What is the Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice?



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? 

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 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 police officer or criminal investigator. Students in these 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 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 degree 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 degree 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 master’s degree can also help you move through the career ranks. 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 degree 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. 

Related Rankings:

25 Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Top 25 Best Value Undergraduate Criminal Justice Programs

Top 25 Best Value Online Undergraduate Criminal Justice Programs

Top 25 Best Value Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs