Guide to Becoming Crime Analyst
Though crime analysis is a relatively new career option in criminal justice and criminology, it has quickly become one of the most important fields to support law enforcement's goal of preventing crime. It's easy to see why this fascinating career would interest people who may be looking for non-law enforcement careers in criminal justice and criminology, which may leave you wondering how to become a crime analyst.
Crime analysts have made themselves indispensable by providing police with vital intelligence and information regarding growing crime trends. They also analyze data from a variety of sources to help law enforcement managers make better decisions on how and where to employ their resources and manpower and become more efficient in fighting crime.
Though the field is growing as more and more departments put crime analysts to work, you're still going to need to work hard to make sure you're the best candidate for the job. That's why it's so important to find out just what it takes to land a career in this exciting field.
Minimum Requirements for Crime Analysts
Specific requirements for crime analysts vary, depending on the state you're in and even the department you want to work for. Generally, though, you must at the very least:
- Be a United States citizen
- Be a high-school graduate or hold a G.E.D.
- Hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
- Pass a thorough background check
Bare in mind, these are the minimum requirements. It will take more than this to put yourself in a position to get hired.
In some cases, relevant experience can be substituted for a college degree. Experience in this field, however, is hard to come by outside of working as a law enforcement officer. In fact, crime analysis can be a great second career for former law enforcement officers, so if you're looking to break into a crime analysis career without going to college, you'll probably need to get started as a police officer.
If law enforcement isn't for you, then chances are you're going to have to earn that degree. To set yourself up for success, consider majoring in a relevant discipline. Typically, you'll want to get your degree in criminal justice, criminology, sociology, psychology or public administration.
In addition to a solid education, you need to have strong analytical skills and the ability to use various computer programs. Critical thinking is also a must.
Education is important in any career, but experience and actual ability are what separates the best job candidates. To put yourself in the best position to get hired, you're going to need to get competitive and make sure you're the best candidate for the job.
Being able to demonstrate that you have some experience to draw on can go a long way. Consider working as an intern at a state or local police agency or with your sheriff's department. You may even consider getting a job as a police dispatcher or related field to help get familiar with how calls for service are dispatched and how CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) software is used.
A strong working knowledge of database and geo-mapping software is also an important key to putting yourself a step ahead of the competition. Stay up-to-date on literature and information related to the field by becoming familiar with crime analyst associations, such as the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA).
Additional skills you'll absolutely have to have are oral communication and the ability to write effectively, efficiently and coherently. It's one thing to be able to analyze data, but it does no one any good if you can't present it, which is why communication skills are a must.
Crime analysts deal with a lot of sensitive law enforcement data and information. It's only natural, then, that you'll be required to undergo a thorough background investigation for nearly any job you apply for. With this in mind, it's important, as it is with all criminal justice and criminology career seekers, that you keep your background as clean as possible. Be mindful to avoid associations with criminals, and refrain from any criminal behavior, especially serious misdemeanors, DUI's and any felony.
You can also expect the background investigation to include a look into your previous work history. Be open and honest about any conflicts with past employers, and make it a point to be a good employee wherever you're currently working. Try not to leave any job on bad terms, understanding that your previous employer may be called for a reference later.
Because of the subject matter crime analysts deal with, law enforcement agencies want to be certain that they hire the most upstanding and trustworthy candidates, so your background and employment history is an important component of the hiring process - and one you can't afford to disregard.
Of course, if you get hired you'll get plenty of on-the-job training as you go. You can also receive more formalized training, though, in the form of certificate programs from organizations like the IACA or through local associations. There are also some universities offering certificate programs in crime analysis. Because analysts deal with data and trends, it's important to remain in communication with other analysts and keep up-to-date.
Becoming a Crime Analyst
Crime analysis has become immensely important to law enforcement agencies to help them fulfill their role in the community. To get a job in this field, you'll need to employ hard work, dedication, and determination. If you enjoy analyzing data and solving puzzles, then get ready to put those critical thinking skills to the test so you can enjoy a long and rewarding career as a crime analyst. It may very well be the perfect criminology career for you.