A career in criminology

by Dan Miller

Hi, I’m Dan. I study Criminology at Lancaster University. After completing my undergraduate degree in Criminology (BA), I am currently doing a postgraduate degree in Criminology and Social Research Methods (MSc). As I’ve discovered while studying at Lancaster, there’s so much more to a degree than writing essays. In this blog, I’m talking about how doing a Criminology degree helped me to develop experiences and skills that support me on my career path.

Useful modules

Many of the modules in both undergraduate and postgraduate Criminology have a focus on skills development. Some examples include a work experience placement module, as well as a really unique module called ‘Learning Together’, which involves collaborative learning with prisoners at HMP Lancaster Farms. In addition to developing skills such as groupwork, the module also gives you an opportunity to talk to convicted criminals – perhaps for the first time!

Personally, I really enjoyed the Criminal Justice Research module available in third year. In this module, I worked alongside Lancashire Constabulary. I was given access to their data on people who repeatedly call the police (known as ‘frequent callers’) and was able to produce a report based on this data. My research interests still involve this topic today. This type of experience is invaluable in understanding what law enforcement really does and building great relationships for the future.

Support for career development

At the Law School, we are lucky to have specific career support from our own career consultants, who themselves have led incredible careers. In addition to 1-1 career support, they also offer opportunities such as careers fairs, skill workshops, and presentations from employers, including employers such as the National Crime Agency. They also advertise opportunities for relevant work experience, such as roles as an independent custody visitor, for example. An independent custody visitor is someone who goes and checks on the welfare of people detained in police custody every few weeks and can be great for developing skills such as handling confidential information.

There is also a University-wide careers service. You might be wondering what they can offer beyond the Law School. In addition to answering questions and giving practical tips on things like CVs and job-searching, they can help you explore your career options, something that may be of value if you’re not entirely sure what to do next. In addition, they also offer specialist support, such as for students with disabilities – something that I really value. It’s worth checking out their Careers Blog – I really enjoy it!

Work experience opportunities

Although various modules do give a useful starting point for your career, I’d really recommend that you do work experience alongside your degree if possible, as it really helps complement and enhance the skills you learn in modules. There’s no substitute for real-life experience!

Of course, there are general work experience opportunities from Lancaster University. This can include representing the Law School at events, for example. There are also more specific opportunities.

Many criminology students go onto careers in law enforcement, such as the police or prison service. For gaining relevant experience, personally I think volunteering is the way forward, as it opens up a world of opportunities. For example, one popular option for Criminology students is to volunteer as a Special Constable with Lancashire Constabulary. Thanks to our good relationship with local law enforcement, the Law School offers great support if you’re applying for something like this.

For me and many other Criminology students, the reason we do a subject like this is to help people. Something else some people on the course do is work or volunteer in agencies such as the NHS, the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), or St John Ambulance. In addition to really making a difference, it helps to complement any law-enforcement-related opportunities you might be looking at. I found that reminding myself of this very different (and perhaps less romanticised) angle is really beneficial.

The future

Although the focus in this blog has been on careers in criminology, it’s worth mentioning that a lot of graduates go on to do all sorts of careers, from hotel management to teaching. Studying criminology really gives you the skills you need for the future – whatever it holds. Indeed, I often get asked what I’m going to do after Uni. I’m going into my mid-20s now, and I still don’t have an answer!

Work experience helped me to decide that I want to help people somehow. I do enjoy helping people on the ground, though sometimes I think it’s also good to have a more distanced approach, and I have considered a lot of different ways of doing this – from data analysis to working in academia. I know that whatever I decide to do, I will be well-supported by the University.


Dan is studying MSc Criminology and Social Research Methods at Lancaster University.

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