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Criminology vs Criminal Justice: What’s the Difference? Individuals interested in obtaining a degree and eventually pursuing a career in law enforcement, the correctional system, or the judicial system are bound to check out criminal justice and criminology.
While criminology and criminal justice share similarities, the purposes and functions of each field are different. This article discusses the main differences between criminology and criminal justice.
Criminology vs. Criminal Justice
Criminology and criminal justice play essential roles in law enforcement, judicial and correctional systems. Criminology focuses on the psychological and social behaviors and motivations of criminals, while criminal justice is about the procedures and systems in place.
Deciding to pursue an associate’s degree and a career in criminology over criminal justice can set you on different paths in the same broad field.
What is criminology?
As a discipline, criminology is a social and behavioral science, similar to psychology and sociology. It focuses on patterns of human behavior and motives related to crime.
Criminology studies crime as a social phenomenon, and analyzes the social and environmental factors that lead to criminal behaviour. Professionals in this field use their specialized knowledge to develop and implement policies and procedures to address and prevent criminal activity.
Criminology career paths may include:
- The victim’s attorney
- FBI agent
- Homeland Security Agent
- Clinical social worker
- Forensic psychiatrist
- private investigator
What is criminal justice?
Criminal justice is the interdisciplinary study of law enforcement, correctional institutions, and court systems. While criminology focuses on the motives and behavioral patterns of criminals, criminal justice studies the system itself, the organizations involved in that system and how the system operates.
The criminal justice system defines crimes and procedures for apprehending, trying, and punishing those convicted of crimes.
What is a criminology degree?
A criminology degree involves the study of criminology at the college level. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field that often includes social and behavioral sciences, criminal justice, and law components.
Students can pursue associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in criminology. Curricula can vary widely between programs. However, coursework may cover the following subjects and subjects.
- An overview of criminal justice systems
- The psychology of criminal behavior
- The theory of crime and punishment
- crime and society
- Forensic science and investigative skills
- aberration of events
- Crime analysis
- Research Methodology
During a criminology degree program, you are likely to learn research methodology, techniques for generating and evaluating evidence, and analytical and statistical skills. You should also develop strong written and verbal communication abilities.
Criminology is a broad field that offers diverse career opportunities. Earning a criminology degree can equip you with the specialized knowledge and skills required to excel in the criminology profession.
Students gain sharp psychological and behavioral insight. They also develop an understanding of the human factors in crime and a working knowledge of criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Below we list potential career paths for criminology graduates.
Average annual salary: $66,020
Required education: Usually, a high school diploma is the minimum requirement. However, it is becoming increasingly common for detectives to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in criminology, criminal justice, or a closely related discipline.
Job title: Investigators work for individuals, businesses, corporations, and government agencies to conduct thorough investigations of criminal activity and violations of local, state, and federal laws. These professionals conduct interviews, conduct observation, and collect, verify, and analyze evidence related to the cases assigned to them.
A good knowledge of criminology is essential in this role, as it allows investigators to recognize criminal patterns, use effective interviewing techniques, and anticipate, prevent and assist in solving crimes.
Average annual salary: around $137,000
Required education: Bachelor’s degree in criminology, criminal justice, forensic psychology, sociology, or a closely related discipline
Job title: Jury counselors use their expertise in human behavior to provide pretrial research, develop trial strategies, and advise legal teams. These professionals assist in jury research and selection to uncover hidden biases of potential jurors, evaluate and prepare witnesses and determine case themes.
An educational background in criminology can equip aspiring jury counselors with basic legal knowledge, keen behavioral insight, and basic research and statistical skills.
Private Investigator (PI)
Average annual salary: $59,380
Required education: Education requirements can vary greatly depending on the employer. In general, principal investigators must have a high school diploma or a GED certificate. In some cases, principal investigators must have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, criminology, or a related discipline.
Job title: Private investigators create, compile, and analyze evidence. They may also conduct surveillance and conduct covert operations to identify illegal behavior and rule violations in private organizations.
