Five Things a Criminology Major Wants You to Know

Five Things a Criminology Major Wants You to Know

As I'm wrapping up my degree in criminology, here are some facts I want to share with you about my major.


Brace yourselves.

It is not an "easy" major


It can be frustrating when people assume that criminology is an "easy" major. It is actually quite challenging, as it requires you to think critically, use data to support your claims, and study a variety of theories. For my coursework, I have had to write a lot of papers, reflections, and of course, study for lengthy exams. And no, our exams are not like this:

What was *insert famous serial killer name here*'s favorite color?

We do so much more than study notorious people who have committed shocking crimes. Sometimes the material can be pretty emotional. While criminology is definitely an interesting and fascinating topic, it requires a lot of work and dedication (like any major, really).

Criminology is actually a science


Criminology is an extremely data-driven field. I had to take a course called Research Methods in Criminal Justice, and anyone wanting to pursue a graduate degree in the field will have to study statistics. What we know about crime and the people who commit it comes from scientific method- either quantitative (coding of demographics, statistics, evaluation scores, etc.) or qualitative methods (case studies, surveys, clinical interviews, etc.). This is a very evidence-based field and it is important that crime policy reflects that. What I mean by evidence-based, is that there is scientific, objective, factual data to support claims. This usually comes from studies, experiments, or quasi-experiments (total experiments are not always appropriate due to ethical concerns, but quasi-experiments are no less legitimate). There are so many myths surrounding this field that actually contributes to higher rates of crime! Many amazing researchers (and research assistants) are behind what we know about crime.

We do not all want to be in law enforcement


There are plenty of noble pursuits in the field of criminology. We study it to make the world a better place. There are plenty of ways to do that! Not all of us want to go into law enforcement, although that is a very courageous choice! Many people in law enforcement do have a degree in criminology, but not all do. People may study criminology as an alternative to pre-law, or to become researchers, professors, policy analysts, work in criminal justice reform or victim advocacy, and a plethora of other reasons!

There is so much more to study than serial killers


While serial killers are interesting to study, they are (thankfully) rare. Personally, I am interested in researching mass homicide, as mass shootings are a concern in our country. I hope that through learning about it and understanding it, my future research career can prevent it. However, not all of criminology is about the study of interpersonal violence, either! There are people within the field who study economic crime (burglary, robbery, theft, etc.), white-collar crime (embezzlement, insider trading, Ponzi schemes), environmental crime (illegal dumping, poaching, pollution, etc.), cybercrime (hacking, ransomware, denial of service attacks, etc.), and terrorism (ecoterrorism, left-wing terrorism, right-wing terrorism, etc.), not to mention many more areas of study!

The TV shows we all love are not realistic


I confess: I used to love watching crime dramas. Of course, this was before I took courses in my field. Now that I know how the criminal justice system works and the facts about crime and the people who commit it, I realize just how inaccurate these shows are and it's hard to watch them without thinking "that's not how it works". Occasionally, I will still indulge in a good murder mystery. However, it is important to remember that the reality is nothing like what you see in the media. Criminologists do not have "psychic powers", we are not experts in all things forensics, and crimes are not solved in the blink of an eye. While shows like Criminal Minds and NCIS are great for entertainment, just know that is the sole purpose of the show: to entertain. The truth is, crime is a very somber occurrence and tragic for everyone involved. The good news is, crime is also preventable and the more we learn about it, the more we know how best to prevent it and help those impacted by it!

If you want to make the world a safer place and help others then consider studying criminology!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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