A criminologist studies the reasons people commit crimes, the reasons crime rates vary throughout history and in different areas, and what society can do to prevent crime from occurring or recurring. She must be able to see the big picture and the little details all at once. This can make the life of a criminologist exciting and unpredictable.
Research and Analysis
Criminology falls under the umbrella of sociology, which is the study of social behavior based on how people live in various groups or subcultures. Criminology concentrates on crime, and a criminologist's day often involves writing or collecting surveys, developing theories about crime and designing research projects to test them, analyzing the information she collects, and writing reports or articles based on research. She will also often advise government and law enforcement officials and policymakers on what her findings mean and how they apply to law enforcement.
On the Scene
While a criminologist's work may seem largely academic, her day may often take her to a crime scene or to the side of an investigator directly working on a case. A criminologist often attends autopsies to study patterns in crimes. She also may question suspects to see if they fit the psychological profile she constructed for the perpetrator of that crime. Being close to the investigation allows the criminologist to better understand patterns of behavior and the deviations from those patterns.
Fascinating and Frustrating
Criminology can be fascinating work that challenges the intellect and offers new insight into human behavior. But it can also be frustrating and, at times, lonely work. Because of the academic nature of criminology, some criminologists often feel far removed from law enforcement. Criminologists write many reports but are never sure if anyone ever reads them, and law enforcement officers may be disinterested in academic theories about crime.
Most criminologists work for law enforcement agencies, meaning that the demands of the job can change at a moment's notice. But on any given day, a criminologist must be ready to apply psychological analysis, logic, statistics and creativity to her work. Being a criminologist is highly intellectual work and can, at times, be gruesome. But most criminologists enjoy the intellectual challenges of the job, as well as helping law enforcement serve and protect society at large.