The differences between criminal justice and criminology can be boiled down into three major categories.
1. Educational Course Work
In college, students of criminal justice focus on law enforcement and other specific facets of criminal justice, such as corrections. Criminology courses instead focus on the behavior and backgrounds of criminals and emphasize the sociology and impact of crime. Criminologists learn to look for patterns in criminal behavior.
2. Job Titles
Criminal justice is an established system used to handle crime, encompassing the detecting of crime, arresting and prosecuting criminals, and corrections. Because of this, the criminal justice system is directly tied to policing and law enforcement. Criminology, on the other hand, is the in-depth study of crime as a whole, specifically the causes and costs of crime and crime’s effects on the community.
These primary differences lead to distinct job titles and responsibilities. Those who earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice typically pursue one of the following occupations: police officer, park ranger, game warden, deputy sheriff, detective, K9 officer or handler, state trooper, immigration officer, CIA agent, postal service inspector, probation or parole officer, victim advocate or witness assistant, corrections counselor, bailiff, court clerk or paralegal. Those who pursue a degree in criminology, however, may go on to become a criminal psychologist, an intervention or rehabilitation planner, a private investigator or a forensic/criminal/medical investigator.
3. Overall Focus
Criminal justice and criminology have separate focuses. Criminal justice is an interdisciplinary study of policing, correctional institutions (jails and prisons), criminal courts and juvenile justice facilities. Criminal justice involves police officers, attorneys, courts and corrections professionals. Criminology has a heavy focus on sociology. Yet, like criminal justice, it is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses psychology, biology, law and other fields.
Crime is never cut-and-dry — it is a complex problem, and typical crimes are handled by employing differing methods of study and investigation. Criminology is an exploration of not only criminal behavior and society’s response to it but also of evidence, causality and, perhaps most important, the efficacy of punishment and rehabilitation.