Earning a Criminology Degree: Everything You Need To Know

Criminology studies patterns of crime to determine the motivations behind criminal activity. With a criminology degree, you learn to explore human behavior on a psychological and sociological level to understand why people commit serious crimes and how society might reduce or prevent more crimes from occurring.

Some criminology professionals examine evidence at crime scenes or in laboratories; others study the behavior patterns of people who commit crimes. Yet other criminologists work in courts or within the correctional system. Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminology prepares you for many of these careers.

If you’re planning a criminology career, a bachelor’s degree is a great place to start. Many criminology jobs require a bachelor’s; this degree may also prepare you to advance your education with a master’s or doctoral degree.

In this article, we explore everything you need to know about earning a bachelor’s in criminology, including typical courses, admission requirements and potential careers you may pursue with this degree.

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What Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology?

A bachelor’s degree in criminology provides an introduction to criminological research methods, criminal behavior theories and the criminal justice system. Criminology majors develop strong critical thinking and research skills applicable in various criminology jobs. They also explore the use of statistics in crime prevention, ethical issues, forensic psychology and other subjects related to the criminology field.

It usually takes full-time students four years to earn a bachelor’s in criminology, which typically requires around 120 credits.

Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology

The exact requirements for admission to a criminology program vary by school, below are some commonly required admission materials:

  • Application
  • High school diploma, GED certificate or the equivalent
  • Transcripts from high school or previous college coursework
  • Minimum GPA (2.5 or 3.0 is typical)
  • SAT or ACT scores

Common Courses in a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology

Every criminology program determines its own unique curriculum, but some courses are standard among most programs. Below we explore a few common courses for a bachelor’s in criminology.

Crime and the Media

This course focuses on how the media portrays perpetrators, criminal activity and the criminal justice system, including celebrity status, race, and physical characteristics of victims and perpetrators. It aims to encourage students to think critically as they consume information from the media about crime. This course also explores how the media may influence criminal activity.

The Female Offender

This course looks at the many issues related to female offenders, covering the concepts of gender, attitudes toward female perpetrators, and how women and girls are treated within the criminal justice system. It also highlights the predicaments of mothers who are incarcerated and the history of capital punishment’s effects on women.

Crime Analysis and Solutions

Students in a crime analysis and solutions course research the methodologies criminologists use in their work, learning to evaluate research-based policing tactics. This course also explores ways to identify criminal behavior patterns using common tools and available technology.

Criminology and Public Policy

Learners in this course explore how criminologists factor into the criminal justice field, including their influence on the creation and advancement of public policy. A criminology and public policy class examines behavioral theories, social control, and the complex relationship among civil liberties, the Constitution and U.S. public policy.

Crime Typologies and Criminal Behavior

This course reviews the taxonomy of criminal behavior systems and different types of crimes. Students learn about different classification systems and criminal justice agencies apply and use typologies. It also explores the motivations behind chronic offenders’ behaviors.

What Can You Do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology?

Let’s look at popular career paths for criminology majors. The salary data below comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Glassdoor.


Median Annual Salary: Around $50,500
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree, master’s in criminology or a related field sometimes preferred
Job Overview: Criminologists study patterns in criminal behavior to understand what motivates criminals to commit crimes. Their overall goal is to prevent or reduce future crimes. These professionals rely on statistical data, interviews, surveys and other research to inform crime prevention initiatives. Criminologists may work out in the field, in government offices or in university settings.

Criminal Profiler

Median Annual Salary: Around $48,400
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Overview: Criminal profilers study human behavior, focusing on patterns of criminal behavior, to determine a perpetrator’s motivation for committing a crime. They typically collaborate with forensics professionals and law enforcement officers to identify and apprehend perpetrators. They use interrogation techniques, study evidence from crimes and solve criminal cases.

Detective or Criminal Investigator

Median Annual Salary: $86,280
Minimum Required Education: High school diploma or undergraduate degree
Job Overview: Detectives and criminal investigators collect evidence and investigate crimes such as assaults, robberies, incidents of fraud and homicides. They typically interview witnesses, arrest suspects, review factual information and records, and assist other officers during police raids. To learn more, see our guide on how to become a homicide detective.

Probation Officer

Median Annual Salary: $59,860
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s in criminal justice, criminology or a related field
Job Overview: Probation officers work with former inmates on probation or parole and offenders in custody. Their responsibilities may include interviewing, evaluating and counseling people after they have been released from incarceration. They may also administer drug tests and testify in court or at parole hearings. Parole officers have similar jobs.

Correctional Officer

Median Annual Salary: $49,610
Minimum Required Education: High school diploma, bachelor’s degree or relevant professional experience sometimes preferred
Job Overview: Correctional officers work in jails or prisons with incarcerated people. Their work may include monitoring inmates, enforcing rules, handling assaults and disturbances, inspecting inmate cells and reporting on inmates’ behavior. If an inmate needs an escort to court or a medical facility, a correctional officer may also handle this.

Forensic Science Technician

Median Annual Salary: $63,740
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Overview: Forensic science technicians usually work at crime scenes or in laboratories as they gather and analyze evidence from crimes. At crime scenes, they take photos and collect weapons, fingerprints and other evidence. Their laboratory work may include examining ballistics data, studying DNA evidence, and working with dental or toxicology experts to find clues and information about crimes. Learn more in our guide to careers in forensic science.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology

Should I get a BS or BA in criminology?

A BA in criminology provides more opportunities for liberal arts coursework and general electives. A BS in criminology offers more coursework in the sciences. A BA is a great option for many criminology careers, but if you want a more science-focused career, a BS may suit you better.

What is a BA in criminology good for?

A BA in criminology prepares you for various careers in the criminology field, many of which require a bachelor’s degree. Criminology majors learn about the human mind and why people choose to commit serious crimes.

Can you become an FBI agent with a criminology degree?

If you want to become an FBI agent, you need at least a bachelor’s degree. The FBI doesn’t require any specific major for their agents, so yes, you can become an FBI agent with a criminology degree.

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