A curiosity for the criminal mind and an enthusiasm for psychology makes a good mix for a career in criminology. A branch of sociology, criminology is the study of criminal behavior to develop theories on criminal motives and thought processes. Applied psychology and sociology are common education paths toward this career. Criminologists may work in academia, law enforcement or in nonprofit organizations.
Criminologists take a critical attitude toward the values, attitudes and behaviors of criminals. Academics often research to develop theories on cause and effect and then write books or publish articles to discuss the results. In law enforcement, you would help develop profiles of a suspect to assist detectives in putting together a motive and the course of events in a crime. Case files, evidence and testimony are the resources typically used to form an opinion of the behaviors and events. Criminologists who run nonprofit programs often develop training and literature to aid in crime prevention through community education.
Attention to Detail
Criminologists sometimes work as consultants to police departments or the FBI. In these instances, detectives use a criminologist because of her ability to take fragmented evidence and weave together a story about the crime. Often, the criminologist works with little more than the evidence files, including tests, images and witness testimony. She combines her sociological and psychological competencies with what the evidence shows to construct a theory of the crime. Footprints, blood spatters, broken glass, weapons and crime location are among details that can contribute to a criminologist's assessment.
To aid in building a credible investigation and case, a criminologist needs a high level of integrity and an ability to act objectively in analyzing evidence. Her input is often used to develop a suspect profile and to lay out a case in court. Personal biases about a crime or potential suspect shouldn't sway the analysis of a case or the judgment on what happened. For instance, an ethical criminologist doesn't form opinions on a crime based on gender, race, religion or other personal qualities of the suspect or victim.
Criminologists are typically strong in both verbal and written communication. Those in legal arenas must communicate their thoughts effectively to detectives and prosecuting attorneys. They also generally prepare a written report upon review of the case to set out the events of the crime. Nonprofit and academic criminologists normally write effectively to prepare research documents or materials for crime prevention programs. They must also communicate well to teach or educate people in communities about the link between certain attitudes and behaviors and criminal activity.
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