Criminal Justice vs. Criminology

Criminal Justice vs. Criminology image

Criminal Justice vs. Criminology

Criminal Justice vs. Criminology

What’s the difference between criminal justice and criminology?


While careers in criminology and criminal justice both involve crimes and the people who commit them, the two courses of study are actually quite different. If you are considering a career in law enforcement, understanding the difference between these two degrees will help you make a wise decision.

What does criminal justice involve?

Law enforcement professionals, court officials and corrections officers are all part of the criminal justice system. While law enforcement is the most visible criminal justice professional in the community, as police officers serve as the front line of defense against criminals, this is just one component of the criminal justice system.

If you pursue a criminal justice degree, you will study the police system, jails and the courts. You will be given a deep understanding of the law, administration activities connected to criminal justice careers and the judicial process. Criminal justice students will also learn to investigate crimes and profile criminals to help them succeed in their skills. Good analytic skills, observation and honesty are crucial traits of a personal justice professional.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers and detectives career outlook is expected to grow 4 percent from 2014-2024. This career may allow for on-the-job training, but a college degree is preferred in some municipalities. All police officers and other criminal justice professionals have on-the-job training to ensure they are properly fitted for their roles.

What does criminology involve?

Criminology is the study of the causes, costs and consequences of a crime. Criminologists are the people who investigate crime scenes, interrogate suspects and profile criminals. Criminologists study the details of a case in depth, so they can provide consultation services to law enforcement officials and courts as they search for and prosecute the guilty parties. The career requires an analytical mind and strong research and organizational skills.

Criminology studies focus on studying psychology and sociology to provide a foundational understanding of how people operate and what motivates crimes. Strong verbal and written communication skills are also crucial, as is an analytical mind. Students will also need to study science and math to be able to analyze evidence, data and statistics accurately.

Criminologists are considered specialized sociologists, studying the behavior of the alleged criminals in a particular case. The minimal degree required is a bachelor's degree, but some careers, like a medical examiner, may require a doctoral degree.

Criminal justice vs. criminology – Which is right for you?

Both degree and career paths are good fits for individuals who:

  • Believe in the justice system
  • Have good analytical skills
  • Have a strong sense of justice

That said, the two careers, while related, are quite different. If you are weighing the differences between criminal justice vs. criminology, stop and consider your skills. Do you have strong analytic and research skills, or do you do better with thinking on your feet and working in active situations? Are you looking for on-the-job training or a lengthy classroom education? Asking these types of questions will help you determine which of these educational paths and career paths you should consider for your future.

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