The purpose of criminal justice majors is for students to learn about the systems that are established by governments so that crime offenders are apprehended, arrested, prosecuted and then punished and social order is preserved. The courses are chosen so that students can understand both crime and justice and how the justice system works.
The major will equip students with knowledge of what the origins of criminal behavior are, of how a police unit is administrated, crime laboratory technology, probation, parole and corrections and theory on criminal justice. The criminal justice major also aims to determine students to think critically about the balance between public order and individual freedoms and rights. Students can choose the area of criminal justice they want to focus on, for example they could choose law enforcement, homeland security or forensic science.
The field of criminal justice is a highly interdisciplinary one, intersecting with psychology, sociology, natural sciences, computer science and communication. Courses that might be taught as part of the Criminal Justice major could be some of the following: Criminology, Survey of Criminal Courts, Police & Society, Prisons and Prisoners, Criminal Procedure, Juvenile Justice, Criminal Justice Research Methods, Quantitative Methods in Psychology, Law and Politics, Computer Analysis of Social Science Data, Eyewitness Testimony and others.
The courses vary a lot from institution to institution. There are many baccalaureate programs that encourage or even require students to take part in internships in criminal justice setting for course credit.
Criminal justice graduates have a wide range of careers to choose from:
- Police officer (the higher ranks)
- Correctional officer
- Parole or probation officer
- Crime analyst
- Crime prevention specialist
- Legal research assistant
- Court coordinator
- Border patrol agent
- Court reporter
- Fish and game warden
Some of these jobs require further training or education aside from the criminal justice major, while others do not necessarily require the major, but having the degree ensures higher chances of advancing in job position.
Will you find the criminal justice major to be difficult?
The answer is very subjective, as it depends on your abilities and ideals in life. What are you generally interested in? Do you want a criminal justice degree just because your friends are aiming at one too? Because of TV ads? These might not be the best reasons for attending the criminal justice major, but some of the following could be:
- You are interested in the problems faced by society.
- You are an analytical person and enjoy digging deeper into a problem in order to find proper answers and solutions.
- You like working with people.
- You are interested in what is right and in social order
Aside from the Criminal Justice major, what other majors are related to the field of criminal justice?
The following majors are also closely linked to the field of criminal justice:
- Corrections – students learn theories and principles of correctional science and prepare to become correctional officers or occupy other jobs in incarceration facilities.
- Corrections Administration – students are being prepared to plan and administrate facilities where offenders are housed for rehabilitation, be they private or public institutions.
- Criminal Justice and Corrections – correctional sciences are studied for becoming a correctional officer or holding another position within an incarceration facility
- Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration – students learn to apply theories and practices of organization administration and criminal justice to agencies in the law enforcement field.
- Criminal Justice/Police Science – this program aims to prepare students in performing duties specific to police and public security officers.
- Criminal Justice/Safety Studies – the program has the criminal justice system in focus, with its organizational components and activities and also its legal and public policy contexts.
All in all, as you can see, you have many choices, all very rewarding, even though none a piece of cake. If you are properly motivated, then you probably will not find the challenges posed by such a major to be too difficult.