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A complete guide to criminology degrees

Intrigued about the world of criminology? Learn everything you need to know about criminology degrees, and set yourself up for an exciting crime-busting career.

Woman in a lab

There’s a reason why true crime, detective shows and thrillers are so popular. The dark world of crime intrigues people from all walks of life, whether they’re interested in the justice system, forensic science, or the psychology of criminal minds.

If you’re one of those people who secretly thinks you’d be great at solving crimes, there are actually several exciting and respectable careers you could go into. A criminology degree is the perfect place to start, so keep reading to find out more.

What is a criminology degree?

Criminology is quite literally the study of crime, combining teachings from subjects including psychology, sociology, biology and law, among others. On a criminology degree, you’ll look at crime from all different angles. What causes crime? How do we catch criminals? Should we deal with criminal behaviour through preventative or punitive measures?

You’ll also step into the shoes of various criminology professionals: the forensic scientist analysing evidence, the detective observing victim reports, and the psychologist deciphering body language. Perhaps you already know which of these roles appeals to you most – but if not, don’t sweat. A criminology degree offers you the opportunity to try it all.

What are the different types of criminology degrees?

Degrees in criminology tend to focus on preparing students for a career in the field, and there are various kinds of criminology degrees depending on what you’re most interested in. 

For example, if you have more of a background in humanities and are interested in the social side of criminology, you could take a Bachelor of Arts. If you’re more fascinated by forensics and the science behind crime solving, a Bachelor of Science will be more up your street. 

Below we’ve listed some of the more popular degree options.

  • BA Criminology
  • BSc Criminology
  • BSc Psychology with Criminology
  • MSc Forensic Psychology
  • MA Criminal Justice
  • MA Criminological Psychology 
  • MA Criminology
Online Degree

BA (Hons) Criminology

  • 3+ years
  • undergraduate
  • Flexible Learning
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How long does it take to get a criminology degree?

Below we’ve listed the average lengths of time it takes to get a criminology degree, depending on whether you study at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

  • Bachelor’s degree: 3-4 years
  • Master’s degree: 1-2 years 

Not everyone has enough time to commit to a full-time, campus based degree, but there are different options out there. Whether you’re interested in a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you’ll normally have the option to study part-time over a slightly longer period of time, if that suits your current life situation.

You may also have the option of completing a placement year on your criminology degree, where you’ll have one year of work experience in a criminology-focused career of your choosing. This is a great opportunity to figure out what you really want to do.

Entry requirements for a criminology degree

As usual with university entry requirements, what you need to get in will depend on the quality of the institution and their criminology department. However, there are some average grade requirements that you might want to aim for:

A-levels: CCC

Scottish Highers: BBBB

BTEC: MMM

You don’t need to have completed A-levels to get a degree in criminology – in fact, there are some really exciting diplomas and apprenticeships out there that’ll prepare you more for the practical side of criminal investigations. But again, this will depend on your specialism. If you want to be a criminal lawyer, for example, you might need to go down the more traditionally academic route.

Below, we dive into some must-haves and good-to-haves when it comes to applying for a criminology degree.

Must-haves 

  • Academic qualifications
  • Passion for criminology
  • Good work ethic
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Strong moral compass.

Good-to-haves 

  • Relevant work experience 
  • Charity volunteering, particularly crime or justice related charities
  • Online criminology courses
  • Analytical mindset
  • Engaged with criminology via books, the news, podcasts or television.

How much does a criminology degree cost?

Anxious about the cost of university? Luckily for UK students, most people receive a student loan that covers their tuition fees and helps with living costs. Even better, you only have to start paying it back once you cross an income threshold.

Undergraduate degrees cost £9,250 per year on average for UK students, but in Northern Ireland the fee is £4,750, and Scottish students study for free when they go to a university in Scotland. International students can expect to pay higher fees across the UK.

Master’s degrees are somewhere between £12,000 and £25,000 depending on institution and whether you’re a full-time student. Something you might not be aware of, however, is that online degrees are often cheaper. 

Funding options for criminology degrees

University can certainly be expensive, but there are things you can do to lessen the burden on your wallet. Besides student loans, there are scholarships, grants and sponsorships out there for postgraduate courses, and some institutions even offer financial aid packages or payment plans. So, make sure to always do your research!

Where to look

How to get into a degree in criminology

Now onto the crucial part – how do you get onto a criminology degree? In the UK, you can apply through UCAS for undergraduate programs, or apply directly to your chosen university for postgraduate degrees. 

Something you’ll want to make sure you get right is writing your personal statement – this is your opportunity to express why you’re suited to a career in criminology, what your motivations are and how your experience has prepared you.

