Criminology vs Criminal Justice: What’s the Difference?



Criminology vs criminal justice” is a common search term for people who want to go into the field. It’s understandable; The question can get a bit confusing at times. So, what is the difference between criminal justice and criminology? The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. Take a closer look at criminology and criminal justice in detail.

What is the Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice? 

A lot of people use those two terms interchangeably, which makes sense, as they are very similar subjects. Both deal with the subject of crime. Both ask questions about the best ways to handle crime. But the difference between criminology and criminal justice boils down to how they approach the subject of crime. Criminology and criminal justice study crime from different angles. 

In criminal justice vs criminology, criminal justice studies the “how” question of crime, while criminology studies the “why” questions. Criminal justice covers the law, court systems, and other legal structures. Criminology looks into the psychology and sociology of crime. It studies the reasons why crime happens in the first place and examines the different factors that can come into play. If you have trouble remembering the difference in criminology vs criminal justice, it might help to remember that “criminology,” “psychology,” and “sociology” all end with the same “–ology” suffix. 

What Is Criminology?

Criminology is a branch of sociology, which is the study of human social behavior. Therefore, much of the research in criminology is based on statistics and surveys. However, criminologists also use other methods, such as interviews and case studies, to understand crime.

One of the most famous criminologists is Cesare Lombroso. He believed that criminals were born, not made. In other words, he thought that some people are just more likely to commit crimes than others. Lombroso’s ideas are no longer considered scientific, but his work did help to start the field of criminology.

Today, criminologists use a variety of theories to explain crime. Some of the most popular include strain theory, social learning theory, and control theory.

  • Strain theory says that people commit crimes because they are under strain, or pressure, to do so. This strain may be caused by poverty, a bad home life, or other problems.
  • Social learning theory posits that people criminal behavior by observing others around them, such as family members or friends.
  • Control theory explains that people are more likely to commit crimes if they do not feel like they have any control over their lives.

There is still much the experts do not understand about crime. However, the work of criminologists is essential in helping to keep our communities safe.

Who Is a Criminologist?

Criminologists often look at why people commit crimes, how they are able to get away with them, and what society can do to prevent crime. Criminologists may work in a variety of settings, such as universities, government agencies, or private businesses.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Most criminologists have at least a bachelor’s degree in criminology or a related field, such as sociology or psychology. However, some jobs may require a master’s or even a Ph.D. Many criminologists also have experience working in law enforcement or the criminal justice system.

What Skills and Qualities are Required?

Criminologists need to be able to think logically and critically. They must be able to understand and analyze data, as well as write clearly and concisely. These professionals also need to have strong research skills. Criminologists should be able to work independently and be self-motivated.

What Is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice is the study of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. It encompasses everything from investigating crime and gathering evidence to prosecuting criminals in court and sentencing them. People who work in criminal justice may be police officers, detectives, lawyers, judges, probation officers, or correctional officers.

The criminal justice system is made up of three parts: law enforcement, the courts, and corrections.

  • Law enforcement is responsible for investigating crimes and apprehending suspects.
  • The courts are responsible for prosecuting criminals and determining their guilt or innocence.
  • Corrections is responsible for supervising offenders who have been convicted of a crime and sentencing them to a punishment such as an imprisonment, probation, or community service.

Who Is a Criminal Justice Professional?

A criminal justice professional is anyone who works within the criminal justice system to investigate crimes and enforce the law, including police officers, detectives, judges, probation officers, and correctional officers.

What Do Criminal Justice Professionals Do?

Criminal justice professionals work to prevent crime, investigate crimes that have been committed, apprehend suspects, prosecute criminals in court, and sentence offenders for criminal behavior.

What Skills Do Criminal Justice Professionals Need?

Criminal justice professionals need strong communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. They must be able to work well under pressure and make quick decisions in stressful situations.

What’s the Education Required for Criminal Justice Professionals?

The level of education required for criminal justice professionals varies depending on the position. Some jobs, such as becoming a police officer or detective, only require a high school diploma or equivalent, while others, such as becoming a detective or warden, may require a professional degree such as a Master’s in criminal justice, juris doctor (JD), or PhD.

What’s the Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice?

There is often confusion between criminology versus criminal justice. Because they are both fields that deal with crime, students often wonder “is criminology and criminal justice the same thing.” In reality, they are actually quite different. Criminology is the study of crime, its causes, and its effects on society. Criminal justice, on the other hand, is the field that deals with the punishment and prevention of crime.

