8 skills needed for criminology

man drawing a diagram depicting academic disciplines including criminology on a chalkboard

A career in criminology can be exciting and rewarding, but if you’re thinking of entering this field, you might be wondering if you have what it takes to succeed. Perhaps you’re considering starting a criminology course, but you’re not sure if this subject is the right fit for you.

To give you an idea of what’s required to excel as a criminologist, we’ve put together this list of eight key skills that will help to give you an advantage in this subject area.

What skills are needed for criminology?

Criminology is the study of crime and criminal behaviour. It can encompass many different topics, from why crime happens to how to prevent it. The field is informed by a range of other subject areas, from sociology and psychology to statistics and economics. The breadth of this discipline means a wide range of skills and abilities are required to thrive as a criminologist. Below, we outline some of the most important.

1. Attention to detail

Having meticulous attention to detail is a big advantage. Criminologists often have to collate and interpret large volumes of data connected to criminal profiles, crime statistics and so on. Being able to maintain your focus while carrying this work out will stand you in good stead.

And it’s not just data sets that require a keen eye. You might have to closely observe a range of human behaviours to gain an understanding of criminal actions and motivations. The more detail you’re able to pick out from your observations, the deeper your insights will be.

2. Problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving abilities are also crucial. Criminologists are often called on to help solve complex issues, for example to offer solutions to tackle rising crime rates or to find ways to improve crime data gathering or analysis. Being able to come up with new and innovative approaches to address problems is central to this.

3. Ability and willingness to learn

Working in criminology, it helps to have a solid knowledge base of other related topics. For example, because you’re studying crime, you’ll need to have an understanding of the relevant parts of the criminal justice system. Don’t be put off if you currently lack this knowledge however. When you study criminology, you will cover various legal topics, such as civil and criminal law, the structures of courts and legal professions, legal terminology, international law and so on. Depending on the direction you wish to take your career in, you may also expand your legal knowledge in a particular area.

Regardless of the topics you need to familiarise yourself with, the key is having the willingness and ability to acquire and retain the relevant know-how. There are many learning programmes available to help you, including law and justice-related courses.

4. The ability to act with ethics and integrity

Working in this field, you might come into contact with highly sensitive information. You’ll need to employ a strong sense of ethics and integrity in order to handle this data appropriately, keeping it confidential and private and acting responsibly with details that could affect people’s lives.

Depending on the roles you take on, you might need extra training in the ethics associated with your job and on how to behave in certain difficult scenarios.

5. Strong communication

Many roles in criminology require strong written and oral communication skills. You might have to share observations, data and other important information with colleagues on a regular basis. From writing reports, to giving presentations, to working in groups, your communication skills may come into play in a wide range of situations.

6. Computer literacy

Computer literacy is a must if you’re going to enter this profession. You’ll need to be confident using common software packages. Depending on the type of work you do, you might need to use technology to record and analyse large amounts of data, to create reports and more. If your IT abilities need improving, you might want to look into taking relevant computing courses.

7. Effective research skills

Criminology is a discipline that’s constantly evolving as crime types and trends change. This means a lot of work in this field centres on research. Being able to ask the right questions and find appropriate ways to get the answers you need is therefore essential. You might engage in small or large-scale studies involving qualitative and / or quantitative research. You’re likely to excel in these tasks if you have a sense of curiosity and an analytical mind.

8. Social awareness

One often overlooked ability that can benefit criminologists is a keen sense of social awareness. A big part of this discipline is understanding human nature and the factors that can lead people to behave in certain ways. This means connecting with people from various backgrounds and empathising with their situations. Being able to read people accurately will help you to comprehend their motivations, which in turn will allow you to provide useful insights and analysis.

Can I study criminology online?

If you think you have, or could gain, the skills you need to be a successful criminologist, you might be wondering what your study options are. One commonly asked question is whether this subject can be studied online. The answer is yes. It’s now possible to complete learning programmes such as our Criminal Justice and Criminology Diploma entirely remotely.

This makes it easier for you to fit your studies around work or family responsibilities, plus it means you’re not restricted to registering for courses that are close enough for you to attend in person. It also enables you to complete the course at a pace that suits you.

Online, career focused education that suits your lifestyle.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.