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What is the difference between criminology and criminal justice?

If you asked a hundred students what they think criminology is, you would probably receive a hundred different responses. The popularity of programmes such as CSI means that for a lot of people criminology calls to mind modern forensic investigations and drug cartels. However, criminology was around long before these scientific approaches.

What is the difference between criminology and criminal justice?

Criminology originated in the eighteenth century, when Cesare Beccaria in his book On Crimes and Punishments (1764) argued that because criminal laws place restrictions on individual freedoms the individuals involved should be presumed innocent. Criminology is as old as the modern legal system and was originally a critique of the law. Criminology places less of an emphasis on the running of the criminal justice system and instead takes a critical approach to both the law and how it is used.

Criminology at The University of Law is a critique of the law, while Criminal Justice is a study of the implementation of the law within the criminal justice system. Criminal justice studies look at how the system operates and tends to be less critical of the law. It focuses on aspects such as evidence gathering, and evidence based forensic science.

Criminology and Criminal Justice prepare students for careers in a wide range of areas both within the criminal justice and beyond. A degree in either subject could lead to a career in probation. But a criminal justice student may view it as a way of upholding the criminal justice system and a criminology student may view it as a way of intervening in the lives of people who have been victimised by the same system.

What are career options with criminology and criminology justice degrees?

Both courses also prepare students for future post graduate study should they wish to remain in academia. Below is a list of just a few of the career options that a degree in either criminology or criminal justice offers, this is by no means all of them but illustrates the wide range of options that these degrees facilitate.

  • Community safety
  • Crime prevention
  • Youth offender teams
  • The Home Office
  • Fraud investigation
  • Investigative data analyst
  • Police officer
  • Probation officer
  • Youth offending support officer
  • Emergency planning officer
  • Offender case administrator
  • Adult guidance worker
  • Charity officer
  • Data scientist
  • Forensic computer analyst
  • Housing manager/officer
  • Local government officer
  • Paralegal
  • Social researcher
  • Solicitor
  • Customs
  • Immigration

The law is an immensely powerful tool but like all tools if it is used by people who are not respectful of it, or use it to further their own ends then it is a dangerous one. An insight to the law and how it is used against some communities and marginalised groups is essential for those who wish to either affect change or who wish to work within the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system increasingly impacts our daily lives, a working knowledge of the system helps to keep it in check and is necessary to bring about change to make the criminal justice system fairer.

Discover more about our LLB (Hons) with Criminology.