Right from the morning newspaper, to the evening news, we hear stories of crime gripping the nation. With the rise of crime – both civil, and criminal – there is an inevitable need for professionals, who not only hold the expertise in deciphering causes, and effects of criminal activity; but also are equally adept at strategizing for crime prevention – Criminologists.
What is Criminology?
Criminology is a subset of sociology (a core social science discipline) and includes the scientific study of crime and criminal behaviour, including its disclosure, causes, legal aspects, control, and most importantly, rehabilitation. Criminologists measure the effectiveness of a society’s response to criminal activity and propose ways to both prevent and address the same.
Difference between Criminology, Forensic Science and Criminal Law
People consider criminology to be the same as forensic science and criminal law. It is not.
While the innate focus of forensic science lies on the scientific study of tracing evidence, criminology encompasses a psychological study of criminal behaviour that lies outside the realm of forensic science.
Forensic Scientists follow an investigatory approach, and thus hunt, and analyse physical evidence, such as blood, bodily fluids, hair fibres etc., to help solve crimes. Criminologists, on the other hand, follow an explanative approach that seeks to understand the reasons for crime, and the society’s response to it, at large.
The distinction between criminology and criminal law is even more subtle. Criminal law is the study of laws which determine what activity constitutes a crime (or doesn’t), but Criminology is the general study of crime and criminal activity. Criminal Law and Criminology, in essence, are the two sides of the same coin. The former focus on how the crime is constituted, and how should it be punished, the latter emphasises on why it happened, and what should be done to avoid such crimes in the future.
How to Pursue Criminology in India
Step 1. Pass Class 12th with a Science or Arts Background
Criminology is a career that can be built with both science/arts courses.
Step 2. Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree
In Criminology: Criminology is a highly specialised course, and hence only a handful of institutes like the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, offer a B.A/ B.Sc degree program, in Criminology & Parapsychology. Many universities and colleges would offer more generic courses, as discussed below.
In Psychology/ Sociology/ Political Science/ Forensic Science: A more generic route is to pursue graduation in an allied discipline, such as that of psychology, sociology, political science or forensic sciences. Delhi University, Panjab University, Mumbai University, Christ University, Ashoka University, etc. are some of the leading institutions in the country offering undergraduate education in the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and political science. Admissions to these universities happen either through merit, or processes defined by the university.
Read More: Careers in Social Sciences & Humanities
In Law: One may also look at pursuing a full-fledged law program, and then pursue criminology as a specialised field of postgraduate study. NLSIU Bangalore, NALSAR Hyderabad, NLU Delhi, NLU Bhopal, Symbiosis Law School Pune & Jindal Global Law School, Sonepat are some of the leading colleges for Law. Admissions to these colleges happen through entrance exams such as CLAT, AILET, SET, LSAT etc.
Read More: Law as a Career
Step 3. Pursue a Master’s Degree in Criminology
A master’s degree is required to enter the professional workspace. While some universities offer specific programs in Criminology, many offer forensic sciences, in combination with criminology. Following are some of the leading colleges, and programs in the space.
|Lok Nayak Jayaprakash National Institute of Criminology & Forensic Science||MA Criminology (Full-time)|
|Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University||M.Sc Criminology (Full-time)
M.A. Criminology & Police Administration (Full-time)
|University of Madras||M.Sc Criminology & Criminal Justice System (Full-time)|
|University of Lucknow||M.Sc Criminology & Criminal Justice Administration (Full-time)
PG Diploma in Criminology
|Tata Institute of Social Sciences||M.A. Criminology & Justice (Full-time)|
|Institute of Forensic Science & Criminology, Punjab University||M.Sc Forensic Science & Criminology (Full-time)|
|University of Jammu||PG Diploma in Criminology & Police Science|
|University of Pune||PG Diploma in Criminology|
|Jaipur School of Law||PG Diploma in Criminology & Criminal Administration|
Pursuing Criminology Abroad
If you’re an Indian student looking to make a career in criminology, abroad, you’re in good company. Though many universities may necessarily not have any subject preferences, some may put a particular subject combination as a part of the eligibility. A background in science, or humanities subjects is encouraged, in a general sense.
World’s best universities, in USA, UK, and Singapore offer amazing options in terms of exposure, curriculum, and research possibilities. Some universities like the Washington State University, and University of Texas – Dallas offer undergraduate courses in criminology.
A more generic route is through the disciplines of psychology, sociology, law, and political science. Yale University, NYU, Stanford University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Bath, University of Oxford, University of Durham, and University of Edinburgh are some of the leading colleges that offer undergraduate programs in these disciplines.
