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Criminology vs Sociology


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Hi there,

I am applying to several Sociology and Criminology programs this year (both MA and Ph.D). I'm pretty sure I'll at least get accepted into some of these. I am starting to freak out about the marketability of a Sociology degree (with an emphasis in crime and deviance) vs a Criminology degree. Criminology is a relatively new field, and I'm worried that I am limiting my options by choosing it. With sociology, if the academia thing doesn't work out, at least I can get a job as a research analyst in the gov. or private sector. As far as I can tell, criminology has a much lower emphasis on methodology/research/surveying.

Anyone have any experience/advice on this topic? Did anyone else have a backup plan if academia didn't work out?

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I had similar concerns. My research interests straddle the line between criminology and sociology. I was informed by Professors that criminology schools are not as well-regarded in academia circles than sociology programs. That said, one professor informed me that there are a decent number of criminology positions available.

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I had this concern when I was first choosing a major, I was planning on getting a BS in Soci with a concentration in Law & Society, then going into a criminology program. Well, after researching the topic, I found that there are a lot fewer criminology graduate programs, and many of the ones that do exist have sociology professors teaching courses. So going with a criminology Ph.D will limit you to pretty much criminology and Criminal Justice programs when you want to teach. While a degree in sociology will allow you to teach in any area of sociology if you decide to change your concentration in graduate school, while still having the option to teach criminology if that's what you want to do.

Also, my professor once told me that she had a student who ended up getting a criminology degree and now teaches CJ with a pistol shooter attitude.

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If you can, I would definitely go to a good soc program. Criminology and criminal justice programs will always hire sociologists, but sociology programs will rarely hire criminology-trained phds--pure bias. There are a ton of crim jobs available right now, and 99% of them are in soc departments.

My advisor has his phd in criminology and i'm in a sociology program. Perhaps this is a rare exception? There's also a professor in my department with a phd in LPO (Education Leadership, Policy, and Organizations) who specializes in sociology of education.

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No it's not rare to see criminology PhD's teaching at a sociology program. Every sociology program is going to have someone who does crime/law/deviance. Criminology is simply applied sociology, so a good crim scholar is by default a good sociology scholar. There are a large number of crim PhD's teaching at my institution, and while it is a CRIM/Public Sociology department, I've been taught sociology courses by crim PhD's.

I'm not saying that a crim phd will get you a job in a soc department as easily as a soc PhD, but I don't think you'll have trouble getting a job just because you've gotten a crim degree. If you like crim, do crim. Don't do soc to fit in. I'm a soc guy and wanted to do a side project on the social correlates of serial murder (if there were any)....professors steered me away from that, they thought it would take the focus off my sociological work. You'll get research methods and so on during your studies - criminology is the sociological study of crime. It relies on sociological methods, in other words. If you aren't getting methods in a criminology program then its likely a criminal justice program, not a criminology program. I've found criminology to be very quantitative, most of the research uses secondary data analysis in order to analyze criminal acts which would otherwise be hard to observe. That requires methodological rigor.

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Thanks for this topic. I liked the replies and found some solace in them, but I'd like to see more opinions from any others.

What are the pro or con's of doing a master's program in Sociology with a crim concentration or just Crim alone?

Would this hurt employment prospects in say, with a legal line of work that may utilize those degrees?

IE: city law enforcement agencies (police, correctional prison), federal agencies (DEA, FBI/CIA, etc)

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I'm probably going off on a tangent here, but US News & World Report keeps a ranking of criminology programs which is separate from their sociology rankings:

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-humanities-schools/criminology-rankings

If your focus is criminology consider applying to these as well. Getting into top sociology programs is not easy.

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Also ask if you can switch between the programs once you get in. I have several crim friends that got into a top crim program attached to a top soc program and were able to transfer after their masters. It was relatively painless.

I feel like my crim friends have had an easier time on the job market. It sucks for everyone, but it seems like they have more positions to apply for. It's kind of like a demography degree, you can do soc AND something else, which in my opinion makes you more marketable.

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