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What Is Developmental Criminology?

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Developmental criminology is the study of criminal behavior and what causes individuals to participate in such behavior at different times or ages in their life. Most criminologists who study developmental criminology have an academic background in sociology, psychology or social work. Because developmental criminology focuses on reasons behind deviant behavior, those who work in law enforcement, corrections or as probation or parole officers also need to understand principles of developmental criminology. That way, they can better assess, manage and correct criminal activity.

Advanced Degrees Make a Difference

Most careers in developmental criminology require advanced, specialized academic degrees. Job candidates typically need a master's degree or a Ph.D. in sociology, criminology, law enforcement, criminal justice, psychology or social work. Courses in research methods and statistics are important for both master’s and Ph.D. candidates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Criminologists and sociologists often work in similar fields, so an advanced degree in either area is beneficial when researching, assessing and evaluating developmental criminology. Some forensic scientists use developmental criminology to evaluate patterns of deviant behavior. Lawyers, probation officers and parole officers also rely on criminal behavior studies to determine if first-time offenders are likely to engage in criminal activity in the future.

Never Underestimate Strong Skills

Those who use developmental criminology as part of their job must have a keen understanding of human behavior. Criminologists and sociologists conduct surveys and complete research projects to determine what factors influence criminal behavior. For example, they might assess how a person's age, background, family history, race, gender, geographic location or socioeconomic status affects his behavior. Criminologists and sociologists need strong analytical skills, expert critical-thinking skills and positive people skills. They must effectively interview subjects, assess statistical data and identify sociological concerns that often lead to deviant behavior.

Educators Play a Vital Role

Some careers in developmental criminology center on the education system. Law enforcement educators, sociology and criminology professors, government planning agents and private criminal-justice researchers need a solid understanding of how developmental factors contribute to criminal behavior. Some educators address issues at the local level, but many use regional or nationwide statistics to educate law enforcement and criminal justice students on current trends in criminal activity. Educators also play a vital role in creating programs and initiatives to address gangs, violent crimes, juvenile delinquency, truancy, theft and other deviant activity.

Career Perks

In 2020, the median annual wage for sociologists, including those who study developmental criminology, was $86,110. That's much higher than the median annual wage for all occupations -- $34,750. The lowest 10 percent of sociologists earned less than $52,640, and the top 10 percent earned more than $143,020, according to the BLS. The job outlook through 2022 is also better than the national average. Employment growth for sociologists is around 15 percent, but the average growth rate for all occupations is only 11 percent.

Sociologists salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $143,020 ($68.76/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $86,110 ($41.40/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $52,640 ($25.31/hour)

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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