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Explore Criminology: Your questions answered

Head of Policing and Criminology John Kerr explains what students can expect when studying criminology, the type of questions criminologists investigate every day, and where a degree in criminology can lead you.

By Elena Carruthers. Published 16 August 2023.

What careers does a criminology degree lead to?

Criminology looks at crime in many different ways. Some criminologists have called it a rendezvous subject and so a meeting point of subjects such as sociology, law, policing, history, politics, psychology, philosophy and geography. With a degree in criminology, you gain an in depth knowledge about the criminal justice system, making you an ideal candidate for numerous jobs within that field. You can also work in so many different fields.

Here are some of employment areas you can enter with a criminology degree

  • Policing
  • Prison and probation service
  • Civil service
  • Journalism, especially a crime reporter
  • Intelligence services, such as MI5 and MI6.
  • Different areas in the National Crime Agency
  • Youth Services
  • Social work
  • NGO and Charity sectors
  • Academia
  • Education

As well as the huge range of jobs accessible to criminology graduates, there are lots of transferrable skills you will pick up that help with working in different areas. Key among these are problem solving, critical thinking, analysing, and communicating clearly. These make criminology graduates very popular with employers.

What do you learn about when studying criminology?

You cover a wide breadth of topics when studying criminology, and you learn about both the theory and practice of criminology. This will enable you to develop a comprehensive understanding of criminology and apply this to current socioeconomic policies, conditions and problems.

You will learn about why people engage in deviant behaviour. For example, is it for financial reasons, or could be about the seduction of crime? Is it for financial need, greed, anger, or the thrill, or to assert dominance and power? Or is it for other reasons? You will examine how the criminal justice system tries to address deviant behaviour and how some behaviours become crimes and others do not. You will consider questions such as are some people disproportionately focused on by the criminal justice system? Also, why is reading and watching about crime so popular? Why are some deviant behaviours focused on by the media and others are not? In addition, you will learn about how deviant behaviour is committed. For example, how much is now committed online?

You will develop the ability to apply context to situations and how to acknowledge contradictions to deepen your understanding of topics. Criminology pushes you to look into ‘common-sense’ taken for granted ideas of society and deconstruct them, analyse them and try to work out what is actually going on. For example, how can marijuana be legal in California but illegal in the United States?  

When studying criminology, you will also get the opportunity to explore local injustices and how they apply to the wider world. For example, the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in identifying who the fault lay with also translates toward other wider global issues. Similarly, the recent earthquakes in Turkey have highlighted the issue with buildings in the area that were not constructed properly and as a result, collapsed much quicker than you would expect.

How does criminology look at wider issues?

Sometimes a solution to a problem can potentially lead to shifting the problem elsewhere or even creating more problems. For example, displacement theory helps us understand how the policing of illicit drugs from source to demand countries such as the US and UK has resulted in cartels moving the drugs through multiple countries, such as Trinidad, Equatorial Guinea and Senegal to avoid detection. By doing this, these countries face severely heightened levels of homicides and other violent acts. In the UK, displacement can be seen in the shift to children being involved in the illicit drugs market. There are currently 50,000 children involved in county lines drug movement and supply. This example of displacement shows that ‘common-sense’ solutions and ideas can sometimes actually make matters worse. So, this is an example of what criminology does. It delves deep into these issues and analyses them and looks again and then tries to come up with other solutions to try and sort out these big wider problems.


Broaden your career horizons and learn more about our undergraduate criminology courses today.