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5 Common Courses in a Criminology Degree

Essential Classes in Modern Criminology Programs

  • Basic Sociology
  • Public Affairs and Politics
  • Urban Studies
  • Issues Regarding Organized Crime
  • Judicial and Legal Philosophy

Like other academic degrees, criminology programs typically include a set of core courses that are considered fundamental for a solid education in the field. While students often take a wide range of different classes to satisfy various program requirements, there at least a few classes that should be included in any academic plan in this field. Students also need to be mindful of their career plans following graduation so they can complete the necessary coursework to support their professional objectives.

1. Basic Sociology

Sociology courses are usually common and prominent features in an undergraduate or graduate criminology degree program. Almost all students take entry courses in the field as well as those that focus on the causes and impact of crime on a societal scale. Classic sociological theories serve as the foundation for a broader education in social affairs, public policy, and human behavior. Many criminologists actively use sociology skills in their careers, particularly those focused on research and policy issues.

Related resource: 20 Best Online Schools for Criminology

2. Public Affairs and Politics

Most students of criminology take at least one or two classes on current public affairs and political issues. Even though these subjects rarely have a direct impact on their work, they do provide an important academic frame for material found in other core courses. Many programs require students to take at least one class focused on the relationship between social problems and government policy, as well as courses focusing on the broader impact of these issues on society as a whole.

3. Urban Studies

Urban environments differ markedly from suburban and rural communities, which has lead to the rise of an entire academic field dedicated to studying the sociological impact of city life. Criminology students won’t go as deep into the field as those actually majoring in urban studies, but almost all of them receive at least some education in the subject as they complete their degree program. Education in urban issues is likely to increase in importance, as forecasts predict that over two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas by the year 2050, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

4. Issues Regarding Organized Crime

Organized crime has been a societal problem for most of recorded history and still poses a significant threat today. While massive syndicates and organizations do present a problem for law enforcement, there are also hundreds of smaller groups and structured operations that operate on a limited scale. Criminologists need a basic understanding of gangs and other criminal organizations, as they are likely to encounter these issues in their work.

5. Judicial and Legal Philosophy

Philosophy of justice and law are often included in undergraduate programs to give students a broader perspective on the origin, purpos, and history of the legal system. Basic legal philosophy is an essential course for anyone interested in a career in law, politics or sociology. Most programs also require criminology students to complete at least one class that specifically focuses on ethics and the philosophy of morality.

The study of criminal behavior and its impact on individuals, communities and society as a whole can be a challenging and rewarding choice for students. Graduates of a criminology program enjoy plenty of options for expanding their academic pursuits or career path as long as they maximize the available coursework during their education.