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What courses? Criminology; criminological studies; criminology and criminal justice; applied criminology. It’s often offered as part of a joint honours. Popular combinations include sociology and criminology, social sciences and criminology, and psychology and criminology.

What do you come out with? A BA usually, although a BSc is offered in some cases.

Why do it? "Criminals will plague society for as long as it exists, but we can learn to understand crime so that we can manage it. If you have a curiosity about society, a questioning nature and a good imagination, plus a clear head that will enable you to ask the right questions about where and why crimes take place and who might commit them, then criminology is for you. It will give you the relevant social science or forensic skills to analyse the answers to those questions in order to inform criminal justice professionals and policy makers about how to deal with crime." - Professor David S. Wall, professor of criminology, Durham University

What's it about? Crime – what is it? What causes it? How big a problem is it? What are the effects of it? What do we do about it? – These are all issues tackled by criminology, strictly defined as the scientific study of crime. Sitting tightly alongside sociology, criminology is a behavioural science, utilizing theories of psychology, psychiatry, and social anthropology, to examine crime both on an individual and societal level. Courses tend to start with a broad introduction before allowing students to specialise as they progress. Early modules introduce students to the concept of thinking critically about crime, as well as the importance of research methods in gathering information about criminal behavior. Later studies focus on these core principles in greater depth. Over the course of a degree, expect to come across such topics as measuring crime rates; the place of crime in popular culture; efforts to prevent crime; biological explanations for crime; and the criminal justice system. A dissertation in your specialised area is commonplace in the final year.

Study options: Three years full-time in nearly all cases. A couple offer a year abroad if combining study with a language or a regional-based degree, such as American studies. Very few places offer a sandwich year.

What will I need to do it? Anything goes, really. Although A-levels in sociology and psychology have their benefits. Entry grades obviously vary, but to do it at Durham and Cardiff you’ll need AAB.

What are my job prospects? Criminology graduates may be drawn to the criminal justice system, finding roles in the policing, probation, the courts, prisons and youth offending. They may also find themselves advising local and national government on crime and disorder issues, often on a private consulting basis. Those who do not wish to follow on from their degree with a career in a crime-related industry, will find the transferable skills gained during their studies open them up to jobs in a wide range of sectors, including social and youth work, community development, journalism, teaching, lecturing and commerce. According to The Times’ Good University Guide 2012, 27 per cent of sociology graduates (of whom criminology leavers form a proportion) go straight into graduate-level positions, earning an average salary of £20,744.

Where’s best to do it? Durham comes third in the Complete University Guide 2012 for sociology, but is the highest ranking university to specifically offer criminology, followed by Warwick and Surrey (which offers criminology in conjunction with psychology or law. Students at Bolton – which offers a degree in criminological and forensic psychology – were most satisfied, followed by those at Birmingham City University.

Related degrees: Psychology; sociology; anthropology; law.