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Become a Crime Analyst: Join a Growing, Dynamic Field

written by: davidmakofsky•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 8/18/2009

Crime analysis is part of a growing field of technical crime and intelligence analysis. Online certificate programs are now available for training to become a crime analyst. They are especially important because many georaphical areas are not served by these training programs.

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    What is Crime Analysis?

    Crime analysis involves using social scientific and technical skills to collect and analyze crime data for the forecasting of future crime occurrences. It also involves developing target criminal profiles, and uses computer based technical tools to document possible criminal relationships between people, organizations and events. Crime analysis is one part of the field of crime prevention and forecasting occupations that are growing on a local and national level.

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    Where Can a Crime Analysis Certificate Be Obtained Online?

    Some nationally known criminal justice programs offer online courses and certificates in crime analysis. One program that is fairly well known in the field is Portland State University's online certificate program. The program is 100% online and requires no classroom attendance. Kaplan Online University also offers courses, but not a certificate, in crime analysis.

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    What Courses and Skills Are Involved?

    Typically crime analysis involves some familiarity with law enforcement terminology, applied statistics, social science background and geographical mapping. This may include subjects such as psychological profiling and intelligence analysis. The coursework may sound imposing, but in fact it is comparable to applied fields such as business and public policy. A great deal of information and training in the field is available through the International Association of Crime Analysts.

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    Why Obtain a Certificate Online?

    Crime analysis is a fairly new field, and training in the field is not widely available. Many criminal justice programs focus on police work and offer courses focusing on problems in law enforcement. Training in criminal justice enforcement is often not technically oriented. Crime analysis represents a different look at problems of crime, and is often dealt with by civilians, and participants in certificate programs represent a mix of officers and civilians.

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    Compensation For the Field

    Payscale, a site that runs compensation surveys, estimates a salary yearly range of $30,000 to $80,000 for crime analysts. Two factors might be considered. The first is that these law enforcement salaries are linked to civil service salaries. In some areas of the U.S. civil service salaries are low, but in major metropolitan areas, where law enforcement may want and need civilian technical support, salaries are higher and benefits are better. The second factor to consider: crime analysis, although a profession in itself, is also an entry level to the field of criminal and intelligence analysis. Higher paying jobs in this field may recruit crime analysts, but the job itself is not necessarily called "crime analyst".

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    Things to Consider Before Entering the Field

    A crime analyst typically works in a police department, or some law enforcement agency such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or Homeland Security. Certification means that the analyst has “hands on” experience to accompany coursework. What this means is that being a crime analyst involves having a background check in any enforcement agency. Although this check is not nearly as rigorous as that of a sworn officer, you should consider this before entering the field. "Hands on experience" also means that anyone obtaining this certificate must be prepared to do some volunteer work for the police department. Typically this involves supervised hours and assignments.

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    Information is Gained from the Following Sources

    Portland State Criminology program cites a Labor Department study forecasting a 24% growth rate in this field by 2012. For information on the Portland State program see http://criminaljustice.ccj.pdx.edu. Information about the field can be obtained from regional and national/international sources. One regional organization offering training is Bay Area Crime and Intelligence Analysts Association. The national/international links are International Association of Crime Analysts http://www.iaca.net/. Salary range information http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Crime_Analyst/Salary.