The Six Major Areas of Criminology and Their Importance

Criminology is the scientific study of crimes, their causes, responses by law enforcement agencies, and prevention methods. It is also a subgroup of sociology which is the scientific study of criminal behavior. Criminology borrows ideas from statistics, psychology, economics, psychiatry, biology, and anthropology.

The origin of criminology can be traced to the 18th century when Cesare Beccaria from Italy and Jeremy Betham from England developed the theory that punishment should be severe to deter the criminal. Extreme punishments allow criminals to compare their punishment with the actual crime to see if it is worth the pain. This ideology was called the classical school of criminology. In the 19th century, modern criminologists began pushing for the modification of classical criminology. They argued that it does not differentiate between varying degrees of crimes. The new school of thought believed punishment should suit the criminal, not the crime.

Cesare Lombroso, an Italian psychiatrist, and physician championed the new school of thought. He believed that criminals are born, not made. At that time, scientists began incorporating statistics and biology into criminology. Genetics was used to determine if criminal tendencies are linked to the family.

The question is, what do modern criminologists do? To become a criminologist, one must be a logical thinker and detail-oriented. Logic helps you to look at the bigger picture and arrive at a suitable conclusion. Criminologists sometimes do their research alone, but they often collaborate with law enforcement agencies, study the behaviors of criminals and help investigate crimes. They also visit crime scenes searching for evidence and questioning witnesses.

As the field is quite broad, it is divided into six major areas in which people can specialize. To become a criminologist, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in criminology. If you are passionate about this career, you can enroll in one of the criminology programs Canada offers at a highly regarded university such as Wilfrid Laurier. The combined Honors BA in criminology and policing prepares you for a career in justice and criminology with a focus on real-world experience. You can focus on specific areas depending on your passion. The best part about enrolling is that you do not need prior experience in law enforcement. Have you ever considered a career in criminology but need clarification about the possible specializations? Here are six major areas that might interest you:

Criminal law and jurisprudence

Criminal law refers to the body of law that relates to crime. It prescribes conduct perceived as harmful to the victim’s health, safety, property, and moral welfare. The legislature often enacts these laws. People who violate such laws are punished and rehabilitated in most cases. Criminal and civil law differ as the latter emphasizes dispute resolution and victim compensation rather than punishment and rehabilitation. The state can prescribe capital or corporal punishment for a crime depending on the gravity of the crime. Punishment ranges from a jail term, whipping, life imprisonment, death by hanging, solitary confinement, house arrest, or a fine depending on the jurisdiction. A criminologist with a specialty in criminal law can become a probation officer, criminal psychologist, private investigator, criminal lawyer, or investigator. The job is diverse and unpredictable, but you are trained to surmount the challenges.


Law enforcement administration

Someone who intends to specialize in law enforcement administration is expected to have previous law enforcement experience. This helps them work efficiently with the police and other security agencies. It starts with a degree or certification in law enforcement. A law enforcement agency is a quasi-governmental organization that enforces the laws. They work to maintain law and order in society. Criminologists in this department assist in law enforcement activities rather than directly implementing the laws. They share information necessary for the smooth running of the job. They help the police investigate complex matters while advising on the next action. They encourage them to speak with a criminal law consultant about their case in order to maintain fairness.


Forensic science includes a variety of skills that prepare graduates to work in crime scene investigation. Students who want to major in forensics take cybersecurity, research, forensic analysis, and research courses. Problem-solving, critical thinking, and attention to detail are the major skills needed to excel in the field. Forensic scientists trace the link between a suspect and a victim or a crime scene through shoe or body part imprints, tools, textile fragments, and physical evidence. They introduce sophistication into their task by examining details such as fingerprints, bodily fluids, blood, semen, and hair samples left on the victim to trace the suspect. In cases where a document is presented for a case, they evaluate it for authenticity. These professionals also examine socioeconomics, cognitive and psychological precursors, demographics, and environmental variables to the development of criminal behavior.

Crime detection and investigation

Criminologists trained in crime detection and investigation are always ahead of the criminal. Previously, this aspect of criminology depended on hearsay and confessions, but it evolved into what it is today. These experts have improved their evidence-gathering procedures thanks to modern investigation techniques and methods. Crime detection begins with the discovery of a crime scene, followed by the collection, identification, and analysis of the scene. The expert could begin with surveillance when there is a probability that the crime occurred at a specific place and time. This is followed by interrogating any witnesses and the victims. The expert also exchanges information with the police as it helps to combat organized crime. The criminologist must keep vital information private to solve the case.

