Criminology: What is it & Why is it Important?


Have you ever wondered what makes a criminal tick? Why do some people turn to a life of crime? These are the questions at the heart of criminology.

Criminology is the study of crime. Everything that is involved in a crime – the motivation, the victim, the criminal, the criminal act itself. It is a field that has been around for centuries, with roots in sociology, psychology, and law. Criminologists use statistical analysis, an expert background in sociology, and psychological behaviors to determine patterns that they confer with Forensic Psychologists on to determine a forensic profile.

Criminology vs. Forensic Psychology

It can be confusing because while the role of a criminologist and a forensic psychologist may sound very similar, their roles provide different purposes in the criminal justice department.

Criminologists examine existing criminals’ behaviors and backgrounds, deceased victims and their similarities, and the crimes and similarities and try to understand the scientific correlation so that that information can be passed off to Forensic psychologists. Forensic psychologists aim to prevent repeat criminal offenses from existing offenders and are more involved in psychological evaluations and counseling.

Criminologists and forensic psychologists collaborate to create a criminal profile based on scientific data that supports the accuracy of the offender’s identity. This data can help identify the UNSUB’s family and educational background, ethnicity, and other factors. This process is similar to what is depicted on the TV show Criminal Minds, where the information used to create a profile is gathered by a criminologist.

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An Expert in the Field of Criminology

Meet Edwin Sutherland

Image Credit : IU Archives via IU Blog

Edwin Sutherland is noted in history as one of the most influential criminologists of the 20th century and even coined the term “white-collar” crime. White-collar crime generally refers to the crime of the wealthy. Aka fraud, embezzlement, bribery, etc.

“Crime is learned behavior. The individual does not acquire crime as he might acquire measles. He is not born with it. He comes to be in contact with it, to know and even love it.”

Edwin Sutherland

Why is Criminology Important?

Criminology is important because it allows us to look at society as a whole and understand how its failures push others to commit crimes. Criminology allows professionals to examine evidence and interview offenders to understand the common pattern among criminals’ backgrounds that creates motivation to create crime (i.e child abuse, sexual abuse, drugs & alcohol, poverty, etc). Everything that a criminologist does is working toward the larger purpose of reducing crime rates and recidivism.

What Exactly Does A Criminologist Do?

The role of a criminologist can involve a range of tasks that require significant desk work. These tasks may include analyzing data, interviewing offenders, collaborating with forensic psychologists on recidivism strategies, conducting research, writing articles and papers, and more. The criminology profession is known for its focus on research.


With that being said, is criminology the right career path for you? If you are considering a career path in criminal justice, but don’t see yourself handling a gun, criminology may be right for you! I know I am certainly considering it, but I can’t resist a good research project.

Join the Fight Against Crime with a degree in Criminology
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“Edwin H. Sutherland.” American Sociological Association,

Lubotzky, Asher. “Edwin H. Sutherland: The IU Scholar Who Revolutionized the Study of Criminology.” Voices from the IU Bicentennial, Indiana University, 24 Jan. 2019,

McCumber, Ariana. “Criminologist Job Description.” CSP Global, 21 Oct. 2021,,victim%2Fperpetrator%20demographics%20and%20locations.

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