What jobs could you do with a degree in criminology?

student working at a laptop

The experts at The University of Law run through potential career paths for graduates of the course

A degree in criminology can lead to a diverse range of employment possibilities, providing students with a deep insight into the workings of the criminal justice system and beyond. From analysis and research skills to communication and ethical considerations, this fascinating course prepares students for a variety of roles both within and outside the sector.

To get a deeper understanding of graduate career prospects – as well as a few employability-boosting tips – we spoke to John McKeown, careers consultant at The University of Law.

Police officer

This is perhaps the most obvious career path for criminology students – but it’s popular for a reason, with many graduates pursuing a job in law enforcement.

“A sizable portion do go down the policing route,” says John.

“You don’t need a degree to become a police officer, but it’s still very useful. Police force employers will definitely see having a degree like criminology as an advantage,” comments John.

It can also help you get to grips with the job’s demands more quickly. “If you do become a police officer, you’ll have to do a lot of training in your first years and just having that background in criminology and understanding of the criminal justice system can be really useful,” John explains.

Probation officer

This is another role where a solid understanding of criminology could give your career a boost.

In terms of the day-to-day tasks, you’d be “working with people on probation in court, the community and in prisons. You’d also be running rehabilitation programmes – so it can be really helpful to understand the ins and outs of the programmes, as well as the background of the whole system and how it works,” says John.

A degree in criminology could also give you a headstart on your professional development as a probation officer.

“Going into a probation role, you have to take further qualifications. But if you’ve done a criminology degree, you’ll be exempt from certain modules of the training programme,” John explains.

Charity roles

Plenty of criminology students are drawn to working with charities and social enterprises, especially those focused on criminal justice. This interest is often closely linked to the reasons why they pursued a criminology degree in the first place.

“While some see a criminology degree as a pathway into law enforcement, others approach it from a sociological angle and seek to understand society and its criminal aspects,” says John.

“Working for charities in the criminal justice field is a natural fit for these students. The skills they develop in analysis, research and data management are particularly valuable, giving them an in-depth understanding of the work and the ability to measure impact,” John explains.

Youth and community work

Criminology graduates also find their skills highly applicable in youth and community work, where they support individuals who are directly affected by societal issues.

John says: “Working with community groups and specific youth groups, these graduates help those who need support the most, understanding their position and challenges.”

“Youth workers help young people and children grow personally, socially and educationally. They work with them one-on-one as well as through programmes designed to teach them key life skills,” John continues.

“If you decided to become a social worker, you would need to take a postgraduate degree to qualify. But having that background in criminology provides valuable insight to give you a headstart in understanding the complexities of social issues,” John notes.

Civil servant and local government roles

Working for the government is another popular option for graduates of the course.

“The civil service is open to graduates from any discipline, recognising that a strong degree result demonstrates valuable skills,” explains John.

“With around 15 different leadership and specialist development schemes in the civil service fast stream, skills in research, analysis and problem-solving are directly transferable to various roles on offer,” says John.

Equally, “graduates who work in local government benefit from an understanding of social issues at the local level. Skills in conducting research and the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and make compelling arguments are invaluable in this context,” comments John. 

Intelligence services

The UK’s three main intelligence services are MI6, MI5 and GCHQ. They run a variety of graduate roles: for example, MI5 offers four specialist programmes and GCHQ has a range of summer placements.

In general, their recruitment processes “look for people with good analytical, research and problem-solving skills – all of which are developed on a criminology degree. These capabilities are crucial for roles such as intelligence officers or project management within these intelligence and security agencies,” comments John.


A psychologist works with people who are experiencing psychological difficulties, helping to enhance their mental and physical wellbeing. This path is “especially relevant for those interested in criminal psychology, where working with offenders can build upon this foundational knowledge,” John comments.

“Be aware that to qualify as a psychologist additional training is required, such as a postgraduate conversion course,” John adds. 

Transferable skills

Of course, this isn’t a complete list, and there are plenty of other employers that would highly value criminology graduates. John runs through a few of the skills that students on the course can expect to develop:

  • Analytical skills: examining data and interpreting it effectively. 

  • Research: the ability to set clear objectives for what you want to learn, through both quantitative and qualitative methods. 

  • People skills and emotional intelligence: how to communicate effectively and empathetically with individuals from diverse backgrounds. 

  • Making ethical judgments.

  • Problem-solving: using critical thinking to find solutions

John explains that, “a significant percentage of graduate jobs are not specific to any degree, highlighting that employers often seek well-developed skills such as critical thinking, communication and research, which can be applied to a variety of roles.”

Tips to boost your employability

When you’ve started your degree, John explains that seeking out work experience can make you even more attractive to potential employers. This could include internships, work placements, volunteering and part-time work. 

“In particular, the criminal justice and charity sectors both offer numerous opportunities for volunteers to work directly with the people impacted by policies,” says John.

John shares a handful of places to look for relevant work experience:

  • Prospects provides information and advice on finding work experience and internships. 

  • TargetJobs advertises work experience schemes across a variety of sectors. 

  • Rate my placement offers advice and information about schemes, with reviews by previous students. 

  • Milkround posts internships across the UK. 

  • Inspiring Interns advertise internships and graduate roles. 

Work experience “provides valuable insights into the lives of the people affected, as well as a real sense of what working in these sectors is actually like. This can differ significantly from initial expectations, both positively and negatively,” says John.

And even if you ultimately choose to take a different career path, “having voluntary or work experience on your CV is always beneficial – and can open doors to other career opportunities,” John comments.

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