Areas of Study for Criminology Degrees

Just as there are a wide variety of criminology careers, there is also a lot of variety when it comes to criminology degrees. There are associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctoral degrees. There are degrees in forensics, law enforcement, social work, criminal justice, criminology, and so on. It's therefore impossible to describe a course of study that will apply to every kind of criminology degree. However, there are a lot of areas of commonality that all criminology degrees share, and so it's possible to paint a broad picture of what comprises the study of criminology.

For simplicity's sake, we will focus on a four-year bachelor's degree with a criminology major. Of course, like any bachelor's degree, there will be quite a few required courses that have nothing to do with criminology but are included to give the student a well-rounded education. These include English, foreign languages, math, speech, philosophy, literature, basic science, and so on. When it comes to the core requirements for the major, much of the focus will be on behavioral and social sciences, such as psychology and sociology. There will usually be some training on actual investigation techniques, but this won't be emphasized, as it is normal practice for any organization that hires a criminology degree graduate to train them in their own specific policies and procedures in this area.

Getting into the actual courses involved, typically, there will be a required course that serves as an introduction to and a history of criminology. Often, a course in abnormal psychology, such as criminal deviance, will be required.

Research methods in the field are the focus of other common courses. Another course typically involves teaching the basics of forensic science, and another teaches the rudimentary principles of crime scene analysis and logical problem solving. These courses are usually taken in the first couple of years of the degree program.

Upper-level courses, usually taken in the last two years of the degree program, build on the foundation of the lower-level courses. These include the psychology of criminals, professional ethics in the field of criminology, domestic and family violence issues, and so on. Students also have the ability to choose a few criminology courses on their own, in addition to the required ones, called electives.

An associate's degree program of study differs from a bachelor's in a couple of ways. First, there will be fewer general courses, such as English and math. Second, there won't be quite as many criminology courses simply because of the time constraints. Usually, however, it is the non-criminology courses that receive the bulk of the cuts. A person earning an associate's degree gains much of the same professional criminology education as a person in a bachelor's degree program.

Master's and doctoral degrees can only be earned by people who already possess bachelor's degrees, and these graduate degrees are usually highly specialized in one area of criminology.

Last Updated: 06/03/2014

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