What can I do with a PhD in Sociology/Criminology?
May 14, 2011 8:41 AM   Subscribe

What can I do with a PhD in Sociology/Criminology?

I'm about a year away from graduating with a PhD in Sociology/Criminology and have always thought that I would become a professor. Recently, I've started wondering what else I can do with this advanced degree. Everywhere I look only provides information on those with undergraduate degrees and even when I call the Canadian Government websites, those who I speak with only have information on occupations suitable for BAs and MAs. I'm grateful for all types of answers and I'm just generally seeking some brainstorming of types of occupations. I have an undergraduate degree in Criminology/Women's Studies, a masters in Women's Studies and Feminist Research and a PhD in Sociology with a focus on female criminality. I'm also considering doing a postdoctorate degree in Sociology or Criminology, but nothing's set in stone yet (and obviously contingent on finding funding).
posted by DorothySmith to Education (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What was your answer to this question when you decided to get the masters?
posted by rr at 8:49 AM on May 14, 2011

I'm not sure I understand your question. You're asking me why I got my masters? Initially, my plan was to do a second masters in Social Work and I completed the first masters 'for fun' because I enjoyed my undergrad so much. I've continued on with the PhD because I enjoy school, have a drive to learn as much as possible and I'm good at it. Like I said, my main plan when completing the PhD was to be a professor. I've since started wondering what else I can do with this advanced degree.
posted by DorothySmith at 8:53 AM on May 14, 2011

Are you qual or quant?

Do you want to continue to do research?
posted by k8t at 8:57 AM on May 14, 2011

I can do both qualitative and quantitative work (I've taken advanced classes in both and been involved in studies containing both). That said, I prefer qualitative work. I like doing research, so it's definitely an option.
posted by DorothySmith at 8:59 AM on May 14, 2011

I'm not in this field, so I don't have the direct answer, but the place I would start looking for info would be the university I am finish at either through the department or the career services or the alumni database.

They must have other people who have finished PhDs in this program, and keep tabs on them, either for their own stats or to solicit donations. You may even have a searchable database of alumni, by department/degree, that you can see where they are and what they do, or even contact them.

This may not be available in pre-digested pamphlet form; it may require having some conversations with the school, professors, or alums.

If the university fails you, look up some people in LinkedIn and browse around or chat them up.
posted by whatzit at 9:02 AM on May 14, 2011

I find that when I ask around (alumn, faculty etc.) I get two answers. First, of course academia and teaching. Second, government. They don't elaborate... just government research. I find I'm in a department that really only focuses on academia and those options.
posted by DorothySmith at 9:05 AM on May 14, 2011

So you could become a policy wonk for the federal or provincial government. Probably working in something like housing, justice, internal affairs,... This site tells you more about what this work would be like in the UK. Canada may be different.

You could teach social studies at secondary or tertiary level.

You could become a paralegal or a lawyer.

You could work in editing or writing.

You could work for a management consultancy.

You could become a librarian.

Really, you should probably identify your skills and working likes and find a job that they will fit into. I don't think there's an obvious career that you should be pursuing. The types of fields that people with masters or bachelors degrees go into are still open to you. If you think that you have more to offer with your PhD than someone with an MA, work out what exactly you're offering that's different and then find a job that needs those skills.
posted by plonkee at 9:45 AM on May 14, 2011

I just know the market in the U.S. (not sure if that's what you're looking for). Government work for PhDs in criminology can take a lot of forms. The major agencies are something like NIJ, BJS, OJJDP, or occasionally DHS. Off the top of my head, you'd be doing stuff like grant management, compiling data and statistics, program evaluation, and so on.

There are also various for profit/ nonprofit agencies that do research about criminology and related social sciences research like PERF, the Police Foundation Urban Institute, the Innocence Project (I think that's what it's called), or on the for-profit side RAND and Booz Allen. I know a lot of agencies that are focused on policing but not so much on women's studies just because I'm interested in policing. The drawback of working in these is that you have no real incentive to publish when you're there, so you aren't building your CV and might have a hard time going back to academia if you wanted to in the future. Some academics also look down on them because the perception is that they're all about securing funding and not about high quality research (this more for the for-profits than non-profits).

You should maybe go to ASC and LSA and talk to people from some of these agencies. Unless you know someone there or have a faculty adviser who is familiar with the agencies/ works with them my impression is that it can be hard to get hired by these agencies and do the type of research that you're interested in. Although I'm just doing my first comp myself (next weekend, wish me luck), so I'm not as familiar with the job market as I could be.
posted by _cave at 9:47 AM on May 14, 2011

Outside of teaching, which is very competitive for both sociology and criminology and difficult to get if you aren't coming out of the best programs, there's market research. Both qualitative and quantitative research is valued for that. I did it for a few years myself before pursuing my doctorate in economics. In the firm where I worked, there was a political scientist who did all the quantitative work, and I had replaced a PhD in literature for qualitative work.
posted by scunning at 11:14 AM on May 14, 2011

I think that you shouldn't blame your faculty. They're faculty. It is their job to get more people to drink the kool aid. They don't know what you can do.

I'd look into the career services office. Mine was helpful.
posted by k8t at 1:45 PM on May 14, 2011

My Sociology/Criminology Ph.D boyfriend (now a professor at a community college) says to look into policy research centers. He says he knows someone who works at an Ontario-based policy center.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:35 PM on May 14, 2011

As everyone else has said, policy and research are your best non-academic bets. There is some scope for doing this in the private sector, mainly through research consulting firms. In my experience, a lot of this private sector works ends up being for government, so you need to be able to do both research and research management in a tight budget, but also be able to translate research findings into policy implications. I know a few people who do this sort of thing, and seem to enjoy it.

The main avenue is going to be government and NGOs. You can just look at places that have some relevance to the criminal justice arena (drug policy, sexual assault, delinquency programs, domestic violence programs, for example), or organisations/departments that just need someone with a research background who groks policy issues, even if it isn't within the specific field. That's actually what I'm doing at the moment (but I've only been doing it for a few days now). Having experience in things like writing research findings up so they're understandable to a broad audience really helps getting these sorts of positions, whereas your actual peer-reviewed publication record is pretty irrelevant.

Job hunting wise, if your various governments have employment sites, start doing searches for "research" – that's how I got my current position.
posted by damonism at 9:59 PM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try any role in the criminal justice system, be it lawyer, paralegal, police officer, court room clerk, etc. Although I think you at least 3-year law school degree to become a lawyer/paralegal, and more training to become a police officer, but that's what criminology students generally aspire to be. i think you might have heard of those occupations already.
posted by easilyconfused at 10:53 PM on December 3, 2011

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