Criminologists often work in research positions, studying criminal behavior and trying to figure out ways to prevent it. They may also work as consultants, providing their expertise in criminal profiling to government agencies or private companies. Criminal justice professionals, on the other hand, typically work in law enforcement or in the legal system. They may be police officers, detectives, prosecutors, or public defenders.

While both criminology and criminal justice are important fields, they serve different purposes. Criminologists work to understand crime and criminal profiling, and find ways to prevent it, while criminal justice professionals work to enforce the law and punish those who break it. Both criminal justice and criminology seek to keep people safe, however. 

What’s the difference between criminal justice and criminology? Here’s a closer look:

  • The Focus of Study: When students choose criminology, they are looking at crime from a sociological perspective. They want to know why crime happens and what its effects are on society. When they study criminal justice, they are looking at crime from a legal perspective. They want to know how the law can be used to prevent and punish crime.
  • The Approach to Studying Crime: Criminologists take a scientific approach to studying crime and criminal behavior. They use research methods to collect data and test theories. Criminal justice professionals take a practical approach to study crime. They use the law to prevent and punish crime.
  • The Audience of the Two Fields: Criminology is typically studied by people who want to work in research or policy positions. Criminal justice is typically studied by people who want to work in law enforcement or the legal system.
  • The Methods Used: Criminologists use research methods to study crime. They collect data and use it to test theories. Criminal justice professionals use the law to prevent and punish crime.
  • The Goals: The goal of criminology is to understand crime and find ways to prevent it. The goal of criminal justice is to enforce the law and punish those who break it.

Both criminology and criminal justice are important fields, but they serve different purposes. If students want to work in research or policy, they should study criminology. If learners want to work in law enforcement or the legal system, they should study criminal justice.

How Do I Choose One?

Choosing between a degree in criminology and a criminal justice degree can be tough. After all, both majors focus on the study of crime and justice, and both can lead to careers in law enforcement or corrections. So how does a student choose? Here are a few things to consider before you decide on a criminal justice program:

  • What are their goals? Do students want to work in research, or do they want to work in law enforcement? If they want to work in research, criminology is the better choice. If they want to work in law enforcement agencies, criminal justice makes more sense, since criminal justice focuses on the whole system.
  • What are their interests? Do potential students want to focus on the psychological aspects of criminal behavior, or do they want to focus on the legal aspects of the criminal justice system? If they’re interested in the psychological aspects of crime, criminology is a good match. If they’re interested in the legal aspects of the criminal justice system, criminal justice is the way to go.
  • What is their personality like? Are they more interested in working independently or as part of a team? If a student is the independent type, criminology is the better choice. If they’re the type who likes to work as part of a team, criminal justice requires collaboration they may find fulfilling.
  • What are their career goals? Do they want to work in a lab, or do they want to work in a courtroom? If they want to work in a lab, criminology is an ideal fit. If they want to work in a courtroom, some criminal justice careers would fulfill their goals.

So, how can a student make a final choice? It really depends on individual interests, personality, and career goals. If they’re not sure, students can talk to a counselor or advisor at their school and interview professionals in both fields to better understand their career options.

Criminal Justice and Criminology Careers

So, what is the difference between criminology and criminal justice in terms of salary and job outlook? Both criminal justice and criminology professionals are in high demand. 

Is criminology the same as criminal justice?

No. criminology is the scientific study of crime, while a criminal justice degree focuses on the study of the legal system and has a wide scope. Although they both deal with crime, they are not the same.

What’s the Criminology Salary and Job Outlook?

The median annual salary for criminologists is $49,356 in 2022. The job outlook for criminologists is good, with a growth of 4% from 2019 to 2022.

Those interested in a career in criminology should consider pursuing a degree in criminology or a related field. They should also try to gain experience working in the criminal justice system. With hard work and dedication, they can be an excellent criminologist and help make our world a safer place.

What’s the Criminal Justice Salary and Job Outlook?

The salary for criminal justice professionals varies depending on the position and level of experience. According to Indeed, the median annual salary for police officers is $55,117 per year in 2022, while the median annual salary for lawyers was $126,930 in 2020. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for criminal justice professions is expected to grow at a rate of 5% from 2019-2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

People who work in criminal justice perform a variety of tasks, depending on their specific job.

