What to Expect
When it comes to the fields of criminology and criminal justice, the
more education you have, the better.
Criminology and criminal justice students can expect to study many different
social sciences. Psychology, sociology, political science, law, economics,
history, philosophy, computing science and mathematics could all cross a student's
Some programs include practical courses such as profiling, criminal investigation
procedures, interview and interrogation, and cultural awareness. The range
of material gives important preparation for the working world.
"Not only does this benefit students by teaching them the value of perspective
in critical thinking, but practically speaking, students graduate from the
program qualified to work or study in the fields of law, sociology, psychology
and criminology," says Karen Williams. She is a criminology student.
This is her second degree. Her first degree was in chemistry, but an interest
in criminalistics drew her back to school.
Criminalistics is using science and technology to investigate crime and
accident scenes. It includes examining and comparing physical evidence in
criminal investigations. Evidence can include DNA, fingerprints, firearms,
substances and more.
"I saw problems growing with how legal professionals and social scientists
were going to make use of the type of scientific knowledge coming from criminalistic
techniques. The reality was that a combination of a science degree and a social
sciences degree provided me insight from both worlds and gave me a very unique
and marketable perspective," says Williams.
Ilya "Shawn" Kaminsky is a criminal justice student at Seattle University.
After graduation he plans to go to law school.
"Criminal justice is a good major in general because it has a practical
application. The criminal justice field is very diverse and there are lots
of jobs available within this field," says Kaminsky. He points out internships
are a great way to break into the job market.
Homework for this program can vary depending on the courses a student chooses.
Some programs have more math and science requirements.
This is a popular program, so first-year class sizes can be very large.
That translates to large graduation classes and more competition for jobs.
"I would urge students to be proactive to deal with this reality," says
Williams. "I can't emphasize this enough; introduce yourself to your professors!
Go to their office hours, ask questions and continue to touch base with them
throughout the year."
Having a relationship with your profs is important when the time comes
to get reference letters for jobs. But don't wait until then.
To save money on texts, approach your professors to find out if the textbooks
are required or only suggested reading.
"Education is expensive and it is extremely frustrating to have gotten
an A in a course after spending $100 on a text that you never once needed
to open," says Williams.
How to Prepare
Volunteer work can be useful to find out what career path you want to follow.
Find out what real-life workers do on the job -- don't believe everything
you see on TV! "You may think you want to become a corrections officer
but it may be that your pre-conceived notions of what a corrections officer
is are very different from the day-to-day reality of the profession!" says
In high school, work hard in humanities classes like English and social
studies to build your communication skills.
"Being able to communicate effectively by writing, speaking, reading, and
listening well is essential and central for success at a university and on
a job," says Kaminsky.
You must stay out of trouble if you plan to work in the criminal justice
system. Jobs in this field usually require a background check. This can
include a driving record inquiry, criminal and credit history investigation
and psychological evaluation.
"Individuals who abstain from illicit activities and who live within social
conventions will have more and better opportunities," says Kaminsky.