Admission processes vary from country to country, and even school to school, but generally requires a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, essays, and a standardised assessment.
University of Maryland, University of Pennsylvania, University of Florida, Queen Mary School of Law, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge are some of the leading universities that offer post graduate courses in criminology. One needs to fulfil the necessary application criteria, which while varying from country to country and school to school, generally consists of standardised testing, resume, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and required work experience in the domain.
Skills Required for a Career in Criminology
Criminologists are driven by a passion for creating an impact, and for fighting crime. A career in criminology is showcased by many popular TV shows like Sherlock, CSI Miami, and Numbers, all of which portray their protagonists as strong analysts, keen observers, ardent researchers, and strong-valued individuals.
All of this holds true in the real world as well. Research skills, observation skills, ability to connect the dots, logical reasoning, active visualisation, excellent written and verbal expression, empathy, ability to spark a change, and a strong sense of character, are some of the skills that make for an ace criminologist.
Professional Opportunities in Criminology
There are plenty of opportunities for professionals in criminology.
They can make their career as a crime investigator, counsellor, medical investigator, social worker, rehabilitation specialist, policy maker, or join the police forces and law enforcement agencies.
They may also explore possibilities with organizations like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Women (NCW), National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), and Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D).
Professionals who intend to groom young minds early on can also explore the possibilities in academia.
The opportunities abroad are even more. Apart from the ones already mentioned before, professionals can make their careers in crime intelligence, law reform, research, international law enforcement, and community correction and sensitization.
Criminologists: Driving the Social Change
The most direct implication of a study in criminology is in criminal jurisprudence. Criminologists will have a peculiar outlook towards crime. They may have a different take on the Nirbhaya case, approach Naxalism as an issue beyond a community, or derive meaning from a trend, and simultaneously develop solutions, to address, and prevent. Let’s look at this, while a criminal lawyer, may approach a stance of crime, with a sentence, a criminologist, might devise a sensitization program to make sure that the accused (and the society, at large) knows the causes, and consequences of his behaviour. They approach crime, with an academic stance.
A paradigm shift has been observed in criminal jurisprudence, litigation, and sentencing. The Indian Legal System, once an ardent believer of deterrent sentencing, is gradually progressing towards reformative sentencing, with a focus on rehabilitation. Tihar Haat, a venue for the purchase of products made by inmates of Tihar Jail, is an example of the impact, a criminologist can make on punishment.
The most exciting facet of the study of criminology is that its knowledge can be applied to various professions, and academic domains, in the purview of the societal study as a whole. Anthropology, human behaviour, politics & policy formulation, say are domains which have no direct influence with criminology, but yet strike a chord somewhere. Not only this, a professional determined to make it as an ace criminologist can specialise in subjects like victimology ( the study of the nature and cause of victimisation aiding crime victims), penology (studying the correction and control of criminal behaviour), juvenile justice, and crime investigation.
Pros & Cons of a Career in Criminology
Pros of a Criminology Career:
- Opportunity for Impact: Criminology as a career presents a huge opportunity for impact. The country is swiftly moving towards a reformative system of punishment and sentencing, and hence there is a need for competent criminologists.
- Carve Your Own Niche: Criminology presents a very niche domain, hence there is a high chance that with the right education and experience, you can pioneer the study and practice of criminology, and bring about a radical change to the Indian legal and social system.
- It’s a Progressive Career: Criminology is an extremely new-age career. In a world of hatred, and war, criminologists attack crime, and not the criminal. Many criminals often resort to crime due to many extrinsic factors such as poverty, unemployment, non-sensitization etc. Criminologists present an insightful, creative approach to tackling issues that plague our country.
Cons of a Criminology Career:
- Starting Salaries: Salaries and monetary incentives at the onset of this career are not inviting. However, with experience, one may enter into a consulting role with law firms, NGOs, police forces, rehabilitation centers, and the constitutional bench to advise on projects, policies, social operations, legal proceedings, and simultaneously earn well.
- Social Acceptance: Criminology, as a career, lacks the social acceptance that other careers such as medicine, engineering, and management enjoy. However, with time, it will change.
- Challenging Environment: The professional environment for a criminologist to work is extremely challenging. Be it fire-fighting the opinions of people who steer with a conventional mindset, or engaging with criminals, the work is never easy.
Irrespective of anyone’s interest, expertise, previous educational background, or work experience, there are plenty of opportunities available in criminology. Whether you like the thrill of working on high-profile cases or the exact art of evidence handling, the chances are you’ll find a fulfilling and rewarding career in such a broad domain.
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