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Everything you need to know about BA Criminology

Are you interested in a career in criminal justice, social care, local government or probation? Then criminology could be the right subject for you. We caught up with Senior Lecturer Luke Hubbard to discover everything there is to know about BA Criminology.

By Cara Fielder. Published 12 July 2021. Last updated 17 May 2023.

I knew I wanted to go to university but didn’t know what I wanted to do. I decided to study criminology because learning about crime and offending seemed like it would be fun and interesting compared to some other courses. Then I could go on to get a job in the criminal justice system as a police detective or a prison governor once I had graduated. However, this didn’t happen. I graduated, but rather than working in the criminal justice system, I went on to do a master’s. A couple of years after my master’s, during which time I worked as a police researcher, I began my PhD exploring the policing response to LGBT victims of crime; I was inspired to continue my studies and work in criminological research.

Even from my undergraduate days, I learnt that there were so many injustices within the criminal justice system that needed to be addressed. For example, many victims continue to be let down by the police and the courts, particularly victims of rape and sexual assault. There are many acts that are not criminal but cause significant harm, such as white-collar crime or environmental crime, that need to be tackled much more effectively. There are also issues about how we treat offenders, with many of those released from prison reoffending within two years and, this is even higher for those leaving young offender institutions. I wanted to study criminology to understand these issues and then begin to try and change these by learning more about them, which is why I continue to study criminology as a researcher.

My main area of interest in criminology is queer criminology, which is a relatively new field having only emerged over the last six or seven years. It is a form of critical criminology that focuses on challenging traditional understandings and uncovering false beliefs about crime and criminal justice. Consequently, it seeks to put LGBTQ people at the centre of criminological inquiry, who have often been neglected in traditional research, to ensure that their experiences and identities are considered. Equally, as a queer criminologist, I seek to explore and challenge how the criminal justice system has been and continues to be, used to oppress and criminalise members of the LGBTQ community. I find this interesting because queer criminological research is heavily based in the United States or Australia, with very little research exploring queer criminology here in the UK. Therefore, I want to research and advocate for these people to ensure their voices and experiences are heard and acknowledged in the criminal justice system and beyond.

I am also very interested in cybercrime, with a particular focus on online harm, which is defined as ‘online content or activity that harms individual users.’ This can include but is not limited to cyberbullying, emotional abuse (e.g. blackmail), image-based sexual abuse or revenge porn and online hate crime. While these crimes are not new, the internet has provided a new and alternative means for these offences to be carried out and increased the scale, reach and impact of such offences, as well as making it easier for people to commit these sorts of acts. This area interests me because most of the policies and laws regarding these forms of offences were created before the advent of the internet. It is vital that they are updated to take account of the new and emerging ways in which these offences are carried out to ensure that they can be effectively addressed and prevented. Equally, our understanding of these offences, in terms of both victims and offenders, is based on such acts being carried out offline, instead of online, which are vastly different environments. As a result, there remains much that we do not know, so I find it very interesting to be breaking new criminological ground.

I would say that the best thing about teaching criminology is that it is a really interesting subject, it is never boring or dull, and that makes it so much fun to teach. Also, criminology is an extremely relevant subject; it is almost always in the news or debated in parliament. Recently, this has included topics such as racism within the criminal justice system, drugs policy, modernising the courts in England and Wales and the prisons crisis, to name but a few, which means that criminology has real world application and impact.

The BA in Criminology is aimed at anyone who wants to learn more about the causes, consequences, types, responses, and prevention of crime at a local, national and international level. It is particularly aimed at students who wish to study crime and responses to crime from a critical perspective. This is also one of the main reasons students should choose this course over others, as our approach to criminology is critical by challenging many core assumptions of mainstream criminology. We explore how, for example, crime is experienced differently by different people depending on their race, gender, sexuality, or disability. We seek to explore how, when and why crimes take place and how this varies across different locations and places, such as crime in urban and rural environments and online vs offline. We also challenge traditional understandings of crime and the issues that arise from focusing solely on crimes as defined by law and how this places significant limits on criminological enquiry, which we need to look beyond. Our course is also very contemporary. We cover a range of new and emerging issues such as cybercrime, zemiology, crime and migration, queer criminology, green criminology, terrorism and many, many others. These are in addition to the criminological staples of theories of crime, the criminal justice system, and victims and victimisation.

