Is Criminology a Good Major?

A true-crime TV show is about to air.

Do you immediately grab a bucket of popcorn and mute your phone?

Whether you’re fascinated by why crime happens or more interested in bringing justice to victims of crime, you might want to consider picking criminology as your major in college.

Most criminology majors end up in law enforcement, working as police officers, detectives, criminal profilers, and others. With additional credentials, some work in government agencies and universities.

The average annual salary of criminology majors is $46,597.

However, it’s worth pointing out that while the bottom 10% of those with a degree in criminology earn $27,000 or less per year, the top 10% earn $79,000 or more per year.

criminal scene

How Difficult is Criminology?

Criminology is a moderately hard academic major.

It’s not as easy as business administration, communications, or journalism, but it’s not as challenging as architecture, chemistry, or engineering — criminology sits nicely between extremes in difficulty levels.

However, whether or not criminology is academically demanding is on a case-to-case basis.

For example, someone interested in sociology and psychology may find it interesting and exciting, thus allowing for a less tumultuous time in college.

On the other hand, someone whose passion lies somewhere might have trouble graduating.

Below are some examples of courses in a criminology degree program:

  • Criminal Justice Administration
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Criminal Procedures and Evidence
  • Culture and Crime
  • Drugs and Crime
  • Economics of Crime and Social Problems
  • Police and Society
  • Theories of Social Order
  • Psychology of Criminal Behavior
  • Punishment and Corrections
  • Surveillance and Privacy in Contemporary Society
  • White Collar Crime

Criminology majors get an average of 6.95 hours of sleep per night.

That’s ever so slightly above average given that, according to data from the University Health Center at the University of Georgia, most college students in the US get 6 to 6.90 hours of sleep nightly, on average.

On the other hand, the top five majors notorious for making college students sleep-deprived are:

  • Architecture (5.28 hours per night)
  • Nursing (5.69 hours per night)
  • Biochemistry (5.69 hours per night)
  • Creative writing (5.75 hours per night)
  • Ecology (5.75 hours per night)

What’s the Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice?

Criminology and criminal justice are related majors.

However, criminology focuses more on the perpetrators of crimes themselves — criminals! It also closely looks into the different reasons why they commit crimes.

So, in other words, it’s all about understanding who commits crimes and why.

Meanwhile, criminal justice concentrates more on authorities and professionals, as well as the greater society, should handle crimes covering topics such as law enforcement, the court system, and corrections.

Which between criminology and criminal justice you should major in depends on the career you are most interested in.

Best Colleges for Criminology Students

Approximately 370 academic institutions in the US offer criminology degrees and courses.

Opting for the best program opens doors for better career and salary opportunities.

What’s best for one student may not be the best for another; consider your academic and professional goals and other factors such as financial situation and residence.

US News makes it easier for students interested in taking criminology to select schools to apply to.

Below is a table of the top 20 institutions with the best undergraduate criminology programs:

Institution NameAcceptance RateTuition and Fees
University of Maryland, College Park44%$11,505 – $40,306
Arizona State University90%$12,051 – $32,193
University of California, Irvine21%$15,185 – $47,759
University of Cincinnati86%$13,530 – $27,140
Pennsylvania State University – University Park55%$19,835 – $38,651
University at Albany – SUNY68%$10,408 – $28,998
Florida State University25%$6,517 – $21,683
Rutgers University74%$16,586 – $35,348
Michigan State University88%$15,372 – $41,958
George Mason University90%$13,812 – $37,976
University of Missouri – St. Louis51%$12,648 – $31,516
Northeastern University7%$63,141
University of Nebraska Omaha86%$8,136 – $21,718
Temple University80%$21,095 – $35,956
CUNY – John Jay College of Criminal Justice51%$7,470 – $19,140
Sam Houston State University85%$10,756 – $22,996
University of Florida23%$6,381 – $28,658
Georgia State University61%$10,268 – $29,306
University of Delaware72%$16,080 – $39,720
University of South Florida44%$6,410 – $17,324

Based solely on the table above, it’s clear that some of the best institutions for students intending to major in criminology are public schools with affordable tuition, even more so for in-state students.

Most of them have high acceptance rates, too, which makes getting in easy for many.

Can You Study Criminology Online?

Online criminology courses and programs are available for adult learners and non-traditional students.

An example of a postsecondary institution that offers a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice via the web is Maryville University, a private school in Town and Country, Missouri.

Worry not about ending with a phony diploma.

That’s because the online degree in criminology it offers has full accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a recognized regional accrediting agency.

Forbes says that these colleges have the best online programs or courses in criminology:

  • Arkansas State University
  • Carlow University
  • Indiana State University
  • Lakeland University
  • Maryville University of Saint Louis
  • Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
  • SUNY College of Technology at Canton
  • University of Florida
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City
  • University of North Carolina Wilmington

Before you enroll in an online criminology program, check for accreditation.

Remember to ask about tuition costs and the kind of classes involved — whether completely virtual or hybrid and whether synchronous or asynchronous (self-paced).


Criminology Major Careers and Salaries

Criminology is an interdisciplinary major as it involves different sciences such as:

  • Biology
  • Economics
  • Social anthropology
  • Social sciences
  • Psychology

As such, criminology majors enjoy various job opportunities and earning potential.

The best jobs for those who studied criminology in-depth in college are directly related to the discipline because it utilizes what one has learned and is interested in.

Indirectly related jobs are good, too, provided you get to use what you worked hard for in college. And that makes a criminology degree worth it.

Let’s take a look at some of the careers for criminology majors and their respective salaries and job growth:

JobMedian Annual SalaryJob Outlook
Forensic psychologist$85,3308%
Criminal profiler$83,6407%
Police detective$69,1603%
Police officer$69,1603%
Probation officer$59,8603%
Clinical social worker$55,3507%
Private detective$52,1206%
Private investigator$52,1206%
Jury consultant$50,4109%
Correctional officer$49,610-7%
Loss prevention officer$34,750-1%

Please note that just because you have a major in criminology doesn’t mean right away that you can land a job directly related to it or has something to do with what you studied.

In most instances, your criminology degree makes you eligible for various entry-level jobs.

Some employers or industries may require you to earn additional credentials. They include taking some courses, obtaining a certificate, or undergoing prescribed training.

Therefore, it’s essential for students intending to major in criminology to plan their career path.

Doing so allows them to determine which minor can complement their major and make their resume look more appealing to employers in their target industries.

crime scene

Is It Easy for Criminology Majors to Find a Job?

Criminology majors have plenty of job opportunities as they are in demand in diverse fields.

Many criminology graduates are in law enforcement, which means they are not affected by the dynamics of the job market in the way that those employed in the private sector usually are, such as nurses, accountants, and realtors.

According to Data USA, there are 3.96 million criminology graduates in the workforce.

It adds that the number of employed people with a degree in criminology continues to grow by 3.42%, which is higher than the average growth for all occupations — 3%, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

Read Also: Human Development Major: All You Need to Know

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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