What skills are fundamental in criminology

What skills are fundamental in criminology?

Criminology is a diverse field that has evolved through years of thought and practice. Although it continues to be synonymous with criminal justice for some people, the field encompasses much more than this, incorporating a solid foundation in philosophy. Nevertheless, the basic premise involves professionals working daily to protect the community they serve.

Of course, as with most exciting fields, a career in criminology also has its challenging moments, and specific qualities, skills, and competencies are required to thrive in this career path. Let’s explore some of the most important skills for criminologists and individuals looking to break into the field to develop.

What is criminology?

Criminology refers to the study of crime and criminal behavior, propelled by principles and theories of sociology, psychology, economics, statistics, and anthropology, among other non-legal fields. The criminology study examines numerous areas related to crime, including criminals’ personal and mental characteristics, the reasons people commit crimes, the impacts of crime on people and their communities, and practical strategies for preventing crime.

Across the globe, especially in more advanced countries, the criminal justice system has been under scrutiny for some time now. Reports of shortages in criminal justice attorneys, unfairness in the system, and restrictive legal aid for criminals are all evidence of a broken justice system. Criminology plays a crucial role in developing a fair, science-driven understanding of crime, law policies and social justice.

Although common motivators of crime – sociological and psychological motivators – have been identified across various schools of thought, the multidisciplinary nature of the study and further understanding of criminology highlight other causes, including biological and economic aspects and their effects. Some potential causes or motivations for criminal activities include:

  • Parental influence
  • Peer pressure
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Hormones
  • Education
  • Brain activity

Relevant paths to becoming a criminologist

Most professionals start as assistants or junior criminologists, working under the supervision of a more experienced professional for at least three years. This enables you to obtain the relevant competency and experience required of a criminologist through on-the-job training. This path is mainly reserved for newcomers to the field, who need about three to five years of experience before securing a role as a criminologist.

There is a better chance of securing a criminology role in any sector for people with some experience in criminal justice, including crime analysts, safety officers or policy analysts. Prior experience is a significant driving force for individuals looking to enter the criminology field. A viable way to gain experience as a recent graduate or someone seeking to transition into criminology is through volunteer and internship opportunities in law enforcement and criminal justice establishments.

Experience in criminology provides professionals with the prerequisite knowledge, skills and competency needed to start a career. Understanding and developing the necessary skills is essential in meeting the requirements for a meaningful job.

Fundamental skills in criminology

Criminology can be an exciting career path, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in this field is expected to grow 5 percent in the coming decade. Concrete skills and experience are necessary to land a job in this competitive field. Here are a few skills that are fundamental in criminology.

Attention to detail

The essential responsibilities of a criminologist are to examine large volumes of data and conduct extensive research on various aspects of the field. These duties are also crucial in ensuring professionals are capable of identifying criminal patterns and examining multiple areas relating to crime.

Professionals should pay attention to details and exhibit high-quality observational skills. Attention to detail is the ability to focus on all areas of a project or task, no matter how small. Criminologists are exposed to vast amounts of information, and with so much to access, it could become easy to make mistakes. Developing this skill ensures tasks are performed more accurately.


Across every career path, strong verbal and written communication skills are essential. This is particularly true in a criminology career involving constant interaction with people. As a criminology professional, all your opinions and thoughts need to be communicated as clearly as possible to different groups of people, from colleagues to other industry professionals.

The responsibilities of criminologists in some settings involve developing research papers on their discoveries and enlightening individuals and communities on specific behaviors, causes and impacts of criminal activities. When you consider the fact that they also interview people to obtain information, it becomes clear that communication is highly essential for a career in criminology.

Research skills

Research is an inseparable aspect of criminology and remains a prerequisite for advancement in the field. Professionals conduct research for numerous reasons, from gathering information on a suspect to examining different aspects of crime. Whatever the reason, there is always the need to perform thorough research and verify findings.

Therefore, criminologists need to understand how to gather information, recognize quality research sources and substantiate their findings. Occasionally, interviews are also conducted to collect data on different cases, which should be documented and verified. Ultimately, the goal is to obtain accurate information, so criminologists must go to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of their data.

Social skills

Social skills are verbal and non-verbal competencies we employ in communicating and interacting with others through gestures, body language and personal appearance. The importance of this skill to criminologists becomes more apparent as field professionals tend to interact and work with different individuals, from workers to victims.

Therefore, recognizing and understanding people’s behavior can assist professionals in communicating effectively, collaborating, and offering help to vulnerable people. For example, in interrogations, understanding a suspect’s body language can help professionals unravel the truth about certain situations.


The daily responsibilities of a criminologist involve analyzing massive amounts of data and working with a wide selection of people on multiple projects. Professionals must possess strong organizational skills to manage and prioritize their workload effectively.

