If you load up your favorite streaming sites like Netflix or Amazon Prime or peruse the TV schedule on any given evening, it’s almost a certainty that you will see dozens of program choices linked to true crime and wider criminal psychology.
A study performed by polling firm YouGov found that more than half of Americans claim to enjoy true crime content and that around one-in-three people watch a true crime-related show at least once a week.
You would imagine the statistics are also pretty similar in Canada, with The Good Nurse, starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, proving a particular hit on Netflix.
There are a few different theories floating around as to why we love true crime programs without wanting to resort to the criminal lifestyle ourselves. The most common is that we are intrigued to take a walk in the shoes of others, learning about what makes them tick and why they do the things they do while safely lying on the sofa behind a locked front door.
There’s also a fascination with crime scenes, particularly with the techniques used by forensic scientists and other professionals to gather evidence. Some peoples’ interest in criminology goes far deeper than their TV tastes. There are a number of career paths that somebody with a criminology degree can embark on, including forensic science and crime scene investigation but stretching to corrections officers, addiction counseling, and victim advocacy.
There are routes into a criminology career for those that have no background or prior experience in law enforcement and similar fields, so if you are interested in a significant career change – and have an interest in improving the lives of others – then criminology, and its many different facets, could be exactly what you need.
Strings to your bow
You will need more than just an encyclopedic knowledge of CSI: Miami to become an expert in criminology, but there are so many different paths that a degree in the subject can take you down.
From social work and youth advocacy to public safety and legal representation, criminology focuses on one crucial issue that affects society: understanding why individuals are attracted to a life of crime and helping to prevent them from reoffending and escalating their activities in the future.
The advent of online degree courses has enabled many people to embark on a complete career change, and usually, that’s to work in a job that is more rewarding (based upon their personal tastes) or one that helps others beyond money-hungry company owners and shareholders.
There are criminology programs Canada that enables anyone with a suitable educational background to diversify into criminology and its related fields, teaching an array of skills and competencies that can be used in the disciplines already outlined in this article.
Criminology degree programs can be combined with specialism, such as law enforcement and public safety, to open new doors. These courses introduce elements of psychology and mental health analysis, criminal justice, and basic legal practice to hand learners a background that can be applied to many different roles, although of course, it’s the modules linked to criminology that will be of most interest. That’s the assumption based on our collective fascination with true crime shows and podcasts, anyway.
You can learn about the many different facets of criminal behavior. What are the links between criminality and genetic makeup? Are some people compelled to a life of crime due to their cognitive functioning or a mental disorder? Do different personality types influence how likely we are to break the law or abide by the rules?
These are fascinating points for consideration, so not only are criminology degrees an integral part of your proposed career change, but they are rather interesting into the bargain.
There can’t be many degrees course subjects that open as many doors as criminology.
From policing and crime scene investigation, from paralegal to youth work, from prisoner to political risk analyst, the scope is extraordinary.
That’s why criminology degrees are so in demand. They allow you to learn about a wide range of subjects while picking up a certified qualification that can be utilized in a huge range of different fields and sectors.
There’s also the opportunity to specialize, with work experience placements helping you decide which direction you want to take in your new-found career.
You’ll get a nice degree certificate to hang on your wall, but more importantly, you will pick up skills and competencies that can be considered transferable and deployable in many different roles. You’ll learn critical thinking and analysis, with a focus on taking a step backward and looking at problems from a number of different angles.
You’ll learn how to communicate your findings and arguments in a reasoned, considered way while solving problems through analysis and evidence gathering. You’ll learn how to write reports, use data and other findings as key indicators and pick up the basics of psychology and sociology into the bargain.
There’s typically a research element to a criminology degree, so that will indicate your ability to work independently, and all told, you will pick up a broad array of skills that will set you up perfectly for a career in public service or any other field you choose to target.
When you put it that way, there’s no better way for fans of criminology to put their passion into practice.
A Day in the life: Forensic scientist
The importance of DNA in solving serious crimes has led to an increase in the demand for forensic analysis.
A crime scene investigator deploys the techniques and specialisms they learn in their degree programs in the real world, preserving crime scenes and ensuring that all available evidence is appropriately collected and recorded.
This is then passed onto the forensic analyst in the laboratory, whose job is to run clinical tests to try and determine key pieces of information that will help police detectives in their work.
A forensic scientist will take trace evidence collected from crime scenes or unexplained accidents, run a series of tests, be it blood, hair, clothing fibers, and other genetic material, and record their findings. Forensic analysis can be used in police work to determine the cause of injury/death, the identity of the perpetrator, or to assist in DNA profiling.
