Graduates with a bachelor’s in criminology have an understanding of the cause and impact of crime. Students focus on the nature of the criminal justice system and the connections between law and social justice. Many graduates pursue employment in law enforcement-related fields.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an overall growth rate of 5% in protective service occupations between 2016 and 2026.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an overall growth rate of 5% in protective service occupations between 2016 and 2026. A criminology bachelor’s degree can also lead to careers in social and community services, with a projected increase of 18% through 2026. An undergraduate criminology degree serves as a strong foundation for advanced graduate and professional training and prepares students for master’s and doctoral programs in social science, social work, counseling, and law.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Criminology?
A bachelor’s in criminology and a bachelor’s in criminal justice share subject matter, but have important differences. Criminal justice generally focuses on law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Criminology degrees place crime and criminal behavior as a social phenomenon within the social sciences and emphasize legal and social justice issues.
Students may choose to earn their bachelor’s in criminology online or on-campus. An online degree may suit the needs of working professionals or those looking for a career change. An on-campus bachelor’s in criminology may appeal to high school graduates who want the experience of a traditional classroom environment.
Students in on-campus programs benefit from personal advisors, faculty mentorships, collaborative study, and student networks. Many programs encourage students to develop skills through internships and independent research. Whether attending online or on-campus, students may take advantage of career placement services as they near graduation. An undergraduate criminology degree provides graduates with a strong theoretical foundation and applied experiences that translate into a competitive edge in the workplace or graduate school.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Criminology?
A criminology degree equips graduates with the skills to apply theoretical perspectives to practical applications. A bachelor’s in criminology can lead to a career in law enforcement, criminal investigation, public affairs, government, or social and community services. While many graduates find jobs in the criminal justice system, such as police, probation, or corrections officers, others may pursue employment in courts or legal offices. Graduates with strong communication skills may enjoy counseling and conflict mediation. Those who have developed computer skills and data analysis can find rewarding careers in security, forensics, and investigative services.
- Social and Community Service Managers
Managers work for a variety of social service organizations, coordinating programs and managing community organizations. They administer services and organize outreach activities for clients.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100
Projected Growth Rate: 18%
- Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
These specialists help negotiate, manage, and resolve antagonism between disputing parties. This occupation generally requires a bachelor’s degree in criminology.
Median Annual Salary: $60,670
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Probations Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
These specialists facilitate the rehabilitation of criminal offenders. They help offenders fulfill the conditions of their parole, avoid recidivism, and connect them with social services.
Median Annual Salary: $51,410
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Detectives and Investigators
These professionals collect evidence for criminal cases and conduct investigations for suspected violations of federal, state, or local laws. They can conduct surveillance, investigate insurance fraud, or uncover corporate espionage. Investigators working for insurance or financial companies may need training in computer forensics, informatics, and business practices.
Median Annual Salary: $50,700
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor
Counselors work with clients struggling with substance abuse and behavioral disorders. Some counselors work with clients who have been referred through the court system. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for most companies.
Median Annual Salary: $43,300
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Criminology
With so many different curriculum options, carefully consider program requirements before enrolling in a college. A bachelor of arts in criminology and psychology requires a core set of courses in the liberal arts and sciences, in addition to criminology classes. A bachelor of science in criminology has a strong emphasis on methodology, statistical analysis, and practical applications. In addition to program requirements, look for regionally and nationally accredited schools.
Students who enroll full time can finish their degree within four years. An online criminology degree may take as little as two years. Students who work or have family commitments may prefer the flexibility of an online program.
The cost of a bachelor’s in criminology depends on the program and location. While an out-of-state school may be more expensive, some online programs charge the same tuition rate regardless. Online programs often charge technology fees. Whereas an on-campus school requires budgeting for other expenses, like housing, transportation, and food. Some online programs may require occasional on-campus classes. To help offset costs, investigate work-study opportunities or on-campus jobs.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor’s Programs in Criminology
Colleges and universities may receive either national or regional accreditation, while degrees within a school may earn specialized programmatic accreditation. Technical, vocational, and for-profit schools generally hold national accreditation. These schools have less rigorous admission requirements and inexpensive tuition. Regional accreditation requires higher academic standards.
Accreditation status affects federal financial aid eligibility, and students cannot transfer course credits earned at unaccredited schools. Employers and graduate programs often give preference to graduates from accredited schools.
The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences administers the only programmatic accreditation in criminology and criminal justice in the U.S. Only a very small number of undergraduate programs have qualified for this designation.
