How to Become a Criminologist (Skills, Advantages and Careers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Criminologists work with law enforcement professionals to understand varying behavioural patterns within a range of criminal activities and conduct a root cause analysis of crimes. To become a criminologist, you study the legal aspects, rehabilitation modes and multiple corrective action possibilities when dealing with a criminal. Understanding the process of becoming a criminologist can help you understand whether this is a suitable career for you. In this article, we will discuss how to become a criminologist, enlist the required skill set and look at some related career options as well.

How to become a criminologist

Here are the steps to follow if you want to learn how to become a criminologist:

1. Finish 10+2 with the right subjects

Ideally, finish your senior secondary (10+2) with subjects like psychology, sociology or legal studies as one of your major subjects. The subjects strengthen your foundation on sociological concepts and give you exposure to learning about human behaviour, social interactions and, to some extent, how criminology relates to this field. Some higher education institutes may allow admission based on other subjects as well.

Related: How To Become a Criminal Lawyer: A Complete Guide

2. Complete your bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree with a major in parapsychology or criminology is essential to become a criminologist. If you do not get admission in either of the two majors, consider opting for psychology or a bachelor's degree in law (BA LLB). These courses help you learn how to study the human mind, its response mechanism and what comprises its logical reasoning abilities. Furthermore, subjects related to law and legal studies help strengthen your understanding of the country's constitution and legal justice system.

3. Acquire a master's degree in criminology

A master's degree in criminology teaches you the theories and practicalities of the field. Based on your projects and subjects during the course, you can apply to become a criminal profiler or even a forensic psychologist. You can get a specialised understanding of behavioural science and study statistical evaluation of criminals and crime rates based on region, caste and socio-economic backgrounds.

4. Become a PhD in criminal justice

A PhD degree substantially increases your chances of getting a job as a criminologist. By undertaking focused and specialised research, you can establish your credibility and expertise in the field. Additionally, you get to acquire a comprehensive outlook of the criminal justice field. With expertise in decoding a criminal's mindset, it becomes easier to deduce why they commit the crime.

Related: How To Become a Police Inspector

What is the difference between criminology and forensic science?

Forensic science is primarily the scientific approach and process of evidence gathering at the crime scene and its analysis, while criminology relates to a psychological analysis of a criminal's decisions. Forensic science relies more on physical evidence like DNA, blood, hair and fingerprints, while criminology depends on studying the culprit's past mental history, trauma and personality. Another discipline which criminology is often mistaken for is criminal law. But, criminal law simply pertains to how the legal system allocates punishments by judging the intensity of the crime committed.

Related: What Is Forensic Science? Definition and Career Guide

Important skills for a criminologist

Here is a list of skills needed to become a criminologist and work with police forces, investigative agencies, crime-solving institutions or law enforcement agencies:

Legal proficiency

All criminologists must have an in-depth perspective on the judicial system's local, national and state laws. This ensures that all criminology-related tasks are in sync with the legal guidelines, keeping in mind the rights of the accused and type of criminal case. Your legal knowledge does not have to encompass the entire spectrum of regulations and law, as laws regarding your specialisation in the field suffice.

Communication skills

Communication skills are imperative to every criminologist because of the importance of working with different stakeholders, like criminals, accused parties, victims, lawyers, inspectors or other legal contributors. To write research papers on case developments, undertake new investigations and manage emotionally-heavy conversations, communication skills are essential. Often, criminologists interview criminals and communicate their findings for advanced research purposes.

Problem-solving skills

Criminologists work with large volumes of data based on their research, findings and probable case outcomes. Analysing these findings and coming up with logical case outcomes becomes more manageable by maintaining a problem-solving approach. Strong problem-solving and deduction skills can help expedite the judicial process, support investigations and ensure better support to victims.

Integrity and ethics

The ability to follow the law objectively with integrity and ethics is crucial for a criminologist. The way you deal with criminals and victims has ramifications for the overall fabric of society and it is essential to be aware of your biases. In short, a criminologist forms opinions with no consideration of religion, race or gender.


All your decisions as a criminologist require you to state the scientific reasoning supporting your opinion as well as referencing historical crimes. This requires strong analytical, reasoning and statistical skills as to vast amounts of subjective data. Criminologists who can interpret data and offer it as proof for their final decision are regarded as credible, reliable and successful professionals.

Attention to detail

All criminologists pay close attention to minute details that reveal the truth of criminal cases. Often, being attentive to the most avoidable piece of information gets the criminologist involved in intricacies that reveal additional information about the relationship between the culprit and victim. Most importantly, this skill is best used during root cause analysis regarding the criminal's instinct to perform such actions.

Career options for a criminologist

Here are some common career options for aspiring criminologists:

1. Forensic investigator

National average salary: ₹19,172 per month

Primary responsibilities: Forensic investigators collaborate with law enforcement professionals to solve criminal cases. They use crime scene evidence to undertake scientific tests and analyses. In addition, they may also have to testify in court to present the findings of their analysis.

2. Police officer

National average salary: ₹41,664 per month

Primary responsibilities: A police officer conducts criminal investigations, interrogates criminals, extracts valuable information, resolves the crime and provides evidence to close cases. Their responsibilities include analysing incidents at the crime scene. They may also be responsible for managing the day-to-day functioning of police stations and pickets.

3. Detective

National average salary: ₹15,017 per month

Primary responsibilities: Detectives lead the process of studying crime scenes. Apart from leading a team of investigators and police officials, they inspect minute details of the case. Moreover, they are responsible for reviewing records and keeping track of probable suspects. They also question witnesses and informants based on case-centric discoveries.

4. Crime analyst

National average salary: ₹87,623 per month

Primary responsibilities: The primary responsibilities of a crime analyst include making analytical conclusions based on case patterns and factors that influence the crime. They track data related to familiar patterns and predict the probability of a crime to occur within a region or community. Crime analysts also create presentations revolving around their crime reports.

Advantages of pursuing criminology as a career

Becoming a criminologist is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice for the following reasons:

Social contribution

As a criminologist, you positively impact society by solving crimes, ensuring rehabilitation and saving people from being victims of criminal activity. Moreover, you stay updated on how different emotions trigger dangerous thoughts and actions in criminals. Besides being a contributor to society's peace and safety, you bring logic and scientific-based evidence to the justice system.

Less career competition

Criminology is a niche field and does not attract many students. Since there is less competition, it is relatively easy to succeed. This makes it easier to grow as a criminologist, achieve success and develop expertise. Career progression can be rapid and extremely rewarding financially.

Related: A Guide to Forensic Science Careers (With Salary Information)

Intellectual growth

Criminologists deal with a variety of cases ranging from homicide and fraud to money laundering. They interrogate suspects, search for logical reasoning and brainstorm case scenarios with their team. These experiences and interactions increase their intellectual capacity and understanding of how the human mind works.

Stimulating job role

As a criminologist, you often have to work with challenging and difficult situations. The nature of the role also varies, including studying a crime scene, interrogating suspects, working with forensics and collecting evidence. All these processes can be very stimulating for individuals who seek exciting careers.

Salary figures show data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing the article. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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