A career in criminology can be a rewarding and life-changing job, but it's not always as glamorous as television crime drama shows make it appear. A criminologist studies crime scenes, criminal behavior and autopsies to fully understand what causes criminals to commit unthinkable acts. Analyzing deviant behavior and criminal activities means you're also dealing with victims' painful situations. The negatives of being a criminologist are sometimes overwhelming, so a positive mindset that focuses on the good you're trying to achieve can help you get through difficult cases.
Gruesome Crime Scenes
One of the most difficult duties a criminologist must perform is examining a gruesome crime scene. When murder, violence and abuse are involved, it can make crime analysis an emotionally draining job. According to a survey of criminologists by the "Princeton Review," the gruesome nature of the job "can be intimidating, so someone who likes the intellectual task of understanding patterns and deviations from patterns is well-challenged in this profession." Observing autopsies and analyzing bloody crimes scenes aren't for those with a weak stomach, so a criminologist must be able to handle those types of unfavorable work conditions.
Focus on the Negative
Due to the nature of the job, a criminologist must focus most of her attention on the negative characteristics of human beings. A criminologist not only studies the facts surrounding a crime, she must also dig deep into the criminal mind. She must answer questions as to why a person might behave so irrationally and what led to the destructive behavior. According to an article from the Institute of Criminology and Social Prevention, a criminologist must deal with negative social phenomena, and must address problems and situations in which society and individuals fail. A major disadvantage with being a criminologist is the depressing nature of the job -- humanity is flawed, and individuals can be unfeeling and cruel.
Removed from Law Enforcement
Since a criminologist is likely not an official member of law enforcement, he doesn't get to effectively address criminals with a direct, hands-on approach. He's not a police officer or a detective. So, his reports and analyses help to evaluate and prevent criminal activity, but they aren't used for prosecution. A criminologist was quoted in "The Princeton Review" as saying, "Sometimes it feels like I write reports no one ever reads." A con to being a criminologist is you might feel like you're not truly solving crimes or punishing criminal acts -- you're simply analyzing data.
Limited Job Advancement
There is limited room for career advancement in this profession. Most criminologists work within one agency for their entire career, receiving promotions but never transferring to a different office. For example, if you are hired by a state law enforcement agency, you won't likely transfer from that state agency to a federal agency, according to "The Princeton Review." If you're happy with the job responsibilities and aren't looking for new career paths within the field, a job as a criminologist might be the right choice. If you love change and enjoy relocating or advancing your career, you might be disappointed with a job that doesn't have much versatility.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.