Sociology of crimes

The sociology of crime or criminology studies the making, breaking, and enforcement of criminal laws. It aims to develop and test theories that explain criminal behavior, the operation of the criminal justice system, and the formation and enforcement of laws. The expert in the sociology of crimes is a detective that employs a sociological approach to studying organized crime. They use data from police departments yearly in their Uniform Crime Reports. A criminologist is also up to date on the attributes of criminals to better understand them. They know that sex, race, age and social class contribute to a crime, so they study the pattern, although it is complex. The criminologist also examines numerous theories before reaching a conclusion.

Ethics and correctional administration

Ethics is at the center of every functional institution or society. It refers to the principles that guide the behavior and standards of an individual, organization, or system. As it involves questions of judgment and moral principles, it is often complex. For the criminal justice system to function properly, the criminologist must behave ethically. Since they wield authority in the system, there’s a likelihood of abusing power. Expert specializing in ethics and correctional administration sticks to the standard ethical practice of their profession in discharging their duty. They are bound by law to report colleagues who overstep the boundaries or any legal violations of the rights of the criminals. In cases where the report is brought to you, you must investigate it without bias. While dealing with an accused person, you must ensure that you advise them of their rights, so that they know when they have been violated.

Reasons to become a criminologist

Criminologists are not confined to a single career path. They work in roles such as FBI agents, forensic analysts, detectives, lecturers, and criminal justice reform advocates, among others. A degree in criminology offers you the flexibility you need to move from one area of expertise to another. This course is beneficial to you and society at large. Below are a few reasons to study criminology:

It offers a rare opportunity to help others

Victims who suffer from the actions of criminals often seek closure. One way to do that is to fight for justice and ensure that the culprit is punished. The onus lies on the criminologist to study the roots of violence and uncover the details of the crime. Criminology also helps to prevent, investigate and resolve terrorism and cybercrime. Criminologists collaborate with other professionals globally to eradicate crime and make the world a better place.

Fight crime

Forensic scientists, police detectives, and criminal profilers collaborate during an investigation. Criminologists are trained to understand the thoughts, behaviors, and predictive patterns of dangerous individuals. They also use their knowledge of statistics to analyze crime rates and help law enforcement agencies identify problem areas.

Reform criminals

Aside from preventing and eliminating crime, criminologists devise and suggest the most effective ways to reform and rehabilitate criminals. For instance, if you dissuade a prostitute from selling their body for money, you must study why they got into the trade. Knowing their reasons and helping to alleviate the problems might help to reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses. As a social worker, you should also ensure that society refrains from stigmatizing people who were once criminals because stigmatization could force them back into their crimes. Rehabilitation is a crucial aspect of reintegrating repentant criminals into society. After a criminal has served their time, the criminologist suggests the best rehabilitation type for the offender.

Helpful in understanding the psychology of the criminal

Criminology is a practical field that helps to assess the attitude of criminals. The study allows experts to understand why someone committed a crime. They can relate a specific crime with a particular set of circumstances. When we think of criminals, we often have negative feelings about them. However, listening to their story can sometimes change your perception of them. Sometimes, they come from abusive families or were bullied as kids and wanted revenge. While learning the psychology of crime is essential to the job, criminologists also classify criminals based on physical and social factors.

Skills every criminologist needs

Aside from being passionate about saving your community, you need some essential skills to build your career in criminology. A degree in criminology and consistent practice allow you to acquire the following skills:

Observation skills

Due to the secretive nature of crimes and criminals, criminologists obtain data by observation. Criminals often lie in their confessions to escape punishment. As a trained detective, you can easily tell when some crucial details are altered. Criminologists also require observation skills to identify the connections between unrelated social occurrences.

Research skills

Criminologists spend most of their lives researching. They study data from law enforcement agencies and other sources to find criminal trends and recommend solutions. They also investigate criminals to discover their motivation for a crime. When a case is first brought to the professional, they are careful not to make hasty generalizations as this could lead to a faulty outcome. They begin with questioning and investigation, which is an essential aspect of the criminal process.

Communication skills

A criminologist interacts with lawyers, criminals, and victims. So, they are required to employ different communication techniques to obtain sensitive information. Communicating effectively helps to build an understanding of the criminal’s perspective and address it accordingly. When responsible for the rehabilitation, the professional determines the best way to counsel criminal offenders.

Analytical skills

Crime is complex and requires a tactical approach. Criminologists analyze different information sources to find patterns in criminal occurrence. Analytical skills help them arrive at an accurate deduction. As many people depend on your judgment, you are expected to always be at your best.


Criminology is a broad field that accommodates people with different approaches to fighting crime. It allows graduates to contribute meaningfully to their society while earning decent pay. Becoming a criminologist starts with obtaining a degree and acquiring hands-on skills on the job. If you want to impact your society, enrolling in a criminology course could be the answer.

Schaff Joanne

Schaff Joanne