What Is Criminology?

Criminology is a multi-faceted, scientific study of criminal behavior: its causes, its effects on individuals and on society, and its prevention. There are three main schools of criminology:

  • Classical
  • Positivist
  • Chicago

The Classical School of criminology presents the oldest and most commonly accepted ideas about deviant behavior, as follows:

  • all humans have free will and are able to exercise it
  • all humans are motivated to increase pleasure and decrease pain and will rationally weigh the costs of their actions accordingly
  • punishment (i.e. pain) can be used effectively as a crime deterrent
  • punishment that is swift and severe is most effective at preventing crime

The Positivist School of criminology believes that there are other factors that cause basically good people to commit crimes and that criminals should not be held fully responsible for their actions, because they did not choose a life of crime. There were factors outside their control that influenced their behavior, such as poverty, social pressure, lack of education, etc.

The Chicago School of criminology utilizes evolutionary theory in understanding criminal behavior, demonstrating that humans are wired to adapt to their environment, and studying how various psychological, economic and social factors create an environment that is conducive to criminal behavior.

How Can You Get A Degree In Criminology?

To earn a degree in criminology, you’ll have to attend an accredited university or pursue an online degree through such a school. There are many distance learning options available through accredited universities today, such as accessing classes via community television stations or by “attending” classes online.

To find a university near you that offers online degrees in criminology, you can quickly find more information with a simple web search. For example, if you live in Florida, you could just search for “UF online criminology degree” and follow the links.

What Can You Do With A Criminology Degree?

Many people assume that a degree in criminology would be for police officers, criminal lawyers and judges, but there are actually a lot more possible career paths than that. Careers in psychology, sociology, forensic science, political theory and criminal justice are wide open to graduates with a criminology degree.

There are many ways that people with a criminology background can help their communities, such as improving local police tactics and community interaction, improving prisons and rehabilitation strategies, and preventing crime by identifying those at high risk for criminal behaviors.