About the Major
While there are a variety of disciplines which study crime, criminals, and criminal justice, three are especially visible and important. They are sociology, criminology, and criminal justice. While these three disciplines share a common substantive focus and, at the undergraduate level could lead to similar career paths, they also differ in important ways. These differences are clearest on the graduate level but readily apparent on the undergraduate level as well.
The Department of Sociology at The Ohio State University offers undergraduate majors in Sociology and in Criminology. The latter training is very clearly sociological because the courses are professed by scholars trained in sociology. As such, the focus is understanding crime, criminals, and criminal justice and, except in passing, little attention is given to policy or administrative implications.
Sociology treats crime, criminals, and criminal justice as one of many behavioral and institutional scholarly arenas of interest to sociologists. Along with education, health care, work and occupations, race and gender, to name but a few, sociologists study crime, criminals, and criminal justice as one way of better understanding the institutions humans create and the recurrent patterns of behavior they nourish and sustain. Crime, criminals, and criminal justice are no more, or less, important than these other areas of sociological research and teaching and sociologists do not regularly consider the policy or administrative implications of their research.
Criminology treats crime, criminals, and criminal justice as central substantive concerns. Except as other scholarly areas illuminate crime, criminals, and criminal justice such as educational levels or linkages with the world of work, criminologists do not regularly teach or do research in areas other than crime, criminals, and criminal justice. In addition, criminologists also pay more attention to policy and administrative issues than do sociologists. On average, however, criminologists share an abiding interest with sociologists in understanding rather than direct action.
Criminal justice is the newest of the three disciplines and clearly the most focused. It evidences singular interests in crime, criminals, and criminal justice and it is rare indeed when professors and scholars trained in criminal justice teach or do research in other disciplines than crime, criminals, and criminal justice. Moreover, criminal justice scholars are far more likely to consider the policy and administrative implications of their teaching and research and far more likely to offer both undergraduate and graduate training to their students in policy and administration.