There are several steps that you must complete in a particular order to earn a criminologist degree. The first step is to apply to a community college or four year university to begin the educational process that will culminate in a bachelor's degree in criminology or criminal science. Generally, you will need to complete about 60 credit hours of lower division, general education coursework that covers a breadth of disciplines, including mathematics, science, history, philosophy, communications, and sociology. Once you complete the lower division coursework, you will begin the upper division portion of your criminologist degree program. In the upper division segment, you will be required to complete an additional 60 to 70 credit hours in courses that are directly related to the study of criminology or criminal science.
You have two choices for beginning your educational path toward the completion of a criminologist degree. You can either enroll in your local community college, or you can apply to a four-year university that offers a degree program in any aspect of the criminal sciences. If your high school grades and SAT scores are not competitive, you may want to consider enrolling in a community college, where you can complete your undergraduate coursework and improve your academic record before transferring to a four-year university. In the lower division portion of a criminologist degree program, along with general education courses you will take introductory classes in criminal science, adjudication, and law enforcement.
Once you complete the lower division coursework, you will either move into the upper division portion of the criminologist degree program or you will apply for transfer to a four-year college that offers such a degree. If you are transferring, you will need to fill out an application and arrange to have your transcripts sent to the admissions office of the college's criminal justice department. Some schools require that you schedule an in-person interview with a faculty member, and you may need to provide one or several letters of recommendation, though this is uncommon for undergraduate transfers.
Upon entry to the upper division portion of a criminologist degree program, you will take about 60 credit hours of courses as a junior and a senior. The courses will be cover various aspects of criminology in-depth, but the specific courses you take will depend upon the emphasis you have chosen for your studies. If you plan to go into law enforcement, however, you will need to take courses that survey rules and regulations concerning the handling of suspects.