Ultimately, a forensic scientist is a key figure in the legal system, as it is their reporting that is often the focal point of criminal proceedings against the accused. So much so that it’s not uncommon for forensic analysts to be called to the stand in court cases, providing their expert opinion on the matter at hand.
However, forensic scientists may also be cross-examined by the accused’s defense counsel, and so they need the confidence to be able to communicate their expertise in a highly pressurized environment.
The work can be pretty gruesome at times, and remember, a forensic scientist is more of a reporter than an investigator – they are simply providing their technical assistance to a police detective, who will ultimately use forensic findings as they build a case.
A day in the life: Criminal Psychologist
The role of a criminal psychologist can be wide-ranging, and by the very nature of their work, no two days are the same!
A criminal psychologist can work with the police and law enforcement to build a profile of a suspected criminal and help shortlist possible suspects based upon their conclusions. You may have seen the Netflix show Mindhunter, which reveals the genesis of profiling in the FBI. Their agents worked alongside criminal profilers to crack some of the toughest cases of the 1970s, and those principles remain in place to this day.
But a criminal psychologist might not solely be deployed in profiling. They may provide counseling services to members of law enforcement and criminals themselves, the latter in a bid to reduce the risk of reoffending.
A criminal psychologist may also be asked to provide their expertise to parole boards in determining the suitability of a prisoner for release, as well as appearing in court to offer an opinion on the mental state of the accused.
It’s a tough, demanding job, but one that is packed with variety and of the utmost importance to the delivery of a fair and robust legal system.
A day in the life: Behavioral Analyst
Behavioral analysis focuses on the science of behavior; that is, why people act in a certain way and judging whether they can break the cycle of repeated behavior patterns.
A behavioral analyst can be deployed in legal and law enforcement settings, commenting on the accused in court cases or offenders already behind bars, but there are a number of other deployments too.
Working with young offenders in a bid to help them change their behavior for the better is perhaps one of the most rewarding tasks a behavioral analyst can perform. You will analyze their behavior and offer recommendations on how their actions may be caused by other people or their environment.
A behavioral analyst may also work with children with learning difficulties and other conditions such as autism, helping to understand the individual’s mindset and triggers before recommending changes to improve their life and that of their immediate family.
You will collect data and write reports on your ‘clients’, detailing appropriate techniques that could be used to help modify behavior in a positive way. When deployed effectively with a ‘willing’ participant that does not put-up barriers, the ideas of a behavioral analyst can change lives for the better…. there’s surely no greater job satisfaction than that.
A day in the life: Police Detective
A police detective, or criminal investigator, will lead an investigation into a crime from the minute it is reported until a suspect is charged with a misdemeanor, or the case is closed with no evidence of a crime being committed, i.e., in the case of a car crash.
Most incidents reported to law enforcement will be investigated where there’s a suspicion of criminality. That can range from forced entry and minor assault right through to domestic abuse, burglary, and hate crime, while detectives may also be brought in on missing persons cases.
As you gain more experience, you may decide to choose a specialization in your career, such as homicide.
It goes without saying that the main duty of a police detective is to investigate reported crimes and apprehend the person(s) responsible, which is achieved through the investigation and working alongside other departments, such as forensics.
Detectives are often on hand to support victims after a crime has been perpetrated against them, and they may formally interview suspects or those helpful to their investigations. All crimes must be detailed in writing, so there is a formal audit trail, and so detectives are occasionally at their desks writing up reports and findings.
A day in the life: Probation Officer
The main duty of a probation officer is to supervise and manage those serving jail sentences, ensuring they are behaving appropriately while working closely with prisoners in rehabilitation in a bid to help steer them away from recidivism.
A probation officer may play a key role in the parole process, interviewing individuals who are eligible and assisting the parole board in their decision-making with written reports and risk assessments.
You may be tasked with managing programs designed to alter the behavior of offenders while ensuring they attend supervision meetings and other appointments.
One of the crucial roles that a probation officer performs is working alongside offenders who are about to be released. You will work closely with them to provide emotional support and help to ensure they have the right environment upon release to help them lead a peaceful, law-abiding life free of crime.
Those are just five of the many job roles that criminology students can fulfill upon completion of their learning. Given the variety of these career paths, anyone seeking a marked change in their employment should undoubtedly consider a criminology and policing degree as their starting point for a more fulfilling work life.