People often wonder what the difference is between criminal justice and criminology. While they are not the same thing, they both deal with crime; in this article, we will explore the criminology vs. criminal justice duality and discuss their similarities and connection. Stay tuned!


Criminology is a social science that draws on sociology, psychology, biology, economics, and more: It examines the societal factors that contribute to the causes of crime and the concept of criminal responsibility, and highlights the social impact crime has. Criminologists are interested in why criminal acts occur and what can be done to prevent them from happening again.

So, the answer to the question, “What is criminology?” is that it’s a multidisciplinary field that examines the many facets of criminal acts and criminalization, factoring in category-based differences (e.g., gender, race, class). Occasionally, criminologists work with criminal justice professionals on criminal cases, but most of their work is aimed at developing strategies for preventing crime in the future.

Criminology has greatly evolved from its early days. It used to be primarily focused on studying crime statistics. However, in recent years, criminology has expanded to various other areas of research, such as victimization, law enforcement, corrections, and juvenile justice.

Criminologists typically have a master's or doctorate degree in criminology or sociology. They may also have criminal justice experience, but this is not required for pursuing jobs in this sector. Careers in criminology include criminal profiler, criminal psychologist, criminologist researcher, and several others.

Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is the system that defines what crime is and who criminals are. It includes law enforcement agencies (i.e., the various kinds of police forces), courts, and prisons. The criminal justice system comprises a set of governmental agencies and institutions that define and deal with criminal behavior.

Now that we've answered the question: "What is criminal justice?" let's also see what the people working in it do. Criminal justice professionals, such as police officers, probation officers, investigators, and prosecutors, are responsible for enforcing the law, investigating crimes, and arresting offenders. They may also work in the areas of corrections and juvenile justice. Criminal justice programs typically focus on topics such as criminal law, criminology, juvenile delinquency, constitutional law, and more.

Criminal justice professionals sometimes work with criminologists to gain insight into criminal behavior. They also work with crime victims to provide restitution. Aside from the staple criminal justice careers mentioned above, you can also be a forensic scientist, crime prevention specialist, Drug Enforcement Administration agent, and others.

The Relationship Between Criminology and Criminal Justice

Now that we've covered the basics, let's see what the relationship between these two terms is. We have already mentioned how criminal justice professionals work with criminologists to understand criminal behavior. Those working in criminal justice use their education to enforce the law, investigate crimes, and more. On the other hand, criminologists rely on them for real-world examples of their subject matter, and use criminal justice institutions as a place to conduct their research.

Although there is a significant difference between criminology and criminal justice, these two fields are also similar in several ways. They both include working on preventing criminalized behavior, protecting people from crime, and ensuring justice for victims of criminal activity.

In criminal justice, criminology is considered an important subject, as it helps criminal justice professionals understand criminal behavior. In criminology, criminal justice is used as a basis for conducting crime research.

The Difference Between the Two

The most important distinction between criminal justice vs. criminology is their approach to crime. Criminology studies crime, while criminal justice defines and addresses it at the same time. Also, criminal justice is a much broader term than criminology, in that it encompasses much more than a single field of study. From there stems the difference in education required for getting a job in either field. Criminology students spend time researching and improving their analytical skills. On the other hand, students preparing to work in the criminal justice system focus on learning how the justice system works and how to properly implement it, depending on the role they choose.

Another critical difference is that criminal justice professionals have to undergo rigorous training and pass a state examination; criminologists do not. When it comes to a criminology degree vs. criminal justice degree, the latter is generally easier to obtain. A criminal justice degree is enough for criminal justice professionals to start their careers. However, criminologists have a slightly different path, as they’ll need to go to graduate school if they want to teach at the university level and conduct research on criminal behavior.

Bottom Line

Whether you're interested in criminology or criminal justice, both degrees can lead to a successful, rewarding career. A criminology degree is a science degree, so your future will likely entail teaching or research; on the other hand, if you want to learn about criminal justice systems and institutions for implementation purposes, criminal justice would be a better pick. Both criminal justice and criminology degree programs focus on teaching students how to serve their community and society, as both of these career paths are all about making a difference.