What is the Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice vs. Criminology: What’s the Difference?

If you are interested in a career in law enforcement, the correctional system, or the judicial system, you’ve likely come across programs with bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Criminology.

These two terms sound similar, and it is easy to lump these two types of programs together. They both deal with crime and try to determine the best ways to handle criminal behavior. Furthermore, both degrees can lead to exciting law enforcement or criminal justice careers.

However, these degree programs have distinct differences, and it’s essential to understand them to choose the best program for you and your career goals.

This article will discuss the difference between Criminal Justice vs. Criminology, the degree paths available to students, and the career outcomes of these two majors.

What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice is the study of the law enforcement system and those who work in it, including police officers, judges, correctional officers, and border patrol agents.

The three main components of the criminal justice system in the US include law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. All three branches work to prevent and punish criminal behavior. The department and agencies in this system investigate crimes, enforce laws, conduct trials, and rehabilitate convicted felons.

What Does a Criminal Justice BS Curriculum Entail?

Criminal Justice Bachelor of Science (BS) online and Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice degree programs both study the inner workings of the justice and law enforcement systems. They provide students with a thorough understanding of all aspects of the criminal justice system.

Students, in turn, develop the skills and experience they need to join a rich network of domestic and international security experts who understand criminal behavior and create solutions to contemporary policing issues using the latest forensics and criminal justice technology.

The Criminal Justice BS curriculum varies depending on the school and program, but most programs include courses in:

  • Introduction to the Criminal Justice System
  • Criminology
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Courts and Social Policy
  • Theories of Criminal Behavior
  • Research Methodology

What Career Can I Pursue With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Earning a criminal justice degree opens candidates up to various career paths. And upon graduation, graduates can choose a specialization and earn advanced degrees to improve their skills and qualifications.

Criminal justice graduates pursue careers in law enforcement, the court system as social workers and advocates, and others work in jails or prisons as correctional and parole officers.

Other common careers and their median annual salaries, according to the Bureau of Labor Services (BLS), include:

  • Correctional officers – $47,920
  • Police officers – $66,020
  • Forensic Science Technicians – $61,930
  • Probation officers – $60,250
  • Paralegals – $56,230

What is Criminology?

Criminology is a social science that studies aspects of crime and criminal behavior, such as the forecast, reasons, and control of people who break the law and the reasons for their behavior.

This field utilizes economics, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, and anthropology to explain the offender’s conduct and the methods, reasons, and places crimes occur. Criminologists then use this information to suggest procedures and policies to approach and prevent crimes from happening.

While criminologists sometimes correspond with the media and publish their findings in journals, most of their work is done outside the public eye. Their day-to-day job involves the collection of precise and accurate statistics to understand, predict, and ultimately help prevent criminal behavior.

What Does a Criminology Program’s Curriculum Entail?

Unlike Criminal Justice programs, Criminology programs focus on developing students’ analytical skills to use those skills within the law enforcement system by helping law enforcement and government organizations.

Students focus on research methodology and techniques for generating and evaluating evidence. A Criminology program’s curriculum varies, much like a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice degree program. Criminology programs generally include courses like:

  • Overview of Criminal Justice Systems
  • Psychology of Criminal Behavior
  • Theory of Crime and Punishment
  • Law
  • Crime Analysis
  • Research Methodology
  • Forensic Science and Investigative Skills

What Career Can I Pursue With a Criminology Degree?

Criminologists work in a variety of environments. They might find themselves investigating crime scenes, interviewing suspects, profiling criminals, and even participating in autopsies. They also work as consultants for government agencies, law firms, courts, and private security companies.

Additionally, criminologists can work at academic institutions as teachers, researchers, and lecturers. Common career paths for graduates of criminology programs and their annual median salaries are:

  • Jury Consultant – $137,000
  • Postsecondary Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers – $64,990
  • Detectives and criminal investigators – $86,280

What Is the Difference Between Criminal Justice and Criminology?

As discussed, Criminal Justice and Criminology are pretty different. Criminal Justice is the field that deals with the punishment and prevention of crime, whereas Criminology is the study of crime, its causes, and its effects on society.

Additional differences include:

  • Focus of study: Students in Criminology programs look at crime from a sociological perspective to understand why crime happens. Criminal Justice students look at crime from a legal perspective to prevent and punish crime.
  • Approach to studying crime: The field of criminal justice utilizes a practical approach by using the law to handle crime, whereas criminologists utilize a scientific approach to investigating crime and criminal behavior.
  • Work location: People who study Criminal Justice work in institutions like courts or law enforcement offices. Criminology students typically work in research centers, laboratories, or policy positions.

A career in criminal justice and a career in criminology are incredibly worthwhile and fulfilling. However, students should consider their personal and career goals, interests, and personality to choose the best major for them and their needs.

At University of Bridgeport, our comprehensive support services staff is committed to helping you make the best decision for you and your future.

Contact us today to learn about our criminal justice degree programs!