What is the difference between Criminology and Criminal Justice?

investigator examines fingerprints with magnifying glass

Determining what degree field you’d like to explore more, means learning the subtle nuances of that degree. Case in point, what is the difference between criminology and criminal justice? These two terms seem similar in use because the career paths from both can overlap.

In a nutshell, here’s the quick difference between criminology and criminal justice.

Criminology focuses on the sociological and psychological behaviors of criminals to determine why they commit crimes or do what they do.

Whereas criminal justice studies law enforcement systems and operations.

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Which path should you choose - Criminology or Criminal Justice?

As the discipline that deals in the practical application of policy and research, criminal justice is associated most closely with law enforcement, court proceedings, and criminal corrections. Professionals in this field may work as criminal investigators or federal agents, but they may also work in research and policy development, aiming to improve existing policing or corrections practices.

On the other hand, criminologist jobs are focused almost entirely on investigative research and policy development, with leaders in the field is highly sought after in both the private sector and federal government agencies.

Why apply to Kent State University?

  • No GRE required for admission
  • Learn from dedicated, full-time faculty who are invested in student success
  • Graduate in as few as two years
  • One of the most affordable online master’s programs in criminology and criminal justice in the state of Ohio
  • 100 percent of our alumni rated the program as high or very high1

Kent State University’s Online Master of Criminology and Criminal Justice

The Online Master of Criminology and Criminal Justice program at Kent State University helps prepare you for the diverse career paths associated with criminology, or the theoretical exploration of crime, as well as the practical application and execution of criminal justice policies, policing and corrections practices, victim advocacy initiatives, and contemporary global security measures.

Designed for busy working professionals and students seeking graduate education, our online program challenges students to expand their scope of knowledge, with options to concentrate in three areas:

  • Global Security
  • Policing
  • Victimology

For more information on Kent State’s Online Master of Criminology and Criminal Justice degree, visit https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/sociology/criminal-justice.


1 Based on a limited sample of self-reported data from Kent State alumni from graduating cohorts between 2016-2020

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