Students pursuing an online criminology degree enjoy fulfilling career opportunities. Graduates can apply their skills in research, critical analysis, and investigation to better understand the motives of criminals and how society responds to perpetrators and victims. This guide provides important information for prospective criminology students, including details about the application process, common courses, potential career paths and salaries, and the importance of accreditation.
Overview of Criminology Degrees
Criminology refers to the scientific study of crimes and the people who commit them. By completing a bachelor’s in criminology, degree seekers learn how and why crime happens, how the law and criminal justice system should respond, and what factors lead to a person committing a criminal act. By contrast, students seeking a criminal justice degree learn how to apply criminology theories to become criminal justice professionals, such as law enforcement officers.
The majority of online bachelor's in criminology programs do not require students to visit campus during the degree, but learners should check with individual programs to confirm whether the degree operates fully online or in a hybrid format.
Many students pursuing an online criminology degree focus on studying underlying causes of crime rather than working as a law enforcement official. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roles for sociologists, including professionals studying the causes of crime, are projected to grow 1% by 2026.
Students applying to online criminology degrees at the bachelor's level must meet several requirements for admission. Many colleges and universities accept The Common Application, which allows students to submit multiple applications simultaneously.
While application processes vary by school, applicants typically need to meet minimum GPA and standardized test score requirements, possess a high school diploma or equivalent, and provide basic contact information. Applicants may also need to write an essay outlining their professional and academic goals and submit letters of recommendation from teachers, supervisors, or mentors that can speak to their readiness for college-level work.
If learners elect to follow a degree completion program, they need at least 60 completed credits at the time of application and to meet GPA requirements. They must also submit official transcripts from all schools attended.
What Will I Learn?
Bachelor of science in criminology students study how law and society function in the U.S. and abroad. Most online criminology degrees divide the typical 120 required credits into various categories. In most cases, general education courses account for approximately 60 credits, while core degree requirements comprise an additional 30-35 credits. The remaining 25-30 credits go toward elective studies that allow students to customize their degree to their interests.
This course exposes learners to the theories and frameworks involved in understanding the criminal mind. Students review the psychological reasons behind why individuals commit crimes and the psychosocial factors that contribute to unlawful acts.
Introduction to Criminology
Typically taken in the first year of studies, this survey course introduces students to the tenets of criminology, provides an overview of how criminology has shifted and evolved over history, and delves into primary criminology theories. Learners also study common criminology vocabulary.
Students in this course review the roles victims play in criminal acts and study why victims do or do not report the unlawful behavior they endure. Students also study services and frameworks that protect and support victims.
Criminology Research Methods
Students study how to conduct research that can hold up against scrutiny by the media and general public. Degree seekers review contemporary criminology issues and how to develop research questions and conduct studies.
The Criminalization of Black Males
This upper-level class reviews common stereotypes regarding black American males and the criminal justice system, emphasizing how to dismantle the harmful views that threaten the lives of black men. Other topics include identity, manhood, and the political status of black males.
Students learn how criminology studies are conducted worldwide. Learners review the four major legal traditions (civil law, socialist law, common law, and Islamic law) and how courts, police, and corrections departments function.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology?
Graduates from an online bachelor’s in criminology gain marketable skills that lead to fulfilling careers, such as research, project management, and critical-thinking skills. The following sections discuss the skills and knowledge that criminology students gain as well as potential careers and salaries for criminology graduates.
Given the academic emphasis of a criminology bachelor's degree, research factors heavily into the work students complete. Students learn how to conduct research experiments, translate results into accessible findings, and correlate findings with criminal behaviors and trends. Managing multiple research projects affords students valuable project management skills.
Students also gain problem-solving skills, learning to observe and analyze problems to identify viable solutions. Additionally, the collaborative nature of higher education means that students develop the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in a professional environment. Students learn how to respect differing opinions and toggle between being a leader and team member.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Graduates of online criminology degrees can pursue roles in government agencies, nonprofits, and private businesses. Individuals interested in solving crimes may pursue intelligence work, while professionals drawn to helping others may work with victims. Graduates can also join the legal industry, working as a paralegal. Some students may choose to pursue an advanced degree after graduation to become a university professor. The following roles are just a few of the job opportunities criminology graduates can pursue.
Annual Median Salary: $46,678
Paralegals support lawyers and other legal professionals. They may file motions and pleadings, prepare court briefs, review legal documents, and prepare memoranda.
Annual Median Salary: $50,489
Police officers work to maintain law and order in their cities. They may patrol neighborhoods, arrest criminal suspects, collect evidence, and provide court testimony.
Annual Median Salary: $66,956
Intelligence analysts review clues, collect and analyze data, and monitor criminal suspects to solve crimes. They may work for the FBI, CIA, police force, or a private company.
Annual Median Salary: $34,678
Victim advocates work for nonprofits and government agencies, advocating for victims of abuse. They help clients develop exit plans, secure medical care, identify safe housing, and connect with necessary services.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Criminology?
Graduates of an online criminology degree at the bachelor's level enjoy a variety of entry-level roles that do not require advanced education. However, students interested in leadership roles with more responsibility and higher pay should consider pursuing an advanced degree. Before applying to a master's in criminology degree, make sure to review the admissions requirements. Some programs require applicants to possess a minimum number of years of work experience for acceptance.
Accreditation for Criminology Bachelor’s Programs
Degree seekers should ensure that prospective bachelor’s in criminology programs are accredited. Accreditation expands employment, financial aid, certification, and education opportunities. Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, while programs within a school may receive programmatic accreditation. Since there is no programmatic accrediting agency for criminology programs, students should look for national or regional accreditation in prospective schools.
Examples of accrediting agencies include the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Students should use the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to confirm a school's accreditation status.
Criminology Professional Organizations
Professional organizations offer many benefits for criminology students and graduates. Members enjoy networking opportunities, regional groups, job boards, career advice, and up-to-date research. Some organizations offer discounted membership for students as well as mentorship opportunities.
The American Society of Criminology
Founded in 1941, the ASC provides helpful resources to criminologists. The society hosts several divisions and local chapters throughout the country, in-house publications, an active job board, and an annual conference.
International Society of Criminology
Founded in Rome in 1937, the ISC provides worldwide meetings, publications and activities for members, and news and information about how the criminology industry is progressing globally.
Southern Criminal Justice Association
The SCJA serves criminal justice educators, researchers, practitioners, and students in the southern states. It offers an annual conference, academic journal, awards, and job listings for members. Similar associations exist for residents in regions outside of the south.