What makes a criminal?

Understand the motivations of criminals and learn how to prevent crime

Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, causes, extent and control of criminal behaviour in individuals and society. PHOTO: ISTOCK

In 2017, Singapore experienced two "security incidents" in the space of three weeks - one involving a bag at Hougang MRT station, and the other some baking flour at Woodleigh MRT station. Both stations had to be closed for investigations to be carried out, disrupting operations and affecting commuters.

In a volatile, uncertain and complex world that is becoming increasingly vulnerable to security lapses, hacking, online scams and commercial fraud, crime prevention has never been more crucial.


The Singapore Police Force recorded a 3.2 per cent rise in crimes in the first half of 2018, and attributed the growth to the increase in e-commerce, loan and impersonation scams, which shot up 72.8 per cent to 1,823 reported cases. E-commerce scams went up by 58 per cent to 1,277 cases.

But even without these statistics, Singapore was already finding ways to beef up its capabilities in handling such crimes. In 2013, 32 Home Team officers were awarded sponsorships for a new full-time Degree programme in Criminology and Security.

In 2017, on the recommendation of the Committee in The Future Economy, Singapore decided to use National Service to develop cybersecurity skills among recruits.

The best students in maths and science can compete to be posted to technology-based vocations during full-time NS, developing expertise such as data analytics, robotics and cybersecurity.


Criminology is not just what you see on TV shows such as Criminal Minds, Mindhunter and Crime Scene Investigation. It is the scientific study of the nature, causes, extent and control of criminal behaviour in individuals and society.

This interdisciplinary field was not a well-known area of study in Singapore in the early 2000s. Criminology undergraduate Degrees were available only in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

A criminologist examines statistics and analyses crime trends and patterns to prevent criminal behaviour. Criminologists work with law enforcement partners, community leaders and policymakers to find ways to reduce crime.


Murdoch University at Kaplan offers a Major in Criminology, which will put you in good stead for these jobs:

  • Criminologist
  • Police officer
  • Forensic science technician
  • Corrections officer
  • Insurance fraud investigator
  • Probation and community control officer
  • Private investigator
  • Loss-prevention specialist
Online scams and cases of commercial fraud are rife these days. PHOTO: ISTOCK


Some organisations you can join include the SPF, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as insurance companies, small and medium enterprises, and multinational corporations.

According to online site SalaryExpert, an entry-level criminology professional with one to three years of experience earns an average yearly salary of $50,289, or $4,191 monthly.

A senior-level criminology professional with more than eight years of experience earns an average annual salary of $86,844 or $7,237 per month.

Over the next five years, the field is projected to register a 25 per cent salary rise, says SalaryExpert.


About 50 per cent of those working in criminology start off with a Master's Degree, while 33 per cent have a Bachelor's Degree, says SalaryExpert.

With a Major in Criminology, you learn how to:

  • Interpret crime statistics and reportage;
  • Analyse crime control policies and strategies;
  • Determine the causes of criminal behaviour;
  • Differentiate between international and transnational crimes; and
  • Produce conclusions based on evidence through a critical analysis of contemporary research findings.

Criminologists produce conclusions based on evidence through a critical analysis of contemporary research findings. PHOTO: ISTOCK


Associate Professor Guy Hall, academic chair, Criminology School of Law, Murdoch University, highlights what you can expect from Murdoch University's Major in Criminology.

Experienced and well-informed lecturers

Prof Hall says: "Criminology is studied around the world, so international work is a key aspect. Staff regularly attend conferences to ensure they are up-to-date in their speciality areas."

Updated and thorough research

"Our research includes studies on the characteristics of high-risk violent offenders, interviewing child complainants of sexual abuse, human trafficking, parole, self-harm in prisons, and police interrogation," shares Prof Hall.

Real-life case studies

Prof Hall says in almost all units, real-life cases studies are used.

He elaborates: "For example, we covered the interrogation of a man who falsely confessed to a murder. He was subsequently exonerated in part because one of our academics was an expert witness for his defence.

"The real murderer was subsequently identified through forensic analysis. We also cover serious child sex offenders, murderers, human trafficking cases, cases related to the interviewing of child complainants, and case studies on crime prevention and detection."

Real-life case studies are used for almost all the units of Murdoch University's Major in Criminology. PHOTO: ISTOCK

Intriguing units

Prof Hall highlights three popular modules:

Criminal Behaviour

The study of the psychology of criminals, this focuses on the attributes of offenders, especially violent offenders and sex offenders.

"Students love this unit because it is interesting and makes extensive use of case studies," says Prof Hall.

Policing and Crime Prevention

This unit teaches students to develop and implement crime prevention strategies.

"One of the assessments is to develop a specific crime prevention plan for a locality," shares Prof Hall.

International and Transnational Crime

This unit examines how we can deal with real-life problems.

Prof Hall explains: "The human trafficking aspect of the course challenges students because of the nature of the crime. Students find these challenges rewarding as they learn about how traffickers operate, the impact on victims, and how different countries grapple with this problem."


Here is a quick breakdown of the Major in Criminology Degree programme.

Crime through the Ages: Learn how various influences impact our understanding of crime and how this impacts the criminal justice system.

Policing and Crime Prevention: Learn more about crime prevention strategies through applied and theoretical perspectives.

Criminal Behaviour: Delve into the psychosocial basis of criminal behaviour and get specific examples of criminal behaviour.

International and Transnational Crimes: Learn about specific instances of major crimes for both, and how they are handled and adjudicated by the police in different countries.

Psychology and Law: Understand how law and psychology are similar and different, and how law can benefit from a deeper understanding of psychology.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: This examines various methods of dispute resolution such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration and mixed processes.

Introduction to Psychological Research Methods: This introduces students to the various types of research used to answer psychological questions, and explores issues that affect decision-making in research.


If you wish, you can opt for the following double majors at Murdoch University:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Business in Accounting and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Business in Banking and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Business in Business Law and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Business in Finance and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Business in Human Resource Management and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Business in Management and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security & Forensics and Criminology

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.