Job advice for entry crime analysts

I post occasionally on the Crime Analysis Reddit, and a few recent posts I mentioned about expanding the net to private sector gigs for those interested in crime analysis. And got a question from a recent student as well, so figured a blog post on my advice is in order.

For students interested in crime analysis, it is standard advice to do an internship (while a student), and that gets you a good start on networking. But if that ship has sailed and you are now finished with school and need to get a job that does not help. Also standard to join the IACA (and if you have a local org, like TXLEAN for Texas, you can join that local org and get IACA membership at the same time). They have job boards for openings, and for local it is a good place to network as well for entry level folks. IACA has training material available as well.

Because there are not that many crime analysis jobs, I tell students to widen their net and apply to any job that lists “analyst” in the title. We hire many “business analysts” at Gainwell, and while having a background in healthcare is nice it is not necessary. They mostly do things in Excel, Powerpoint, and maybe some SQL. Probably more have a background in business than healthcare specifically. Feel free to take any background experience in the job description not as requirements but as “nice to have”.

These are pretty much the same data skills people use in crime analysis. So if you can do one you can do the other.

This advice is also true for individuals who are currently crime analysts and wish to pursue other jobs. Unfortunately because crime analysis is more niche in departments, there is not much upward mobility. Other larger organizations that have analysts will just by their nature have more senior positions to work towards over your career. Simultaneously you are likely to have a larger salary in the private sector than public sector for even the same entry level positions.

Don’t get the wrong impression on the technical skills needed for these jobs if you read my blog. Even more advanced data science jobs I am mostly writing python + SQL. I am not writing bespoke optimization functions very often. So in terms of skills for analyst positions I just suggest focusing on Excel. My crime analysis course materials I intentionally did in a way to get you a broad background that is relevant for other analyst positions as well (some SQL/Powerpoint, but mostly Excel).

Sometimes people like to think doing crime analysis is a public service, so look down on going to private sector. Plenty of analysts in banks/healthcare do fraud/waste/abuse that have just as large an impact on the public as do crime analysts, so I think this opinion is misguided in general.

Many jobs at Gainwell get less than 10 applicants. Even if these jobs have listed healthcare background requirements, if they don’t have options among the pool those doing the hiring will lower their expectations. I imagine it is the same for many companies. Just keep applying to analyst jobs and you will land something eventually.

I wish undergrad programs did a better job preparing social science students with tech skills. It is really just minor modifications – courses teaching Excel/SQL (maybe some coding for real go-getters). Better job at making stats relevant to the real world business applications (calculating expected values/variance and trends in those is a common task, doing null hypothesis significance testing is very rare). But you can level up on Excel with various online resources, my course included.

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