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How do I know if I should major in criminology or criminal justice?

I know I want to go into one of those fields but I’m just not sure which one. I like criminal justice because of the impact I could have and how exciting and interesting it sounds, but I enjoy the social aspects of criminology. Which one should I do?

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Eli’s Answer

It will depend on which University/college you attend. Some institutions include them as one major, but generally they are intertwined. My program for Criminology for example involve two tracks you could take, one toward forensic science and one towards Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement. Ultimately your big decision will be do you want to learn more about the legal system and enforcing laws, or do you want to study criminals and crime theory. I would advise you to go for Criminal Justice if you want a career geared more towards Law Enforcement, or go for Criminology if you would like to be more involved in research. Another consideration would also be if you’re more of an independent person (Criminology) vs. enjoying collaboration(Criminal Justice)

Eli recommends the following next steps:

Outreach people who have majored in those areas and gather their thoughts.
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Michelle’s Answer

I agree with the other two answers here. However, if you want to go into the FBI, the Criminal Justice degree is too broad of a degree for any positions in the FBI. The FBI look for individuals who have gotten a more focused degree, like accounting, a law degree, a medical degree or nursing degree. So Criminology is more the degree that the FBI would consider. Knowing what you want to do with your degree also helps you figure out which degree to focus on. Look into internships or volunteering at careers you are interested in, this way you have an idea of what those careers offer and require of you. Asking the people in various fields you like for some answers as to what they hoped to do, and if they are doing what they wanted to begin with - with the degrees they received, will help you determine if that career/job/position and corresponding degree is something you want to pursue. People love discussing their duties, jobs and career goals - if they love what they are doing. So don't be afraid to question someone or have them explain what they do. I get stopped all the time (when I'm in uniform) and ask how my career is, what's required and if I really enjoy it, which I do. If someone doesn't want to talk to you, then maybe they don't enjoy what they do and see it as a means to make money to survive/live. Most of us enjoy what we do, sure we want to make money, but that's not always the prime incentive for the work we do.

I hope you can get an idea of what it is you want, and of the type of degree you need. Fill free to reach out (we have our contact information - emails at least) in this site.... Most of us are happy to help discuss what we do and why...and that's what makes this forum exciting. Best of luck to you in your endeavors.
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Natarsha’s Answer

In choosing your path as the other post shared, decided which path best suits your interest. From there you can begin to consider what career opportunities exist within that respective path. One of the best decisions I made in choosing my career field was deciding first the opportunities I knew were NOT for me. There were several areas of Criminal Justice field that were not a best fit for me. I did not want to opt for the traditional “law enforcement” officer path so I had to seek other alternatives that afforded me the opportunity to serve my community as a law enforcement officer but in a different capacity.

Here are a few career options to research:

-Probation & Parole Officers
-Victim Advocates
-Police Officers/Sheriff Deputy
-State Law Enforcement Agencies (Like the FBI but in your respective state. For instance in SC it would be called
SLED- State Law Enforcement Division)
-Local jails/detention centers
- Corrections
- Juvenile Corrections
- Local courts/municipalities
- Solicitor/Public Defender’s Offices

Natarsha recommends the following next steps:

Seek out volunteer/internship/ shadow opportunities
Ride Along Opportunities with police departments
Do not be afraid to EXPLORE!!!
Seek out a mentor
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Chloe,

Introduction

Choosing between majoring in criminology or criminal justice can be a significant decision for your academic and professional future. Both fields are interconnected but have distinct focuses and career paths. To make an informed decision, it is essential to understand the differences between criminology and criminal justice, as well as your personal interests and career goals.

Criminology vs. Criminal Justice

Criminology is the scientific study of crime, criminals, criminal behavior, and the criminal justice system. It delves into the causes of crime, patterns of criminal behavior, and societal responses to crime. Criminologists often analyze data, conduct research, and seek to understand why crimes occur.

On the other hand, criminal justice focuses on the system of practices and institutions designed to uphold social control, deter crime, and maintain order. It encompasses law enforcement, the legal system, corrections, and rehabilitation. Individuals in criminal justice professions work directly within these systems to prevent and respond to criminal activities.

Considerations for Choosing a Major

Interest in Understanding Crime: If you are intrigued by the root causes of crime, patterns of criminal behavior, and societal responses to crime, criminology may be the right fit for you. Criminology offers a deeper exploration of these aspects compared to criminal justice.

Desire for Practical Application: If you are more interested in working within the criminal justice system itself – such as law enforcement, courts, or corrections – then majoring in criminal justice may provide a more direct path to these careers.

Career Goals: Consider your long-term career goals. If you aspire to work as a criminologist conducting research or teaching at a university, a degree in criminology would be more suitable. On the other hand, if you aim to become a police officer, lawyer, probation officer, or corrections officer, a degree in criminal justice may be more aligned with your objectives.

Skills Development: Reflect on the skills you wish to develop during your academic journey. Criminology may emphasize research methods, data analysis, and critical thinking skills, while criminal justice programs often focus on practical skills relevant to working within the criminal justice system.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision between majoring in criminology or criminal justice depends on your interests, career aspirations, and preferred areas of study. Both fields offer rewarding opportunities to contribute to society’s understanding and management of crime. Consider exploring course offerings, speaking with professors or professionals in each field, and reflecting on your own passions and goals to make an informed choice.

Top 3 Authoritative Sources Used:

American Society of Criminology: Provides valuable insights into criminology as an academic discipline and its relevance in understanding crime.
National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS): Offers resources on various topics related to criminal justice research and practice.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): Provides data on careers in criminology and criminal justice fields, including job outlooks and salary information.

GOD BLESS!
James.
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