What is the Difference Between Criminal Justice and Criminology Programs?

When making the decision to pursue a career in the criminal justice field, one starting point that many future professionals will need to consider is a criminal justice vs criminology degree. A criminal justice degree focuses on the skills to handle situations after crimes that have occurred, while a criminology degree focuses on understanding why crimes occur. Completing one of these degree programs is a common starting point to a many career possibilities throughout the criminal justice field.

Criminal Justice Degree Requirements

Criminal justice degree programs prepare students for future careers by exploring both theoretical concepts and the practical skills required to handle crime and similar activities in the field. Degree programs in criminal justice range from an associate’s to master’s degree. For an undergraduate degree, completion of general education and criminal justice core courses is required.

Although specific courses are likely to vary based on individual programs, some common core classes in a criminal justice major include introduction to criminal justice, ethical behavior in criminal justice, crime scene investigation, drug crimes, criminal investigation, and correctional administration. Students might also complete internships and field work observation courses to gain a better understanding of policing, advocacy, and counseling.

Criminology Degree Requirements

A criminology degree differs from the criminal justice program by focusing on sociology and understanding why crime and other activities are committed. Additionally, criminology majors will explore the various ways in which to manage and handle situations to prevent crime and reduce recidivism.

Common courses in a criminology degree program include several sociology courses, including introduction to sociology, sociological theory, and sociological factors in crime. Criminology courses include violence against women, juvenile delinquency, deviant behavior, risk and governance, and crimes against humanity. Students are also likely to study courses such as sociology in courts and societal law. Criminology degree programs also often have several requirements for completing courses in research and statistics.

Students planning to continue their education at the master’s degree or doctoral level often choose to complete¬†a degree in criminology at the undergraduate level. Criminology is also a common undergraduate degree to provide a foundation for pursuing a law degree.

Careers for Criminology and Criminal Justice Graduates

Both a criminology and criminal justice degree qualify graduates for a number of positions within the field of criminal justice. Some positions where either degree would meet qualifications include parole office, probation officer, and victims assistance advocates. Criminology graduates also take courses to prepare for positions such as juvenile advocate, child protective services worker, mediator, paralegal, social services worker, restorative justice agent, and mental health investigator. Criminal justice majors often pursue careers as police officers, corrections officers, DEA and FBI agents, prosecution investigators, community outreach organizers, and intake officers. Additional career possibilities in criminal justice can be found at the American Criminal Justice Association website.

As an institutional component of modern society, the field of criminal justice will continue to offer graduates various and numerous career options. Whether looking to work directly with inmates or planning a career in administration of an advocacy organization, deciding on completion of a criminal justice vs criminology undergraduate degree is often the first step in becoming a part of crime prevention and management.