Crime Analyst Career Profile

Job Functions, Education Requirements and Salary Outlook For Crime Analysts

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Do you love to conduct research and analyze data? Are you interested in fighting crime and helping law enforcement agencies get the most out of their people and their programs? If you're considering earning a degree in criminology—or if you're trying to decide what to do with the degree you already have—you might want to take a look at a career as a crime analyst or criminal intelligence analyst.

What Is Crime Analysis?

Crime analysis is not a new field. Criminologists have long looked for patterns of crime to glean all sorts of answers about deviant behavior. The profession of crime analyst is a relatively recent innovation within policing, however, and it's rapidly becoming indispensable. 

Crime analysis has been a growing field since the 1970s due in part to the advent of community-oriented policing. Once limited to only federal or very large metropolitan departments, nearly every police agency in the U.S. now employs someone in an analyst capacity.

What Do Crime Analysts Do?

The field of crime analysis provides crucial information to law enforcement agencies. Analysts read police reports and look at crime statistics. They identify patterns and gather helpful data that can be used to help police command personnel and better allocate their police officers, detectives, and other assets. This places their departments in a better position to prevent and solve crimes.

Crime analysts have a host of resources at their disposal, including crime mapping technology, computer-aided dispatch, police reports, and contacts with other professionals in their area and around the country. They use these resources to look for trends and to provide answers to issues puzzling police in real time. This, in turn, helps law enforcement better prepare.

Crime analysis significantly enhances law enforcement's investigative capabilities. Analysts locate times and areas where a particular crime or a range of criminal activity is occurring. Identification of these areas, called hot spots, helps law enforcement plan their manpower needs, pinpointing when and where police officers should patrol in order to maximize their effectiveness.

Crime analysts are also on the cutting edge of community policing techniques, leading the charge on innovations such as predictive policing and environmental criminology.

What Does the Job Involve? 

The job of a crime analyst often includes gathering and analyzing crime statistics and producing reports. It can require developing intelligence, advising police commanders, and identifying criminal trends, including emerging problems. The crime analyst researches long-term problems and presents response strategies.

Analysts are often non-sworn members of a law enforcement department, making crime analysis one of many great civilian criminal justice careers available today. In some cases, sworn law enforcement officers might perform the functions of an analyst. Analysts typically work in an office environment and evaluate data rather than respond to crime scenes or investigate individual crimes.

Analysts might also serve in roles dedicated to intelligence gathering. Criminal intelligence analysts provide crucial information to law enforcement personnel about potential criminal activity and, even more important, officer safety information and bulletins.

Through intelligence gathering and interpretation, criminal intelligence literally helps save the lives of law enforcement officers by keeping them up to date on potential threats and the movements of dangerous people who would do them harm.

Crime analysts play a very important role in helping detectives and investigators solve crimes. By looking at police reports, data, and trends, they can gather important clues, such as methods and motives, that can lead to the identification of a suspect.

What Are the Requirements to Be a Crime Analyst?

In most cases, aspiring crime analysts must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, criminology, or another related field such as psychology or sociology. A focus on classes such as probability and statistics can prove helpful.

Some agencies allow candidates to substitute some or all of the college education requirement for relevant work experience. Although finding experience can be difficult without first achieving a degree, internships and volunteer work can help candidates make connections in the field and get on a solid career path.

In some cases, criminal analysts might serve in sworn law enforcement positions or in supervisory ranks. In this case, police academy training, several years of service and possibly promotion will likely be required as these would be specialty positions.

Analysts must have strong communication and analytical skills as well as great writing ability. They need to be able to locate and interpret data and must be able to repackage and present it in a way that can be easily understood by others. They should have a passion for research and a genuine desire to assist and support law enforcement in preventing and solving crimes.

What Are My Chances of Getting a Job as a Crime Analyst?

The field of crime analysis continues to grow as departments seek ways to save money by civilianizing positions and finding efficiencies. Because analysts can help agencies better allocate their manpower and at the same time find ways to reduce crime, the role of the analyst is proving invaluable to the law enforcement profession. This means that there will likely be ample opportunity to find a career as a crime analyst in the future.

What Is the Salary for Crime Analysts?

The median salary for crime analysts is around $46,991 annually as of 2018 with a pay range from about $34,000 to $65,000 a year. Payscale.com reports that the starting salary for analysts begins at about $34,000.

Is a Career as a Crime Analyst Right for You?

Crime analysis has become one of the most important functions within nearly every police agency. Analysts are found at every level of law enforcement and they support and bolster investigators and patrol officers and help them do their jobs and stay alive.

Crime analysts work in a fascinating field, combining research and analysis with policy and program planning. A vital tool for helping law enforcement respond to, solve and even prevent crime, a career as a crime analyst is an excellent opportunity to help communities and support the policing function. If you have a knack for research, interpreting data, and deciphering patterns, a career as a crime analyst may be the perfect criminology career for you.