Is Criminology Right for You?

Elizabeth Ortiz, MS, F-ABMDI

As the year comes to an end, we often wonder if we lived our life to its fullest. Did we accomplish everything we had set out to do and were we successful? We also begin to think of new challenges or possibly changing careers. One of the career choices in the forefront is crime scene investigations. It might be due to the numerous television shows or maybe the desire to truly help someone. The one question you should ask yourself should be, “Is criminology for me?” and if it is then pursue those goals.

As a death investigator, I knew I wanted to pursue this career since the age of six but still wondered if I would be able to handle it. I can still vividly remember my first autopsy. I wondered as the pathologist made that first incision if I would faint, throw up or just simply appreciate what I was about to embark on. Not only did I appreciate what I was seeing but I also realized how fragile our bodies were. We truly are miracles because once you see how each and every organ functions and supports each other there is no denying how amazing our bodies are.

Once I understood this would be my career choice there would be other aspects of this career that I would have to accept. I would have to accept that I would see complete devastation to families, tragedies that could have been prevented but were not and unimaginable acts on one another. I would also have to learn not to talk about my career to strangers not in the field because I soon realized many people are “gore hungry” and seem to get a sick thrill out of someone else’s pain. The suffering one person endured is not meant to be an entertainment show for another. Plain and simple, I would have to keep to myself what I would see every day at work.

I believe how you can prepare to enter the field of criminology is to have an understanding that evil does reside on this earth. Each class in the curriculum for criminology will provide a small glimpse of what is out there but it is only a small glimpse. Secondly, what you read in a textbook will provide a good foundation but it is not the same as when you see it. As we read something and understand it we assess our own ideas or perceptions of what it is we are reading but once you experience it in person it is completely different. For example, the death of a child is something I do not like to investigate but it has to be done. What the textbooks fail to tell us is that the parents will want to cradle their child one more time. They will want to hold the little delicate hand or foot, kiss it, smell it. The book fails to provide you with an example of the raw emotion the mother will display. A mother who had tried for several years to bear this child only for the child to die at a young age. The textbooks leave out the emotional aspect of any investigation.

Textbooks fail to provide the dynamics of a scene when people are truly experiencing the loss of someone they love. What you have to understand and believe is that you are there to provide a service and to ensure you are the voice of the decedent, the victim or the witness. If this is what you believe is your true calling, then you can learn to compartmentalize those images and become a successful individual in the field of criminology.