How to become a criminologist
Criminologists aim to understand criminal behaviour in order to address and eliminate it. Discover how you could break into this fascinating field.
From Dahmer to Mindhunter to those restrained but nonetheless uber-unsettling Nordic noirs, you slavishly watch every serial-killer series and have a theory on whodunnit, why, and even which underlying societal issues contributed to the crime – all within the first five minutes of pressing play. Sound like you? Then a career as a criminologist might be your next move.
But what does a criminologist do, exactly? Criminologists fall under the category of social professionals. Criminologists investigate crimes, gather statistics on crime rates, develop profiles of particular offences, and critically analyse the criminal justice system, its methods and effectiveness. As a criminologist, your purpose is to understand criminal behaviour so you can address and eliminate it.
It’s a profession that lets you think deeply and work in diverse settings and fields – from the police force to corrections, courts to victim support services, related government agencies, and even in the private sector profiling corporate criminals. And, it’s a growing field – with a projected national job growth of 18.9% over the next five years. 1
And, while a career as a criminologist can be time-consuming and has the potential for danger (or excitement, depending on how you choose to look at it), no matter which area you choose to work in, you can rest assured that you’ll be improving society.
What does it take to become a criminologist?
You need analytical, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, but you’ll also need ample empathy and care in order to understand people and their actions.
To work as a criminologist, you need a tertiary qualification. It can take anywhere from three to five years of full-time study to get qualified, depending on your existing studies, experience and if you choose to study a single or double degree.
Jobs for criminologists are varied, multidisciplinary and relatively future-proof. You could specialise in cybercrime, terrorism, crime prevention, law enforcement, juvenile justice, policing strategies, or corrections.
A day in the life of a criminologist is varied. A career as a criminologist could see you working in court rooms, criminal institutions, and office environments.
You could work in offender rehabilitation and reintegration or victim support services. In the legal field ensuring laws keep up with changes in our society, psychology, or security. You could be employed by a government agency developing policy, working with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), the Australian Securities and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), or investigating economic crimes for a private institution like a bank or insurance company. Or, you might work as a consultant or in research. (After all, they need experts to make those true crime dramas feel, well, true.) Which direction you decide to take your criminology career is up to you.
The average salary of a criminologist ranges from around A$53,000 to $113,000 a year, depending on seniority level.
Career proof points from industry
As a criminologist you can expect:
What skills do you need to become a criminologist?
Sure, you need a stellar sleuth game and the ability to spot a pattern. But what other traits and skills do you need to become a criminologist? A career in criminology combines analytical thinking with care. Here are some of the top skills you’ll need:
- Analytical and critical thinking
- Data analysis and interpretation
- Social perceptiveness
- Attention to detail
- Excellent communication
Why study criminology at Swinburne?
When you choose to study a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences/Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Swinburne, you tap into some special benefits and the potential of a future career in forensics.
4 steps to becoming a criminologist
Besides the obligatory grit, out-of-this-world attention to detail, and powerful problem-solving skills, you’ll also need a tertiary qualification, and some official ‘checks’ in order to work as a criminologist. If you’re wondering ‘how long does it take to become a criminologist?’ the answer lies in your existing studies and experience. Generally speaking, it will take you between three to five years of full-time study to get qualified.
1. Get qualified
You’ll need a tertiary qualification in order to become a criminologist. Complete a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology, legal studies, justice studies, Psychology or a related field. You can also, double your knowledge (and ‘hire me’ appeal) with a double degree, like a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences/ Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Criminology.
Hint: There are pathways to degrees, too – like starting with a Diploma of Justice.
|Criminal Justice and Criminology||BA-CRIJUS|
|Duration||3 years full-time|
Guaranteed ATAR score of 60 or via Early Entry Program
|Advanced study pathways||
Students can study this degree as a double with either Law or Psychological Sciences.
Postgraduate opportunities exist but are specific to Law or Psychology and postgraduate pathways to those fields are not guaranteed from this course.
|Diploma of Justice||22594VIC|
|Delivery||On-campus delivery only|
Applicants for the Diploma of Justice (22594VIC) are expected to:
This is because, in this course, you’re required to work independently and use support from a range of unfamiliar and/or unpredictable resources, read complex text with specialised vocabulary, embed information in a justice context, and conduct complex analysis – which includes extracting, extrapolating and reflecting on information.
|Advanced study pathways||Diploma leads into Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Criminology|
2. Apply for a Police Check and a Working With Children Check
Depending on who you’re working for, and what your job is, you might need to undergo these checks. There are fees for both. A Police Check costs around $50. A Working With Children Check costs around $123. They’re relatively easy to apply for and come in handy if you want to do some volunteer work. You can apply for both online or at your local Australia Post.
3. Gain experience
Taking part in an internship or volunteering program will gain you priceless experience and show prospective employers that you’re dedicated to a career in criminology. At Swinburne, you don’t have to wait for the holiday break, or until you’ve graduated, to start building real industry experience. Because, every bachelor degree at Swinburne comes with guaranteed real industry experience. And that means you’ll gain experience while you study.
4. Apply for a job
With those qualifications and work experience now on your CV, you’ll be in a great position to land a thrilling role. And, as a Swinburne student (or recent grad) you also get access to dedicated resources and people to help you find a career you can love.
Kick-start your criminology career at Swinburne.
Like what you see? Browse our next-gen criminal justice and criminology courses to find the one for you. Tomorrow, you’ll be glad you started today.