Qualities of a Successful Criminology Professional

There are a lot of different criminology careers, and at first glance, it may seem that some of them have very little in common with other criminology jobs. There are different educational requirements as well as different work environments for the various jobs within criminology, but many of them also have a great number of similarities. Accordingly, there are certain qualities that a person should possess if they hope to do well as a criminology professional. Let's look at these desired traits.

  • First is an ability to handle and successfully cope with huge amounts of stress. Think of what life is like out on the front lines of fighting crime, whether as a police officer, sheriff's deputy, border patrol agent, or other law enforcement officer. One minute, everything is calm, when suddenly your whole world is thrown into disarray when you encounter a violent criminal suspect and suddenly find your life in danger. Social workers and parole and probation officers also face stress, as they're often dealing with criminals with a history of violence who could turn on them at any minute. It should be pointed out that these are just the extremes of the stress criminology professional face; simply dealing with active and former criminals on a daily basis means stress in these jobs is always going to be much higher than in most occupations.
  • An obvious corollary to the ability to handle stress is physical fitness. Being in good physical shape is a must in criminology careers. We've all heard the jokes about cops and donut shops, and it may be true that some law enforcement officers are out of shape, but that doesn't negate the point. Of course, some would say it's obvious why police officers and other law enforcement personnel need to be in top shape (after all they have to chase, restrain, and often fight with violent criminals), but it's hard to see why social workers and probation officers need to be physically fit.

Well, physical fitness is an absolute requirement for performing to the best of your ability in any job, as our minds and bodies form a holistic system that depends on all parts being in good working order.

  • Also, social workers and probation and parole officers, as pointed out earlier, often deal with criminals and hardened ex-convicts, and these folks are not known for keeping appointments. To keep tabs on them is impossible while sitting behind a desk all day. In other words, part of the job will be tracking people down, and that means getting out and hitting the pavement.

One very important trait that all people in criminology careers must possess is a strong moral center, what some people call a very high ethical standard. People working to uphold the law and fight crime must never be tempted to break the law or cut corners themselves. Of all criminals, the most reviled and disrespected are those who have done violence to others, but right behind them are dirty police officers and other corrupt law enforcement workers. Those who take bribes to look the other way or play favorites because of personal connections erode the respect for law and order that civility depends on. Temptation can be stronger in criminology careers than in most others, and only those with strong moral centers can deal with these temptations.

Of course, the ability to think on one's feet and to make quick decisions (the right decisions) are also necessary attributes of any successful criminology professional. In many situations, there won't be the luxury of enough time to consider all the possible outcomes and ramifications; gut decisions will be required. Not everyone is wired for this sort of thinking.

This being the twenty-first century, computer and technical skills are also necessities. Anyone who can't operate in a high-tech environment and keep up with technological change will be quickly left behind.

Finally, a strong sense of empathy will be required. It goes without saying that people in criminology careers should empathize with victims of crime, but what many don't understand is that they must also have empathy for criminals. This isn't sympathy but empathy, the recognition that, for all their flaws, criminals are still human beings and must be treated as such.

All these qualities discussed above are necessary for success in criminology careers; anyone who lacks any of them will have a very difficult time in this line of work.

Last Updated: 06/03/2014

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