What Is a Forensic Sociologist?

Forensic sociologists study how society impacts criminal behavior.
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Sometimes called criminologists, forensic sociologists work on criminal and civil cases. They conduct research and analyze data to help law enforcement better understand the tendencies of those likely to commit crimes. Unlike forensic psychologists, who focus on the mental capacity of criminals, forensic sociologists zero in on how society influences criminal behavior.

Education and Qualifications

    Forensic sociologists usually major in one of the following: sociology, criminology, forensic sociology or forensic psychology. Coursework includes classes in criminal justice, criminal law and crime prevention. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry-level positions. Forensic sociologists who provide expert testimony in trials, must obtain a master's or doctorate degree. Strong analytical and critical thinking skills are a must. Excellent writing and communications skills are a plus.

The Analyst

    Forensic sociologists analyze evidence and research to determine negligence in criminal or civil cases. They may visit a crime scene to study how evidence collected relates to the behavior of a defendant. They pour over research and data to assist lawmakers in establishing public policy. Their analysis of criminal behavior can strengthen or weaken a case. Alternatively, a forensic sociologist can provide analysis to an employer to establish the impact of workplace violence on employees.

The Researcher

    Research is the foundation of forensic science. Consequently, analysis and research are the primary pillars of forensic sociology. Forensic sociologists conduct research on homicide, rape, assault and robbery. This includes interviewing criminals about how and why they committed specific crimes. Forensic sociologists study demographics, socio-economic development and crime statistics. They often share their findings with other criminologists to identify emerging trends. These findings can assist government officials and law enforcement agencies with developing more effective policies and procedures.

The Expert

    The testimony of a forensic sociologist can play a pivotal role in a trial. Forensic sociologists testify for the defense as well as the prosecution. They can provide expert testimony on socio-economic impact on group behavior, such as gang activity, looting and organized crime. They speak at parole and sentencing hearings to determine the likelihood of recidivism. They also provide expert opinion to news media, including insight on the behavior of a serial killer or terrorist.

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