Studying criminology provides students with a wide range of skills, such as critical thinking and analysis, communication, teamwork, research skills, information management, project management, and organisation, as well as many more. This will provide you with a multitude of career paths both within and beyond the criminal justice sector.

Roles within the criminal justice sector include working in policing from being a PC or a detective to more specialist areas such as a detective or part of the National Crime Agency. You can work with offenders in various roles, from being a prison or probation officer to a youth or social worker. There are also roles in crime analysis, crime prevention and community safety, the UK border force, the security services and the civil service (particularly the Home Office or the Ministry of Justice). There are also plenty of opportunities to work with victims of crime through support, advocacy and counselling.

Outside of the criminal justice system, you could work in the voluntary sector or in a range of social welfare posts such as mental health support, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and housing. Other areas of work include business, teaching, leisure and tourism, politics, and research. The important thing to remember is that a criminology degree does not restrict you to working in the criminal justice system but provides plenty more career opportunities.

The BA Criminology introduces students to the foundations of criminology, such as theories of crime and the criminal justice system. The theories of crime module explores why people commit crimes, which is vital to criminology. If we can understand why people commit crimes, we can stop and prevent people from doing so. In addition, the criminal justice system module provides students with an overview of the various agencies that form the criminal justice system, such as the police, the courts, the prison system and the probation service. It is vital that students learn about this because it is these various agencies that are responsible for managing the state’s response to crime and disorder.

In addition to these core modules that form part of every criminology course, there is a range of other modules that are both critical and contemporary modules. These are not so widely covered but equip students with a relevant and up-to-date understanding of criminology. For example, we have modules that explore gender, sexuality, race, age and religion, how these affect people's pathways into crime and offending, their experience of victimisation, and the response of criminal justice agencies to these groups.

Equally, our module on zemiology encourages students to think more broadly and critically beyond the confines of 'crime' that criminology traditionally offers. We consider the notion of social harm, an alternative and broader approach that extends the focus of criminology to consider a wider range of acts that cause significant harm but may not be criminalised and therefore seen as a crime, e.g. climate change, workplace injuries, and corporate activities.

The motivation behind this course is to provide students with a contemporary understanding of crime and criminal justice, which addresses the criminological issues of the future. By doing this, we can support students’ ambitions by equipping them with the knowledge and skills they will require when embarking upon their careers. We can also support students to develop these further with work experience and placements.

One of the perks of studying a BA in Criminology is that it is a fascinating course. Because of that, learning about criminology is much more interesting than many other courses. Furthermore, the topics we cover are extremely mentally stimulating, providing answers as to why crimes are committed, issues with traditional understandings of crime, and reducing and preventing crime. This is further strengthened by the focus within our course on social justice, helping to bring attention to those who the criminal justice system has traditionally neglected, whether minority victim groups, families of prisoners, and miscarriages of justice, to name but a few.

Another perk is that criminology has real world impact. Criminologists and those working within the criminal justice system play a large and important role in keeping people safe, whether that be law enforcement, crime prevention, working with offenders or conducting research to identify problem behaviours or flaws within the criminal justice system. It will provide you with the skills to work in a number of fields and roles beyond the criminal justice arena, opening up a huge range of opportunities, job options and a flexible career path.

The biggest piece of advice I would give to students considering the BA in Criminology is to do it. I started studying criminology over 10 years ago and have never looked back. It was the best decision I ever made.


Want to know more about criminology? Take a look at our criminology undergraduate degrees.