This page is intended to be a guide to higher education students interested in enrolling for a criminology degree. It aims to provide them with a brief overview of criminology courses at university and also give them useful advice that they might want to consider before making any decisions.

Criminology degree overview
Courses tend to focus on fundamental points like what is criminology, whether our judicial system if fair and why individuals commit crimes. You will study how investigations are carried out by law enforcement agencies, the criminal processes involved throughout trails and discrimination and human rights etc. Apart from learning a portfolio of practical skills that are in demand by employers, you will also study:

The reasons for crime
This is a broad and technical subject that examines the factors that cause crime and the issues that can make some people more likely to commit crime than others. Although it is impossible to profile individuals who will commit crime in the future, by looking at the backgrounds of convicted criminals some criminologists believe that it is possible to look for and find reasons for their actions. From this information and statistical data it is possible for researchers to find circumstances or social conditions which may lead people to perform criminal activity.

Much of depends on the actual crime that has been committed. For instance if it is a racial crime then the motivation would probably just be hate. Whereas if say a robbery has been committed then money would be the motive.  People who commit violent crimes such as rape, murder, manslaughter or assault will have different reasons than say a company director who has embezzled funds from a business. Studies have regularly found that the most common reasons for breaking the law are;

  • Drug addiction
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Financial gain
  • Poverty
  • Mental illness i.e. schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
  • Peer pressure
  • Social problems
  • Problems at home
  • Deprived or underprivileged upbringing
  • Boredom
  • Thrill seeking
  • Sexual frustration
  • Opportunistic crime
  • The economy, unemployment and economic hardship
  • Childhood upbringing

Other reasons (some controversial) regularly put forward are:

  • Prisoners released early from prison sentences.
  • Unwillingness of the legal system to send offenders to jail, thereby leaving more career criminals out on the streets.
  • Opportunistic crimes, for instance a person sees a purse in a unlocked car and is then tempted to steal it.
  • Lack of police or law enforcement presence (to act as a deterrence) in crime hotspots.
  • Poor rehabilitation programmes for offenders whilst they are in prison.
  • Lack of education or poor schooling.
  • Hot weather.
  • Poor detection rates and clear up rates, leading to people believing they can ‘get away with it’.
  • Low intelligence.

Other possible areas of study are

  • Understanding theories and concepts in criminology.
  • Relative critical issues, trends and different types of crimes.
  • Overview of Justice
  • Studying how crime is defined.
  • Sentencing.
  • Hate crime.
  • Looking at the prevention and deterrence of criminal behaviour.
  • Improve your research and problem-solving abilities.
  • Ability to work as part of a team.
  • Provides you with good career support and opportunities.
  • Develops your ability to present cohesive arguments.
  • Criminological theory
  • How policies are formulated and implemented by government and the justice system.
  • Analysing and interpreting crime data.
  • Introduction to criminological thinking.
  • Equal opportunities and diversity
  • Terrorism and political violence
  • Alternative dispute resolution.
  • Social divisions in contemporary society, including topics like; the unequal distribution of wealth, power and privilege.
  • Punishment and penal policy.
  • Crimes arising from new technologies.
  • Miscarriages of justice.
  • Countering and managing criminal behaviour.
  • Restorative justice.
  • Deviance and social control
  • Operational Policing Issues
  • Crime prevention
  • Drug policy in relation to the criminal justice system.

Criminology degree structure and features

Year one

  • An introduction to theory and method of criminology and a criminal law.
  • Are criminal born bad or do social factors influence them.
  • The basics of conducting criminological research.
  • How crime is defined.
  • Introduction to forensic science.

Year two

  • How the police, authorities and justice system combat crime.
  • The way organised crime works.
  • How to carry out your own detailed research, present information and write professional looking reports.
  • Forensic evidence and imaging.
  • The underlying causes of crime.
  • Studying how the prison and probation service works.
  • The consequences of crime.

Year three

  • How the criminal justice system works.
  • Debating the contemporary issues surrounding crime and the criminal justice system.
  • Understanding the needs and views of victims.
  • Understanding homicide.
  • Analysing various types of evidence and also how to present evidence in court.
  • An option to carry out voluntary work with victims of crime and offenders.
  • Case studies.
  • Dissertation.

Study methods
You will learn through a combination of tutorials, practical seminars, lectures and discussions.

Will there be field trips?
Almost certainly yes, to observe the criminal justice system in practise you will visit crown and magistrate courts and other relevant locations.


  • A strong reputation for the quality and breadth of their teaching.
  • Lecturers who encourage you to engage in critical debate.
  • Keeps their criminology degree courses abreast of any current debates on criminal justice and crime.
  • A reputation for enhancing and broadening a students academic knowledge.
  • If possible one that has it’s own exclusive department dedicated to teaching and researching criminology.
  • Innovative lecturing methods.

Criminology personal statement 
These statements are a excellent opportunity for you to impress university admission staff with your writing and communication skills. We have compiled a professionally written sample below that you can use as a guide to creating your own one. You are strongly advised not to copy or plagiarise it, instead use it as a resource to inspire your own creative writing.


“I have always been interested in criminology from an early age and have studied related subjects to it at both GCSE and A level. Whilst at college I visited a local police station on a arranged tour and it was after this experience that I became interested in a future career with the police service.

To achieve my aim I have decided to enrol on a criminology degree course that would strengthen any future application to join the police. Over the past two years I have also under took part time voluntary work with organisations that are involved in rehabilitating offenders and supporting the victims of crime. This work has given me invaluable real life experience of the criminal justice system and prison service as well as a deeper understanding of the reasons for criminal activity. I also now have a clear practical interpretation of criminological theories and research methods, both areas which i feel will be valuable additions to what i learn academically.

I am now looking to enrol at a exciting and reputable university and on a course that will help me to fulfil my long term ambition. After reading the course content of your prospectus I started to take an interest in your institution as it seemed to have everything that I was looking for. Furthermore during a visit to your campus I was also impressed by the helpful and friendly attitude of the lecturers and other staff. They all had time to talk to me about certain issues I was unsure of and freely offered me their expert advice. I therefore feel that your Law & Criminology School will be the most appropriate place for me to pursue my degree.

I consider myself to be a hard working, mature and responsible individual who is looking forward to the challenges of university life, both academically and socially.”

More Criminology personal statement examples

Criminology degree interview questions and answers

Why do you want to study criminology?


  • It is a helpful and sometimes necessary qualification for anyone wishing to work in the legal or law enforcement sectors.
  • I have always been interested in exploring the roots of crime and trying to fully understand why certain people become criminals.
  • Crime is one of the biggest problems faced by the UK, few issues attract more public attention and generate more public debate than those involving crime and victimisation. I feel it is a important topic to be looked at.

Why do you want to study at our university?


  • Because of you distinguished lecturers and staff, strong research base and the wide range of options you offer.
  • Your extensive and strong links to agencies within the criminal justice, social work and health sectors.


Criminal Justice schools in the USA
Criminal Justice schools in Florida
Criminal Justice schools in California

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