Dennis J. Stevens, PhD

Myths about Criminologists


Myth 1


Many of my university students want to become a FBI "Profiler." Criminologists and the media's alleged profiler are two different things. A criminologist largely possesses advanced university degrees such as a PhD. in the social sciences or natural sciences, while a "profiler" is a law enforcement practitioner who is too tired to kick-in-doors to serve high risk warrants. John Douglas a retired FBI Special Agent amplified the distinction between criminologists and profilers in his best selling book.   


Myth 2


The FBI doesn't have a job called profiler. The tasks commonly associated with "profiling" are performed by Supervisory Special Agents assigned to the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) at Quantico, Virginia.


Myth 3


MentalistA criminologist gets a vibe or psychic flash when identifying dangerous offenders. The FBI explains that despite popular depictions and media performances such as the Mentalist (this link is the September 22, 2001 season premiere), "FBI Special Agents don't get vibes or experience psychic flashes while walking around fresh crime scenes."


The Job of a Criminologist


Criminology is the study of criminals and how to control violent offenders. Criminologists analyze the behavior of criminals for a variety of reasons: to improve the identification of dangerous offenders, to increase their apprehension, to predict patterns and motives of their behavior, and to assess the legal and moral strategies of the justice system. Criminology rests on evaluating and predicting the foundations of behavior based upon incomplete information, explains The Princeton Review. Therefore, comprehensive and rigorous academic requirements apply to the criminologist professional.  


As such, it is a subdivision of the larger field of sociology which draws from psychology, economics, anthropology, psychiatry, biology, statistics, and other disciplines to explain the causes and prevention of criminal behavior. Also, coursework at the university level includes statistics, professional writing, computer science, law and criminal procedure, and research design. The overwhelming majority of criminologists are sociology majors with strong psychology backgrounds. Today, degrees in criminology are available from amazing universities (see below).  


Criminologists play a role in Criminal Law because criminologists produce scientific findings that influence legislators, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, probation officers, and prison officials, giving them a better understanding of crime and criminals and how to control them. That is, with the information provided by a criminologist, others can make legal and moral informed decisions.


Finally, the work of Criminologists has impacted the development of more humane prison sanctions and treatment among offenders. After all, providing a wide range of Constitutional guarantees among suspects, defendants, and convicted felons reaches to the heart of a constitutional democratic nation.   


Pay Scale


The top paying industry is Federal Executive Branch (OES designation), with criminologists earning on average $100,680 yearly. Other top paying industries include social advocacy organizations, scientific research and development services, universities and local governments. ASCCriminologists earn $60,720 and $90,170 a year in these job settings. Many criminologists are employed or subcontracted by law-enforcement agencies, prison systems, the military, and corporate America. Criminologists often have opportunities to enhance their income through lectures, publications, and research. Many are professional members of Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and the American Society of Criminology. There are many personal rewards experienced by a criminologist such as aiding law enforcement's apprehension and conviction of unknown dangerous offenders, terrorists, and child molesters.    


Top Twenty-two Universities and their websites offering PhD. programs in Criminology according to US News 2009:



University of Maryland--College Park College Park, MD


University at Albany--SUNY Albany, NY


University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH


University of Missouri--St. Louis St. Louis, MO


Pennsylvania State University--University Park University Park, PA


University of California--Irvine Irvine, CA


Florida State University Tallahassee, FL


Michigan State University East Lansing, MI


Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--Newark Newark, NJ


CUNY--John Jay College New York, NY


Temple University Philadelphia, PA


Arizona State University Glendale, AZ


Northeastern University Boston, MA


University of Florida Gainesville, FL


University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA


University of Delaware Newark, DE


George Mason University Manassas, VA


University of Nebraska--Omaha Omaha, NE


American University Washington, DC


University of Illinois--Chicago Chicago, IL


Washington State University Pullman, WA


Indiana University Bloomington, IN


Online Universities  


The many peculiar websites that inform readers how to become a criminologist is as disturbing as it is detrimental to students, to their communities, and to their nation. First, it should be noted that many colleges are facing a crisis of their own, but often that crisis is not a crisis of their own making. The affects of dumbing-down American students can be linked to the fastest profit growing colleges that utilize advertising agencies and the media to promote suspect educational programs to perspective students. Online enterprises provide every degree from a bachelor to a master's to law degree and a PhD, how is that possible? Those peculiar colleges display a consistent use of recruitment language in their advertisements. Often the language and accompanying images include the illusion that anyone can earn a college degree in a fun-filled environment. However, this illusion only exists in the minds of the salespeople who profit from the misery of poor students who couldn't earn an A in a Checkers class. Factually, online enrollment grew by 25% 2009 to 2010. In the systematic dumbing-down process of the American people, the notion that anybody can earn a degree is contradictory to the American work ethic, the notion of personal accountability, and the preservation of entrepreneurship. Hard working individuals who make the right choices and contribute in a positive way become the shadows of "losers." What the Frank is that about since the mission of colleges might have more to do developing positive participants in a democratic society than awarding degrees to anyone who has a few bundled moments to apply for a degree and crank up a computer.          


Mission of Higher Education


One mission of higher education or least of dedicated professors is to further the critical inquiry among students. One way to accomplish this mission is by engaging students through active learning strategies and dialogue. Through the continual experiences of engaged students, they can develop a habit of deliberation and can make informed decisions about their lives and the lives of others. In the end, professors educate students for democracy by promoting positive civic participation and personal well being.


Online Degrees


When an individual has a real undergraduate degree and wants to obtain more education, online might be a plausible choice because of circumstance such as occupation and family activities.

My issue with online degrees has little to do with societal change. It has to do with quality. What rewards emerge from a real classroom headed by a dedicated professor? The acknowledgment and recognition that you accomplished an amazing feat which required motivation, perseverance, and personal discipline. Networks too are a benefit of sitting next to another student who could be your future employer or colleague. There's also the benefit derived from professors who engage you in their research. Just ask my former students how they feel about that! Let's also consider that professors often guide awesome students to connect with internships at organizations such as NCIS, municipal police departments,and mega corporations. Finally in this regards, dedicated professors connect students with graduate schools and jobs through advisement, alerting a student to job openings, and reference letters. I continue to write reference letters for former students from the 1990s.    


Frankly, once students have their credentials, getting that job and that promotion is all about who you know, where you earned your degree, and the research and internships you experienced. Yet largely, earning a real degree enhances self-confidence, radiant smiles, and a genuine sense of accomplishment.             


Dennis J. Stevens, PhD.


I'm recognized and respected as a criminologist by my academic and justice colleagues, byDr. Dennis J. Stevens domestic and international organizations and the professional press. My formal education (PhD. Sociology) is consistent with my colleagues, many of whom are criminologist-icons themselves, such as Frank Schmalleger, Larry Siegel, and Travis Hirschi. My professional experience of both, providing prison systems with alternative strategies to better manage prisoners and providing social services to criminally violent offenders is acknowledged by law enforcement and correctional managers on this Continent and abroad. Of course, all of my experiences as a professor, researcher, and care-provider plus four bucks gets me one free latté at Starbucks! Nonetheless, I don't think all criminologists are equal. While education and experiences are relevant to future criminologists, motivation and professionalism are essential characteristics in keeping with the primary mission of criminologists.


Primary Mission


The mission of criminologists is to educate justice practitioners (investigators and prosecutors) to employ the intellectual tools of applied research to identify, apprehend, and convict dangerous offenders. This mission includes legal and humane local and institutional correctional supervision along with offender custody-with-care strategies. Thus, the mission of criminologists is to boost public and individual safety which should ultimately enhance quality of life experiences in our homes, schools, and streets. An inference of my vision begs the question: isn't it true that a moral and legal government provides public safety among all of its constituents including its offenders to legitimize itself in a democratic society? The "rule of law" (U.S. Constitution) separates us from all the known beasts on this planet.