Bachelor's in Criminology Program Admissions
Each school establishes its own admission requirements. While many on-campus programs consider ACT or SAT scores, most schools consider other factors, like overall academic performance and co-curricular service. Since online programs often target working professionals, admissions requirements may not require standardized tests or a baseline GPA.
- Minimum GPA: Most schools require a minimum 2.5 or 3.0 GPA. They may consider a lower high school GPA if grades show steady improvement from ninth through twelfth grade.
- Application: Filling out applications can take several weeks. Students can use the Common App to make the process easier, which allows you to fill out one form for multiple schools.
- Transcripts: Most college applications require an official high school transcript documenting your date of graduation, grades, and earned credits. High schools usually charge a small fee for each transcript.
- Letters of Recommendation: Some schools require three or more recommendations. Make sure you give your recommenders at least a month to write the letter.
- Test Scores: Students should take the SAT or ACT during their junior year or early senior year. Colleges consider test scores alongside other factors in their admission process.
- Application Fee: Most schools charge an application fee. Students should expect to pay an average of $40 for each college application. Some schools offer application fee waivers to students demonstrating financial hardship.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Criminology?
While programs differ by school, most curriculums address the study of crime as a social science and teach historical and theoretical foundations, research methods, and contemporary challenges. Many programs offer concentrations. Once a student has completed introductory coursework, they may choose a concentration that reflects their interests and career aspirations.
|Juvenile Justice||This concentration trains students to work with juvenile offenders and troubled youth. Coursework introduces students to the juvenile justice system in the United States. The concentration covers the evolution of childhood and adolescence as social phenomena and developmental psychology.||Juvenile probation and parole officers, juvenile correctional counselors, adolescent substance abuse counselors, and social service caseworkers|
|Social Inequality, Crime, and Justice||This concentration examines racial, ethnic, class, and gender inequality in crime rates. Courses include the school-to-prison pipeline, arrest and sentencing disparities, and juvenile waivers to adult courts. Coursework provides a foundation for advanced degrees and careers in law, social science, and social work.||Attorneys, legal advocates, postsecondary educators, juvenile caseworkers, and counselors|
|Justice Informatics||The study of justice informatics prepares technologically proficient graduates for expanding career opportunities in security, intelligence and computer forensics. Students learn analytical and computer-based skills to respond to data breaches and prevent fraud, hacking, and threats to national security.||Forensic technicians, Intelligence security analysts, informatics specialists, and cyber and fraud investigators|
|Law and Society||Often selected by students interested in law school, this concentration focuses on public law, the judicial process, constitutional law, criminal law, the criminal court system, and family law. Seminars address contemporary issues including human rights, hate crimes, and surveillance and privacy.||Attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, legal advocates, and postsecondary educators|
|Restorative Justice||Restorative justice is an alternative approach to crime that focuses on victim needs. Students learn about models that bring together offenders, victims, and affected family members to seek solutions and restitution.||Restorative justice coordinators and coaches, conflict mediators, and victim advocates.|
Courses in a Bachelor’s in Criminology Program
Bachelor’s in criminology programs vary significantly in coursework, graduation requirements, and programmatic emphases. Undergraduates take classes such as criminological theory, juvenile delinquency, and policing. Some schools emphasize research methodology, applied practicum, or internship experiences. Below are some of the more common course offerings:
- Introduction to Criminology
A prerequisite for most courses, this class introduces students to the study of criminal behavior, laws and norms, and social perceptions about crime and criminals. Topics include theoretical explanations of crime, social psychological determinants of crime, and contemporary issues. The course emphasizes methods of policing and punishment, criminal justice reform, and crime prevention.
- Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile Justice
This course prepares students for a wide range of careers in law enforcement, probation services, and counseling. Students learn about the social construction of childhood, adolescence, and delinquency, with an emphasis on the contemporary U.S. juvenile justice system.
- Police and Society
This course examines the demographics of police forces and social control. Students interested in law enforcement and social service careers will find this course useful. Topics address diversity and police, the role of the media and perceptions of police, and police as a unionized workforce.
- Criminological Theory
Through intensive reading, written analysis, and discussions, students evaluate major criminological paradigms, including classical, positivist, social disorganization, differential association, labeling, deterrence, and feminist theories. Students learn to apply these theories to contemporary issues. This seminar provides a foundation for graduate work, or careers in law, social services, or postsecondary education.
- Conflict Resolution
This course presents conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation. Course content covers the forces that affect conflict escalation and de-escalation and is designed for students exploring careers in conflict management and counseling. Students learn facilitative mediation techniques through interactive exercises and simulations.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in Criminology?