When it comes to organization, criminologists may engage in the creation and management of databases to easily access and analyze personal information, crime data and other relevant information. Today, technology has made organization easy, and professionals can streamline the entire process by developing technological skills, especially computer literacy.

Integrity and empathy

In a field as critical as criminology, professionals need to exhibit integrity and empathy in carrying out their responsibilities. In simple terms, this refers to the ability to show good character, stand up for what is right and work objectively in emotional cases involving crime or human behavior.

Current reforms across the criminal justice system call for integrity and empathy across the industry. With these skills, professionals can develop strong moral character and compassion for the plight of others, all of which can make a significant difference in society. Additionally, it helps to connect better with individuals and become a noteworthy figure in a community.

Ethical decision-making

An important aspect of criminology is thinking critically, solving problems, and most importantly, making quick and effective decisions when the need arises. However, with these professionals tasked with upholding the basic ethical standards of society, all decisions should be made with a solid foundation in law and professional ethics.

To thrive in this field, a professional must recognize and abide by what is right and wrong and protect an individual or the community from unlawful activities that could cause adverse effects. With ethics, it becomes more straightforward to traverse present-day issues relating to racial biases, socio-economic issues, and outdated policies that foster crime.

Interview and interrogation

A wide range of professionals across the criminal justice field can benefit greatly from having good interview and interrogation skills. Investigative interviewing assists professionals with communication and the flow of information and, consequently, the detection of crime. From a human rights viewpoint, interrogation also helps professionals initiate the presumption of innocence.

Therefore, it is fundamental for criminologists to exhibit excellent interview and interrogation skills and other effective information-gathering techniques. Tasks such as investigation and information gathering take time, so it is important to remain level-headed and patient at every step.


As part of societal development from technological changes, criminologists’ responsibilities will require them to spend significant periods working on a computer to complete tasks. This might include engaging in research, generating reports or analyzing data. You may also need to employ a database or system to gather information about a case. There is a strong need to be competent with computers and their basic applications.

Criminologists should be skilled at employing internet resources, creating documents, and using basic techniques in different programs. Today, different classes and programs exist to help individuals develop confidence using computers.


It is not uncommon for criminologists to work in a group and share information between various agencies. This helps to complete complex projects and requires all relevant parties to collaborate effectively. 

Law and legal knowledge

Experience opportunities such as volunteering and internships are highly regarded in the field of criminology as they offer individuals the required knowledge, such as legal awareness and comprehension. This does not mean having a vast knowledge of every law; instead, it entails understanding the legal aspects of the field in a broader sense, along with specific areas of study that you may have identified as potential specialization areas.

How to improve criminology skills

The criminology field features a wide range of skills, some of which we have highlighted above. While a few of them are technical competencies, most are transferable interpersonal skills. The need to learn new skills and develop existing ones is undeniable, especially for a profession as critical as criminology. Here are a few ways criminology professionals can improve their skills.


The minimum requirement for criminologists is a bachelor’s degree; however, some professionals go further to obtain advanced degrees. These programs remain effective for allowing individuals to develop the skills needed to succeed in the field.

Individuals who are passionate about criminology, court safety, and forensics, among other social work, can apply for a Laurier online criminology degree. Pursuing a relevant program like this one will prepare you for a thriving career in the field.

Gain experience

The importance of experience in the field of criminal justice cannot be overemphasized, and as a fresh graduate, the high-quality experience can be obtained through internships. Engaging in supervised tasks under the tutelage of seasoned professionals can help you develop relevant criminology skills.

Internship opportunities and other volunteer work offer the chance to improve a wide range of competencies that can be applied to your future career. You can also identify specific specialty areas that suit your skills and interests.

Join professional associations

Similar to other career paths, professional criminology associations offer members the opportunity to network and connect with like minds, share insights and continue their education. Furthermore, by interacting with other professionals, you could pick up some specific skills that can be applied to your responsibilities.

Reading research papers and similar publications related to the field can also be effective for recognizing relevant professional advancements. With this information, professionals can develop new skills and improve old ones. If you wish to advance in your career, you should constantly stay updated with new technologies, processes and opinions from colleagues.

Criminology professionals are in high demand, and there are no signs suggesting this demand will slow down any time soon. The responsibilities of criminologists impact nearly every aspect of society, so it requires specialized training, sophisticated interpersonal and technical skills, and significant experience interacting with professionals in and outside of the justice system.

Today, the profession is much more competitive than ever, and professionals need to stand out to qualify for such positions. Therefore, identifying the fundamental skills required and relevant opportunities to improve them are critical factors that can lead to a thriving career as a criminologist.