Dixie Rocker just recently graduated (May 2015) from the University of Alabama with a Master’s in Criminal Justice. This fall. She is attending the doctoral program in the College of Criminology at Florida State University. The program estimates five years until completion, thus I anticipate graduating in the spring of 2020.
What has your experience in criminology been like at the University of Alabama? Were there other schools you were considering, and if so, why did you choose this one?
The University of Alabama has offered me a personalized and intimate academic experience while I completed my master’s degree. The small class sizes enabled me more opportunities to vocalize my opinions and develop valuable relationships with my cohort and major professors. The faculty at the University of Alabama excels in their ability to mentor young professionals and academics alike. They are eager to teach you outside of the classroom, which is what best prepares students for their professional careers. For my doctoral degree, I applied to nearly a dozen top criminology programs. In the end, I chose FSU because of their impeccable reputation, their history with academia, and their commitment to innovative research.
What influenced you to pursue a major/career in criminology?
The field of criminology is exciting. Crime and deviant behavior surround you in your every day life. Thus, its applications to the real world are endless. Many professionals in the field of criminology are driven by their desire to seek justice and ‘take down the bad guys’. While I do agree this is an essential part of our criminal justice system, I am more interested in what patterns of criminal behavior emerge. As an academic in the field, I seek to understand criminal behavior. This understanding of causation is what leads to the development of public policies and programs aimed at the rehabilitation of criminals.
Have you participated in any internships? If so, how many, how were they, and did you find the schools resources to be helpful in helping you find this opportunity?
During my bachelor and master’s programs, I participated in several research opportunities with various major professors. Each research project further developed my research skills and helped prepare me for my future in academia. The faculty at the University of Alabama is both accessible and informative when it comes to any opportunities for professional or academic development. Additionally, the professors in the department of criminal justice consistently post job openings and make summer internship opportunities known to students.
What are your future career plans and aspirations?
This fall I begin my doctoral program in the School of Criminology at Florida State University, which is considered one of the best criminology programs in the country. I plan to complete my degree within five years and have several publications out. Ultimately, I want to continue my career in academia as a university professor. I also want to continue my research in gendered criminology, race, gender, and inmate inequality, and multivariate modeling. I would like to use this knowledge to help develop public policies on discrimination and inmate rehabilitation programs.
With a degree in criminology, generally speaking, what other types of occupations could someone with this background pursue?
When I explain to people my degree, they automatically begin to think of shows like Criminal Minds or CSI. While most professionals in this field do enter government jobs (working as a police officer, and agent in the FBI, working for the Department of Defense, etc), there are also dozens of other job opportunities. This can include going on to obtain a law degree, being an academic, obtaining a degree in criminal psychiatry, or even becoming a counselor for offenders and/or victims.
What has been the most challenging aspect of studying criminology, and was this something you had originally anticipated?
The most challenging aspect of studying criminology is probably staying up to date. Because criminology is constantly changing and evolving, with new stories on the news every hour, professionals in this field have to make sure they are always aware of current events. In many ways, this means taking your job home with you. You can’t turn on the television, or even scroll through your news feed on Facebook without seeing something that relates to criminology. And now matter how much I anticipated this part of the field, no one can be prepared for it.
What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?
I would advise upcoming professionals to come with an open mind. Be prepared to learn research that may not align with your personal beliefs and experiences. Be prepared (and be able) to see situations from other points of views. Letting go of your biases will enable you to experience change, accept criticism, and ultimately make you a better professional in your field.