An undergraduate criminology degree consists of approximately 120 credits. Students need to decide if they will attend classes full time or part time. While some students can maintain continuous enrollment until graduation, others may attend part time for one or more semesters. While full-time status usually requires 12 hours each semester, most programs require students to take more than the minimum course load to finish within four years.
Some accelerated programs may lead to degrees in 18 months. Students may shorten the time to graduation by transferring credits from other colleges or earning AP credit.
How Much Is a Bachelor’s in Criminology?
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that full-time undergraduates at both public and private nonprofit four-year institutions paid higher average tuition and fees in 2016 and 2017 than in 2010 and 2011. The average tuition for public four-year institutions increased to $8,800, a 12% increase from 2010 and 2011. The average tuition for private nonprofit four-year schools increased by 15%, $33,500 during the same period. Students should apply for scholarships and financial aid, and can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application to find their eligibility for federal loans or grants.
Each college determines tuition rates differently. Consider whether a program at a public institution offers better value than a private school, and compare in-state and out-of-state tuition. Besides tuition, budget for books and supplies, room and board, food, and transportation. When selecting colleges, research the cost of living in the communities around campus.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor’s in Criminology Prepares For
- Forensic Counselor and Criminal Justice Specialist Certifications
The NAFC offers several voluntary clinical and non-clinical certifications, including forensic counselor, sex offender treatment specialist, juvenile treatment specialist, domestic violence counselor, and addictions counselor. Non-clinical certification requires a bachelor’s degree, a state license where applicable, supervised experience, and a passing exam score.
- Certified Protection Professional
This certification provides credentials to security professionals working in IT security and cybercrime. The CPP credential demonstrates knowledge and competency in the major domains of security risk assessment. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and seven years of security experience.
- National Professional Certification in Mediation
NCPM certification requires 40 hours of specialized training. The designation assists candidates with the training necessary to establish themselves in mediation and conflict resolution. The association also administers a certified mediator course.
- Certified Fraud Examiner
The CFE credential establishes qualifications for professionals working in fraud detection and deterrence. Applicants must demonstrate an understanding of finance and law. Candidates for certification must pass an exam covering financial transactions and fraud schemes, fraud investigation methods, and law.
- Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst
The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts established this credential to recognize high standards of professionalism for intelligence and forensic analysts. BA graduates may apply for the basic certification. Applicants with five or more years of experience and advanced training can receive a higher tier credential.
Resources for Criminology Students
NCJRS sponsors an online archive that provides summaries of over 200,000 research studies in criminal justice, juvenile justice, and substance abuse. The library offers full-text versions of federally funded studies.
NGC offers resources, practical tools, and statistics to assist practitioners, researchers, and policymakers in their efforts to reduce gang involvement and implement effective strategies for gang prevention, intervention, and suppression.
OJJDP operates the official government repository for statistics, research articles, and fact sheets on all aspects of juvenile justice and delinquency. It features online publications on legislation, youth gangs, missing and abducted children, and children’s exposure to violence.
NCIRC, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, provides information on crime and violence prevention for law enforcement officers, researchers, and members of the public. The center provides materials for criminal justice agencies and professionals.
The NIJ archives contain several categories of accessible criminal justice research and educational resources, including journal articles, audio tapes, and multimedia presentations. The website also includes a list of training courses for students and professionals.
Professional Organizations in Criminology
Professional associations in criminology represent the major fields within the discipline, offering information on developments, continuing education and credentials, and the opportunity to connect with mentors. Most professional associations offer undergraduate students discounted memberships, invitations to conference and networking events, grant opportunities, and access to job banks and career resources.
This international society promotes current scholarship, research, and teaching in criminology and criminal justice. The society sponsors an annual conference, an employment exchange, and career resources. Students comprise 30% of ASC membership.
Representing the interests of corrections professionals, ACA sponsors professional development, training programs, and conferences. The association advocates for the establishment of accreditation standards for correctional organizations and administers the Certified Corrections Professional program.
ACJS represents over 2,800 professionals, researchers, educators, and students in the fields of criminal justice and criminology. The academy sponsors conferences and workshops, publishes research, and oversees the ACJS certification program.
This organization advances forensic science and its application to law and criminal investigation. Student members may access career placement services and credential information. AAFS publishes the Journal of Forensic Sciences and sponsors an annual conference.
This organization represents the interests of professionals working in all areas of the justice system. NCJA addresses crime control and crime prevention issues. Student members receive access to networking events, free webinars, and discounted conference fees.