is considered part of the social sciences, because those who choose this career path also study human behavior. Criminologists apply their knowledge of psychology and sociology to solving cases, and may also use demographics, statistics and forensic science in their work.
Criminology theories focus on three major schools of thought:
The Classical School
- People have free will, and their goal is to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
- People will choose to do right or wrong based on the potential consequences of their actions.
- Threat of punishment is what keeps people from committing crimes, so the more swift and certain the punishment, the better the deterrent.
The Positivist School
- Crime is a condition that is partially or completely out of the criminal's control.
- Crime can be caused by biological, psychological or social conditions.
- A person's environment influences his or her sense of right and wrong.
The Chicago School
- People adapt to their physical, social and psychological environment.
- A destructive environment leads to the breakdown of social structure.
- Factors such as poverty can break down the social structure and create a criminal mentality that influences a person's sense of right and wrong.
Studying criminology is about more than solving crimes, however. It is also about learning how to prevent them and help elected officials refine the laws and policies that deal with crime and punishment.
The Greater Good
Perhaps the best reason to become a criminologist is that the work you do can bring criminals to justice and make communities safer. Criminologists also help communities deal with the aftermath of crime, working with convicted criminals who seek rehabilitation so that they can make a positive contribution to society. Criminology research also has a great impact on the work of law enforcement and legal systems across the country, as we learn more about criminal behavior and better strategies to deal with crime.
Learn more about A-State's online Bachelor of Arts in Criminology program.