The role of the criminologist is very complex. This profession offers individuals an opportunity to delve into a variety of different fields. Essentially, a criminologist is someone who studies criminal behavior, various kinds of crimes and their causes, and cultural reactions to these varying crimes. In addition, criminologists analyze the responsiveness of law enforcement officials and agencies and evaluate the effectiveness of criminal rehabilitation programs.
Regardless of what field they choose to work in, most criminologists design and participate in academic and field research throughout the course of their careers, developing statistical reports that are frequently published and can considerably help society to gain a better understanding of crime as a whole.
The Origins of Crime
A great deal of criminological research focuses on the origins or causes of various forms of crime. Many studies have analyzed a number of patterns that may offer clues as to why certain people deviate from socially accepted, "normal" behavior. Criminological research has helped our society to understand how cultural and social factors influence criminal behavior.
As a part of understanding what motivates criminal behavior, criminologists also analyze the behaviors and methods of known criminals. A deep knowledge of common characteristics found in criminals can increase the chances that law enforcement officials catch a criminal they may be tracking by allowing criminologists to provide the authorities with a profile that can be compared with any possible suspects.
Criminologists are also responsible for measuring the amount of crime locally, nationally, and (sometimes) on a global scale. In these situations, criminologists will frequently work closely alongside law enforcement agencies in order to determine a statistical number for crimes committed. They can also utilize law enforcement databases to discover the characteristics of the criminals who committed the crimes and attempt to analyze demographic and psychological patterns in various kinds of criminals. This analysis helps criminologists and law enforcement officials to produce much more accurate profiles of a criminal that they may be attempting to track.
Preventing and Controlling Crime
Using the data that they generate through research, criminologists can also work towards finding reasonable and workable proposals for the prevention and control of crime in society. A criminologist's ideas may include formulating and implementing educational programs that help society's youth understand the dangers and consequences of committing crimes or participating in criminal behavior. Another part of preventing and controlling crime in society involves the establishment of laws and rules that are typically enforced by authorities. For example, laws prohibiting underage drinking are intended to control minors and prevent underage drinking from occurring.
Analyzing the Responsiveness of Law Enforcement to Crime
In order to know whether laws and other policies intended to curb criminal behaviors are working, criminologists are also responsible for analyzing the responsiveness of law enforcement officials. If officials do not persecute criminals, the laws intended to deter them will likely not succeed. Therefore, criminologists often analyze patterns in the responsiveness of law enforcement in order determine what areas are lacking and what improvements can be made.
Similarly, criminologists will often analyze the legal institutions in society that are set up in order to maintain peace and order and reduce crime. If there are flaws in the various branches of government, including the judicial branch, criminologists can (and often do) expose these issues. For example, criminologists' work has brought a considerable amount of attention to the increase of white-collar crime as a direct result of leniency in the judicial branch.
Analyzing the Rehabilitation of Criminals
Another important duty attributed to criminologists is analyzing the effectiveness of rehabilitation and correctional programs for criminals. Certain treatment programs are designed to help criminals understand the psychological and social causes of their criminal motivations. Criminologists work towards designing and implementing these treatment programs. In addition, these professionals also evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment programs, exposing any flaws that may need rectification and proposing solutions to unresolved issues.
In addition, criminologists research the effectiveness of correctional programs. Correctional programs include jail and prison facilities where criminals are maintained after they have been convicted of their crimes. It is important to understand the effectiveness of these institutions so that criminologists can determine whether spending time in prison propagates or helps to alleviate crime.
Analyzing the Criminal's Role in Society
One of the most interesting tasks for a criminologist is analyzing the criminal's role in society. Not only do criminologists attempt to understand what role these deviant individuals play in our society, for example, as scapegoats; they also analyze how society and the media respond to criminals existing in our society such as the apparent discrepancy between how individuals treat criminals who commit street crimes versus those who commit white-collar crimes.
With so many subfields that fall within the scope of the broader field known as criminology, criminologists can be employed in a variety of different positions. Legal, psychological, and sociological criminologists all exist. Many individuals with legal criminology degrees tend to work for law-enforcement agencies, such as a local police force, or governmentally run agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Alternatively, psychological criminologists will choose to work in the medical field, using their knowledge of criminals and criminal behavior to help design, implement, and/or run criminal rehabilitation programs. And, finally, sociological criminologists generally work alongside public policymakers in order to develop plausible policies and procedures concerning crimes and criminals.
If you think that you fit the role of criminologist, then you should certainly look into the various academic requirements necessary to enter your specific subfield of interest. Most criminology programs include mathematically based subjects such as statistics, computer science, and logic. Other courses typically include writing, so that future criminologists can learn how to write clear, concise arguments when reporting their results or attempting to sway policymakers. Written exams are also typically required before an individual can obtain a criminology license, but may vary from state to state, so check with your local law-enforcement agency for more information about the specific requirements within your state and county.