Criminal justice major


As someone who has been considering enrolling in a criminal justice school, you have probably run across the term criminology. Some schools offer programs in criminal justice, some offer programs in criminology, and many offer programs in the two fields combined. But what is criminology and how can you decide what type of program is right for you?

Although they are often part of the same program (and movies and TV shows often depict both fields working together), criminal justice and criminology are actually two very different types of studies. This article will help you understand the difference so you can be better informed when choosing a school.

Criminal justice is the entire field that surrounds criminal proceedings. This is what most people imagine when they think about law enforcement and protection. Careers in criminal justice include security officers, police and law enforcement officers, probation officers, correctional officers, and related titles. Students in criminal justice programs study a range of topics including law, the justice system, prison systems, criminal behavior, crime investigation and analysis, and strategies for working with offenders. You can think of criminal justice as focusing mostly on the crime itself, with a smaller emphasis placed on the person who committed the crime.

Criminology focuses more on the criminal and on society’s perceptions of and responses to crime. Careers in criminology include forensic science specialists, rehabilitation officers, criminal social workers, intervention program planners, and private investigators. Students in this field learn about law and the justice and legal systems, but they also study psychology, sociology, and similar fields. One major emphasis of criminology is exploring how effective different methods of intervention and punishment are at deterring crime. For example, criminologists ask questions like “Are offenders more or less likely to commit new crimes if they have a social support system in place?” As you can see, criminology focuses more on the person who committed the crime and less on the crime itself.

So which type of program is right for you? Well, that depends on the career you would like to pursue. If you are more interested in working to solve crimes and catch perpetrators, then criminal justice is a better choice. If you would rather stay off the streets and instead focus on rehabilitation efforts, then you should choose a criminology program. Even in schools that offer combined degrees in criminal justice and criminology, you will probably have the opportunity to choose your electives. So if you don’t already have a specific career track in mind, the best advice is for you to take a few courses in each of the fields and see which one “clicks.” In any case, they will both provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to seek an entry-level position in either field.


Florida Tech University Online. “Criminal Justice vs. Criminology.

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