Personal statement tips

  • Reveal how you got interested in criminology. Refer to specifics that piqued your interest, whether that’s classic crime novels, a docuseries, or a real-world criminal case that fascinated you.
  • Highlight your relevant experience. While this could be work experience in law enforcement or legal settings, this might also include any time you’ve spent debating ethical or criminal issues.
  • Be honest. Show off your accomplishments and qualifications but don’t over-embellish, and remember to be yourself.
  • Offer personal insights and learnings. Demonstrate that you’re aware of the challenges that come with a career in criminology, and show that you’ve gained new skills and knowledge from your work or volunteering experiences.

What does a criminology degree cover?

As we mentioned previously, the contents of your criminology degree may be more geared towards different specialisms, whether that’s human psychology, criminal law, or forensic science. However, generalist criminology degrees tend to cover a mixture of all of these – below you can check out some example modules you might find on your curriculum.

Example modules:

  • The criminal justice system
  • Punishment vs. rehabilitation
  • Modern day policing
  • Restorative justice
  • Sociology of criminal behaviour
  • Forensic science
  • Witness investigation
  • Organised crime
  • Theory of crime and punishment
  • Social policy
  • Childhood causes of crime.

You can also expect to learn all kinds of skills on a criminology degree. While some of them will be specific to criminology, you’ll also gain plenty of transferable soft skills. Take a look below.

Hard skills:

  • Legal comprehension
  • Evidence analysis
  • Data interpretation
  • Forensic science and technology
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Research methods.

Soft skills:

  • Complex problem-solving
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Attention to detail
  • Observation
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy and cultural awareness.

How will you be assessed on a criminology degree?

Assessments normally consist of a mixture of exams, essays, group projects and practical assignments, depending on where you study. Additionally, bachelor’s and master’s of science are more likely to include assessments based in a lab. So, no matter what your strengths and weaknesses are, you’ll get a chance to shine.

How difficult is a degree in criminology?

Criminology can be somewhat challenging because it covers so many different subjects, areas of expertise, and skills. One minute you might be exploring how childhood trauma causes deviance, then the next minute you’ll be studying counter-terrorism strategies. 

However, what makes criminology challenging is also what makes it so dynamic and interesting. You’re guaranteed to learn so many new things, explore bucketloads of fascinating criminal cases, and pick up specialist skills.

Job satisfaction and growth of criminology jobs

Working in crime can certainly be difficult – you are often working in high-stress environments where the lives of both victims and perpetrators are on the line.This means that there can be long working hours and heavy workloads, so you have to be prepared for a job that won’t always be sunshine and daisies. 

On the other side of that, you’re able to make a really tangible difference to the lives of a lot of people in this field of work, and that’s hugely rewarding. In addition, there are pretty good prospects for many careers in criminology.

For example, forensic scientists can expect a 16% increase in job outlook in 2030 compared to 2020, and UK law enforcement is always looking for new talent. In particular, the UK police are seeking wannabe detectives to receive training and join their ranks.

Career paths: What jobs can you get with a criminology degree?

While you probably already have some jobs in mind that you’re interested in, a criminology degree opens up so many opportunities for you. Perhaps, you might find yourself in a career that you never even heard of before. Check out our list of potential careers for criminology graduates below.

  • Law Enforcement Officer (including police officer, detective, and federal agent)
  • Corrections Officer
  • Forensic scientist
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Probation and Parole Officer
  • Social Worker
  • Victim Advocate
  • Criminal Justice Policy Analyst
  • Corrections Treatment Specialist
  • Criminal lawyer
  • Crime Analyst
  • Academic Researcher 
  • Youth Counsellor.

Salary prospects: How much do criminology graduates earn?

As a graduate, your salary may vary quite a lot depending on the job you land. But so you know roughly what to expect, Glassdoor states that the average salary of a criminology graduate is £34,744 per year. Not bad!

Of course, this figure could quite easily be higher or lower. Jobs on the lower end of the spectrum include probation officers and youth counsellors, at least for starting salaries. On the other end of the scale, both police inspectors and criminal lawyers earn approximately £60,000 annually.

Why choose a degree in criminology?

Still not sure whether criminology is right for you? Let’s sum up the top reasons you should take the plunge and apply for a degree in criminology today.

  • High degree satisfaction – UCAS found that 77% of students studying criminology would recommend the subject
  • Exciting and varied career options with great progression
  • Have a real impact on community safety
  • Influence the criminal justice system and law enforcement 
  • Work with a broad spectrum of people and collaborate with police, psychologists, lawyers, scientists and government.
Online Degree

BSc (Hons) Forensic and Criminal Investigation

  • 3+ years
  • undergraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Get an online criminology degree with FutureLearn

\If you’re ready to step up to the plate and enter the fascinating world of crime, punishment and justice, becoming a criminology graduate is easier than ever with our flexible online degrees on FutureLearn. Studying online makes it significantly easier to balance all of your life commitments and work towards your dream career without putting everything else on pause.

Take a look at our online criminology degrees below, and get ready to study anywhere, anytime.

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