The shows make it all look so glamorous, don’t they? The band of misfits, each a genius in his or her own field – the eccentric problem-solver, the freaky forensics expert, the good-looking head of the department – every crime show nowadays features some permutation of this lineup. Behind all the flashy technology and tie-it-up-in-an-hour storytelling, there is some reality at the core. Criminology is an interesting and exciting subject, and you do have to get a criminology degree in one of its many fields if you’re going to succeed.
Psychology – becoming Bobby Goren
We loved Vincent D’Onofrio’s eccentric genius on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. He was a modern day Sherlock Holmes, seeing meaning in minute details, and able to project himself into the minds of murderers.
Forensic psychology is the field most likely to bring you as close to Goren’s world of crime solving as reality can take you. You may want to begin with a psychology degree, racking up the coursework in abnormal psychology along the way. As you learn the map the mechanisms of the human mind and all its complexity, you will learn the inner workings of the criminal brain.
Crime scene technology
There will be no supercomputers with three-dimensional animation, no ingenious handheld devices that can analyze DNA on the spot. Not yet, anyway. Nevertheless, forensic science technicians have the advantage of engaging in some of the most interesting work. The collection and analysis of physical evidence is only the beginning. Each crime is a puzzle that needs to be assembled from the ground up, and it all has to be done with what you can physically see in front of you. Expect long, hard hours with not much of a traditional reward at the end of the day. The reward will be the work itself.
You don’t have to be a law enforcement officer or detective to be a forensic science technician, but it can open the job market even wider if you are. Thanks to the aforementioned glitzy TV portrayal of the field, the job outlook for this field is pretty competitive. Job availability is based on federal and state budgetary allowances.
A kinder, gentler occupation
The criminal justice system has a great need for social workers, as criminals released from prison need plans for their betterment and reintegration into society. That’s where a social worker comes in.
The job outlook for social workers looks very promising indeed. By 2020, you can expect social work employment to have increased by 25 percent since the beginning of the millennium. Containing a wealth of transferable skills, social work positions aren’t for everyone, but are worth a lot for their experience. Entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree. Most desired positions require licensing and certification. Good people skills, problem-solving skills, and an unwavering compassionate nature are all essential characteristics of the ideal social worker.
The legal side of things
At the heart of it all, criminology involves dealing with matters of law violation. Detectives and investigators on one end, judges, hearing officers, and mediators on the other. Remember, even Goren himself was a detective.
Law enforcement involves rigorous training and requires stamina as well as a thick skin. As with other areas of criminology, the reward of being a protector is the job itself. Those with a strong sense of justice are ideal candidates, as are those able to handle difficult and intense situations with clear-headed reasoning. As for judges, most are elected to their positions. The road to this stage in a career can begin with a job in mediation, requiring a college certification in conflict resolution and a master’s degree in conflict management. It could also begin with the tenacious pursuit of a law degree.
TV fiction aside, technology will dictate the future of criminology. Education in the sciences will benefit anyone looking to explore the intricate structure of this fascinating subject.