A criminology degree suits this career path, equipping students with investigative techniques, computer literacy, research methods, and skills in data collection and analysis. Check out our guide on How to become a private investigator.
What is a criminal justice degree?
Criminal justice degrees Provides a comprehensive study of the criminal justice system and its three main branches: law enforcement, courts, and corrections. A criminal justice degree can provide a solid foundation for various careers in this field. Curricula vary depending on the program, but popular courses often include the following:
- Introduction to the criminal justice system
- Criminal law
- Criminal investigations
- Courts and social policy
- criminal behavior theories
- Research Methodology
Criminal justice jobs
So What can you do with a criminal justice degree? And What is criminal justice? Criminal justice is a broad field that includes different career paths. Here are just a few Criminal justice jobs You can continue.
Average annual salary: $47,920
Required education: Educational requirements can vary by state. In general, corrections officers must possess a high school diploma or a GED certificate. In some cases, candidates may be required to have an associate’s degree in criminology, criminal justice, or a closely related discipline.
Job title: Corrections officers are responsible for enforcing rules and regulations in prisons, prisons, juvenile detention centers and other correctional facilities. These professionals supervise arrested individuals who have been sentenced to serve time and who are awaiting trial. Correctional officers also provide advice and assistance in the rehabilitation of offenders.
A criminal justice education can provide aspiring corrections officers with a basic understanding of the criminal justice system and its operations. These professionals work at every level of government. The criminal justice program teaches basic skills related to applying rules and regulations and communicating with inmates.
Average annual salary: $81,040
Required education: Forensic psychologists He must have a PhD in Psychology. Many forensic psychologists complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, criminology, or psychology with majors in forensic psychology.
Job title: Forensic psychologists work closely with judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals to provide insight into the psychological elements involved in legal cases. During trials, these professionals can act as expert witnesses and counsel. Their expertise is often used in research, investigations, evaluations, counseling, and the development and implementation of treatment programs.
A degree in criminal justice suits forensic psychologists because this major can provide basic knowledge in the legal and social components associated with criminality. It also provides aspiring professionals with a basic understanding of criminal law and accompanying procedures.
Average annual salary: $127,990
Required education: The standard educational requirement for an attorney is to have a Juris Doctor, in addition to passing the bar exam in the state in which they wish to practice.
Job title: A lawyer’s duties can vary widely. For example, criminal defense attorneys defend individuals accused of committing a violation of the law. These professionals interpret the law, conduct thorough research and analysis of cases, and present their evidence and findings in court. Criminal defense attorneys aim to negotiate settlements, plea bargains, or obtain the defendant’s freedom.
A criminal justice degree can serve as a stepping stone towards law school, providing a solid foundation for legal studies. During a criminal justice degree, students may learn about constitutional and criminal law, law enforcement, courts, and corrections, and research and writing. Check out our guide on How to become a lawyer.
What is the right path for you?
Individuals interested in the behavioral patterns, motivations, and social and environmental aspects of crime may be more inclined to pursue careers in criminology. Being analytical, emotionally intelligent, and detail-oriented is valuable in this field. Strong statistical, written, and verbal communication and research skills are critical to criminology careers as well.
Those interested in the structure, organization, and function of the criminal justice system—including law enforcement, the judicial system, and correctional systems—may prefer a career in criminal justice.
Ethical decision-making, critical thinking, and strong written and verbal communication skills are highly desirable among criminal justice professionals. These individuals must also demonstrate a strong understanding of the purpose and function of the various components of the legal and criminal justice system.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about criminology versus criminal justice
Which is better criminology or criminal justice?
Between criminology and criminal justice, one is not necessarily better than the other. Each course of study and career path plays an essential role in the purpose and function of the criminal justice system. The best choice is the one that closely aligns with your interests and career goals.
What is the highest paying job in criminology?
Judges, criminal attorneys, and forensic psychologists are consistently ranked as the highest paid professionals in criminology. Several factors influence their earning ability, such as location, education level, and years of professional experience.