  • Police officers patrol their beats, responding to calls and investigating crimes.
  • Detectives gather evidence and interview witnesses to solve crimes.
  • Lawyers represent the prosecution or defense in court proceedings.
  • Judges preside over trials and hand down verdicts.
  • Probation officers supervise offenders who have been placed on probation.
  • Correctional officers work in prisons and jails, supervising inmates and enforcing prison rules.

Criminal justice is a challenging and demanding field, but it can be very rewarding. People who earn criminal justice degrees and work in criminal justice help to keep our communities safe and secure. They also play an important role in ensuring that criminals are brought to justice. If learners are interested in a career in criminal justice, there are many different paths they can take. With the right education and training, students can find a job that suits their skills and interests.

What is the Difference in a Criminology Major vs Criminal Justice Major? 

Often, when people ask “What is the difference between criminal justice and criminology?” they’re asking because they’re thinking about pursuing one or the other as a career. If you’re thinking about a degree in criminal justice vs criminology, you’ll find that the degree options are very similar. 

A criminology major helps students learn the skills they’d need for a criminology career such as researcher, detective, or corrections officer. This kind of degree would include psychology and sociology classes that focus on the reasons for crime. Students in these programs learn effective research skills and how to study criminological data. Some students in criminology programs may choose to go to graduate school after earning their degrees, while others choose to start with entry-level criminology jobs. 

A criminal justice major teaches the necessary skills for criminal justice careers like a police officer or criminal investigator. Students in criminal justice programs learn how the criminal justice system works. Some careers overlap between the criminal justice major and criminology major. Like criminology majors, criminal justice majors may either pursue grad school or entry-level jobs after graduation. 

Now, if you can’t make up your mind on the criminology major vs criminal justice major question, there’s good news: You may not have to decide on one or the other. Some programs blend both. These programs cover important law enforcement skills as well as theory and background information. Students may go into a wide array of careers after graduation from one of these blended criminology/criminal justice programs. 

Why Might I Pursue an Online Criminology Degree? 

An online criminology degree is just as valuable as an on-campus degree, assuming that both degrees come from an accredited college or university. Criminology degrees, online or otherwise, teach the skills that a person would need for entry-level criminology jobs. 

There are a lot of options when it comes to criminology degrees online, and those degrees often make the best choices for adult learners who need to balance their educations with work, family, military service, or other responsibilities. 

Some online degrees in criminology, much like some on-campus degrees, also cover criminal justice topics, so if you want to study both, you have that option. 

Is an Online Master’s Degree in Criminology Worth It? 

What if you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree and you’re looking into your master’s options? Should you pursue an online master’s degree in criminology? Are these online degrees in criminology worth it? They absolutely can be, but it depends on your needs and career goals. 

For example, maybe you want a higher salary, and getting a master’s can help you earn the salary you want. In that case, starting your master’s in criminology is absolutely worth the time and effort. 

A higher degree can also help you move through the career ranks. Or example, a police officer may not need a master’s, but if you want to move into administration, it would be helpful. Maybe there’s a specific criminal justice job you want, but it requires more education than you’ve obtained so far. Or maybe you feel like your career has stalled, and a master’s could help it start growing again. In either one of these scenarios, a master’s degree is worth it. 

And of course, just like with a bachelor’s degree, you can earn your master’s degree in criminology online. The courses would be more challenging than undergraduate courses, but you would still get the same level of flexibility and convenience. 

Fast FAQs About Criminology vs Criminal Justice

Is criminology related to criminal justice?

Criminal justice is the study of the systems and agencies involved in crime prevention and control, while criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior. Although they are related, they are not the same.

Is criminal justice the same as BS criminology?

No. A BS in criminology focuses on the scientific study of crime, while a criminal justice degree focuses on the systems and agencies involved in crime prevention and control.

What is the highest paying job in criminology?

There is no one highest-paying job in criminology. The salary for a criminologist will depend on their level of education, experience, and the specific job they are doing.

How hard is criminology?

Criminology is a challenging field, but it can be extremely rewarding. It requires critical thinking and a willingness to tackle complex problems.

Is criminology a good degree?

A degree in criminology can lead to a variety of rewarding careers. It is a good choice for students who are interested in the scientific study of crime and its causes, as well as those interested in working in the criminal justice system.

Final Words

Whether students choose to study criminology or criminal justice, they’ll be studying an important and interesting topic. Both majors can lead to careers in law enforcement agencies or the legal system, and both can help them make a difference in the world. So, it’s really up to each individual to decide which one is right for them. Whichever they choose, they’re sure to have a bright future in a dynamic field.

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