How is Criminology Different From Criminal Justice?

Individuals who know they’re interested in a career in law enforcement often ask the question, “How is criminology different from criminal justice?” While the two terms are often used interchangeably and thought of as one and the same, they are two distinct and different fields. One usually deals with before crimes are committed and the other usually deals with after crimes are committed. Here is an overview of criminology and criminal justice as well as career opportunities for both.

Related resource: 20 Best Online Schools for Criminology

What is Criminology?

One of the best ways to distinguish the meaning of criminology is to look at the word itself. According to the dictionary, the suffix “ology” means a subject of study, and that’s exactly what criminology entails. It’s the study of crimes, including where, why, how and by whom. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups criminologists in the category with sociologists because both study human behavior and patterns. A criminologist will study crime and criminals in an attempt to determine a pattern that criminal justice professions can use to prevent and solve crimes. Many of the careers found in criminology involve research, studying and analyzing data and information.

What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice is a field that deals with all areas of the law, including law enforcement, courts and the corrections system. Criminal justice professionals perform most of their work after crimes are committed. When a crime is committed, law enforcement agents such as police, deputies, detectives and forensic experts are called to investigate the crime and gather evidence. After gathering evidence, a suspect may be arrested and prosecuted. The criminal may be put on probation or sent to a corrections facility. These are all areas of criminal justice.

How Criminology & Criminal Justice Overlap

Despite being two different fields, criminology and criminal justice often overlap. If a city has a rash of robberies, a criminologist may study and research the patterns of the robberies and look for commonalities. For instance, the age group committing the crimes, time of day the crimes are committed and the geographic location the crimes were committed.

After completing the research, the criminologist analyzes the data to determine when and where the next robbery might take place. The results of the data are taken to law enforcement so that they may be able to prevent further robberies from taking place. Another way these two fields overlap is that they both offer similar career opportunities.

Careers in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Criminal justice and criminology both offer various career opportunities. Some might require only an associate degree while another may require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Many of these careers can be obtained with degrees in either criminal justice or criminology. Some careers in criminology include:

• Counseling

• Criminal investigator

• Corrections

• Forensics

• Financial Fraud Investigation & Prevention

• Intervention Programming

• Judicial/Courts

• Teaching

• Psychologist

Some careers in criminal justice include:

• Probation officer

• Police officer

• Private detective

• State trooper

• Forensic science technician

• Correctional officer

• Deputy

• Crime scene investigator

• FBI agent

• US Marshall

Working in law enforcement can be dangerous, especially with the rate of crime and shootings increasing every year. Law enforcement careers can also put individuals in a position where they’re able to help those in trouble. Knowing how criminology is different from criminal justice can make it possible for an individual to choose the career that best meets their needs and career goals.