Making the most of your criminology degree

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Criminology is the study of the nature, causes and control of criminal behavior, drawing on psychology, sociology, law, anthropology and economics. Graduates can go on to have careers in law, public service, journalism, corrections, non-governmental organizations and the justice system.

criminology degree

It is a field that deals with the why, where and the how of illegal behavior, and those who work within it can study and research all aspects of illegal behavior and the effects it has on society.

Students will study criminal behavior and the systems that are used to deal with offenders. They will gain an insight into crime, criminals and society, and develop practical applications within the subject.

Understand the benefits of your qualification 

By embarking on your chosen criminology and policing degree, you will be setting a path towards a stimulating career. Whatever area you choose to work in eventually, you’ll know you will be spending your time in a role in which you will be helping the community and society in general. The field offers a wide variety of roles within all sorts of settings, so you won’t be restricted to one thing.

Having made the decision to study this subject, you will have already decided on a career path, even though at the start, it could be a wide and not clearly defined one. It is up to you to do the research to choose the best direction for yourself.

Professionals with criminology degrees can increase their earning potential as well as widen the range of opportunities available to them by choosing a university program that draws from a range of academic disciplines that offer insights into the criminal mindset and how they are prosecuted and rehabilitated.

While many police departments hire people without degrees, increasing competition among those with undergraduate degrees has made entry-level jobs more competitive. For those hiring employees, an applicant with a degree has proved they have a combination of intelligence and diligence to achieve their qualification.

In today’s world, criminologists and officers must apply more sensitivity and understanding towards the communities they serve. Many university programs reveal the systematic disadvantages that enable criminal behavior and teach students how to contribute to the prosperity of areas as well as stop crime.

Making the most of your studies

Whether you decide to embark on your degree in class or online, you are committing a substantial amount of time and money to it, so in order for it to work for you, it is key to plan ways to make the most of it.

Use university services such as academic and career help centers. These are valuable resources that can help you navigate your way through your course and into your future career. There will be assistance with resumes, career planning, which employers to contact, advice on internships and all sorts of other useful information.

Find out what employers are looking for and use that as a basis to help choose any elective courses. Also, get advice on trends and what skills and knowledge will be in demand in five or 10 years, so you can plan well ahead.

Read journals and websites that offer up-to-date tips and information on learning and how to study. Things fluctuate, expectations change, and technology evolves, so keeping your finger on the pulse will help ensure everything you do is up to date.

Online learning

An increasingly popular option for many students, online learning offers flexibility and cost savings for learners who may have to weave their studies around family and other commitments.

However, it also requires discipline, good organizational and time management skills and motivation, which is why it is a good idea to plan and set goals throughout your course in order to make the most of it. It’s important to have the same level of commitment to distance learning as if you were attending in-person courses.

If you decide on a combined Honors BA in Criminology and Policing, you should set up your studying regime and plan ahead before you start in order to maximize your learning potential.

Before you start on your criminology degree, determine all the technical requirements for your course. You will definitely need a reliable internet connection and you also could require specific software or hardware. Ensure you have effective backup systems, such as access to a cloud service, so your work is saved as you go along.

Try to designate a specific study area with sufficient lighting and a comfortable chair, and as few distractions as possible. You could also break up your study sessions by working in a local café or a library to keep things fresh and your mind motivated.

Create a study plan to help you work around your existing commitments so you can keep on top of your work and meet your deadlines. You could create a calendar with a realistic weekly schedule, but make sure you factor in the possibility of unexpected delays, so you give yourself some leeway. Also, make sure you take study breaks to help you concentrate on your learning.

Rewarding yourself with something you enjoy is a great way to stay motivated. When you hand in an assignment or reach a milestone, give yourself a treat, whether it’s a candy bar, half an hour of TV or a long bath. This will train your brain to recognize that learning can achieve positive results.

When you are learning remotely, it is vital that you stay as connected as possible to your course, lecturers and classmates. Just because you are not all in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t be visible or audible. So, participate in online discussions, take opportunities to engage with your fellow learners, and if there are any networking groups, join them.

