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Criminologists are criminal investigators and researchers who examine the criminal mind and the nature of crimes. In some cases, criminologists aid in actual investigations and play a role in the apprehension of criminals, while in other cases they conduct research that leads to better law enforcement techniques. The term "criminologist" itself encompasses a variety of disciplines in the criminal investigation field. For that reason, the working conditions of criminologists vary according to their specific job function.
Some criminologists work as science lab technicians or forensic scientists. Much of their day is spent working in a laboratory environment, studying evidence obtained at at crime scene. Forensic scientists may spend a considerable amount of time at the computer each day, analyzing data and using sophisticated software programs to identify possible criminal suspects. Forensic scientists use laboratory information management systems and DNA sequence analysis software, as well as database user interface and query software and graphics or photo imaging software.
Crime Scene Work
The crime scene is another typical working environment for the criminologist. Criminal investigators gather evidence from crimes to be taken back to the laboratory for analysis. Their work may involve gathering tissue and fluid samples from dead bodies, examining blood stain spatters and weapons found at the scene of the crime and any other potential clues. Crime scene investigators attempt to recreate the crime scene as it was when the crime happened to gain a greater understanding of what transpired and to attempt to identify the perpetrator.
One of the less glamorous sides of the criminologist's job is the work that she does in the office. When she's not conducting research or investigating the crime scene, the criminologist, like other police officers and detectives, spends a lot of time filling out and filing paperwork. Criminologists have to document their findings by filling out police reports and must keep extensive records for future investigative purposes. A solid command of the English language and writing proficiency are necessary skills in this profession.
Some criminologists who have expertise in one particular sub-field of criminology or are recognized as leading authorities in the law enforcement community can be asked to serve as expert witnesses in court cases. For example, forensic psychologists are sometimes called upon to comment on a suspect's behavior and mental state to determine whether or not it is consistent with the actions of others who have committed similar crimes or if it is the result of a mental illness beyond the suspect's control.
Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.