Tips moving forward

Choose the area you want to work in and plan for it. You could work as a private investigator, criminologist or forensic scientist or go into criminal justice and get a job in law enforcement as a police officer or correctional officer.

Gain insights from people who have studied the same degree to ensure you have the right information to make informed decisions about your future. Browse job sites, talk to recruiters and make understanding the job market a part of your routine.

Decide whether you want to work in the public or private sector. Careers within the public sector enable you to work directly with citizens, whereas examples of jobs within the private sector include private security guards and paralegals. Check what the wages are, career prospects and expectations of experience and education in all these fields.

Skills required for criminal justice careers

When you are studying, think about the skills you will need in the future. If you accept any internships or temporary jobs that could develop these other skills, ensure you build them into your resume.

Simply by doing your coursework, you will gain skill, experience and knowledge that will stand you in good stead for a career in criminal justice, such as an understanding of the role that human rights play within the development and enforcement of criminal law, knowledge of the practices of the justice system, plus the development of communication skills used to give accurate information and resolve conflicts.

Do your long-term research by studying job adverts, so you can understand what qualifications employers are looking for, whether there are any licensing requirements for their roles, who is hiring and in what areas, and soft skills they may be expecting. This should help you work out what you need to do to reach your goal, preparing yourself for when you begin to apply for permanent roles.

As well as soft skills such as social perceptiveness and critical judgment, a well-rounded academic education will help secure what you want. Experts say that applicants need to be able to show they can analyze and make sense of data, for example, as police work is reliant on detailed reports. Everything needs to be written down and the case files are vital for every investigation.

Think about your work style. Will you be happiest in a lab, studying the science behind crime? In that case, you could consider a role as a forensic psychologist. If you are interested in public safety and protecting the community, then a law enforcement job may suit you best.


Internships are a great opportunity for students and new graduates to gain applied practice in their preferred field of work. It will also enable you to get to know the environment and the people and make useful connections for the future. Popular internships are often within juvenile centers, local police departments or student services on campus, which may give you an opportunity to find out about aspects of social work, such as counselling, conflict resolution and understanding behavioral issues.


It is absolutely essential to get out there and network, so as well as applying for internships or temporary work, joining associations and volunteering at organizations related to the field you are interested in are great ways to meet potential employers and contacts and gain knowledge from experienced professionals.

Log onto the websites of industry associations in order to find out what’s happening in the area you are interested in, such asThe Canadian Association of Criminology and Legal Studies, which is run by students for students and initiates and participates in initiatives within the community and organizes workshops and seminars to communicate new research and knowledge. They arrange tours to different jurisdictions to learn how crime prevention is administered in a variety of areas.

The Canadian Criminal Justice Association is an umbrella organization that represents all elements of the criminal justice system, including the public, and works towards promoting informed debate in order to develop an effective justice system.

Many professionals agree that the most connected people are usually very successful. This is partly because when you invest in any kind of relationship, whether it be professional or personal, it can pay you back positively as time goes on. Networking will help you to improve your skill set, stay on top of trends, be aware of what’s going on in the job market and meet possible mentors and clients.

When searching for jobs, your chances of finding the right opportunities and landing the right role increase with the right referrals, introductions and references. When progressing, a professional network can support you further by helping you to identify opportunities which allow you to branch out. It’s important to foster meaningful relationships with people within your prospective professional circle, so that you can tap into their advice and industry knowledge as you plan to move forward.

Another way to gain insights and knowledge is to connect via LinkedIn, not only to individuals but to groups from which you can learn. Joining Facebook groups or following people on Twitter can expand your horizons beyond your local area.

Remember, it is not just about the course, or the studying, it’s about what you learn as you go, not just within specific subjects but the soft skills you develop and the people you meet who can guide you along the way. Valuing all of this and ensuring you make the most of every opportunity will mean you are well on the way to making the most of your criminology degree and that it will open doors for you when you embark on your new career.


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