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Common misconceptions about criminology and criminal justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice is one of the most exciting and popular courses available at the BA (Hons) level. However, the course (and the careers it leads to) is also the victim of a huge amount of confusion and misunderstanding. This week’s blog post helps to dispel those myths…


Myth 1: You’ll learn how to solve crimes

This is the biggest and most common misconception about criminology and criminal justice, and is mostly due to popular TV shows like CSI. Although you will not learn how to solve crime, our undergraduate syllabus includes some fascinating modules that demonstrate how academic theory can aid criminal investigation. For example, our Introduction to Offender Profiling module covers how the disciplines of Criminology and Psychology can be applied to investigate crimes. And our Criminal Investigation module is delivered by high ranking ex-police officers who highlight the key principles of criminal investigation.

Although the roles that a graduate can enter are many and varied, they almost always focus much more on the causes of crime and criminal behaviour. Areas of interest for students and graduates include subjects like crime prevention, offender punishment and how criminal justice links to social justice. Graduates and students develop an in-depth understanding of criminology theory, research methods and the history of crime and punishment to help them with this research.


Myth 2: You’ll spend all your time collecting fingerprint and DNA evidence

Again, TV is to blame for this misconception. Although forensic evidence is without doubt one of the most significant recent discoveries within the criminal justice system, a criminology and criminal justice degree does not teach you how to be a forensic scientist. While some graduates enter the police force and can choose to specialise in crime scene analysis, this is more related to a degree in forensic science than criminology.

Although our course covers the use of forensic science within the Criminal Justice System, a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice is based much more on psychology and research than physical work and evidence collecting. Graduates from the University of Essex Online gain an understanding of the social and personal aspects of crime, develop critical thinking skills and become confident in their ability to analyse and reflect upon different sociological, legal and economic theories. Students also gain transferable skills in research, time management and written communication.


Myth 3: You need to have a background in policing

Not true! Students on our courses come from a wide variety of professional backgrounds, and some even start straight after graduating from sixth form. We have very flexible entry requirements that take into account both academic and workplace experience, and our 15-credit modules cover a broad variety of areas suitable for complete beginners or those with experience in the field.

Because our course is part-time, our students can continue to work while studying (whether that’s in the police force, or elsewhere). And as all our modules are assessed on assignments instead of exams, students with family or work commitments can manage their own time to achieve the best grades possible. The programme is also continually updated by industry and academic experts to ensure that students learn about the latest techniques and theories.


Myth 4: You’ll only work on murder cases

While murders and high-profile violent crimes are headline-grabbers, there’s so much more to the world of crime. Students on the University of Essex Online Criminology and Criminal Justice BA (Hons) cover the whole spectrum, from serial murder thorough to youth crime, and even relatively new crimes such as cyber-crime and security.

This extensive field of study gives graduates a broad grounding in many areas, providing them with an excellent advantage when applying for positions within criminal justice services (e.g. a court custody officer or drug/alcohol worker).


Myth 5: You’ll only be able to work with the police

A BA (Hons) in Criminology and Criminal Justice course provides an excellent academic foundation for work within the police, whether you‘re a professional with years of experience or would like to better your chance of gaining employment within the police. However, this is by no means the only career path for graduates.

Careers linked to criminology and criminal justice are very varied and include probation service, the prison service, the security service, the National Crime Agency youth work, youth offending services, analytical work, private and voluntary sectors and many others. Graduates are also fully prepared to move into civil service, journalism or professional positions within the voluntary sector such as fund-raisers and project managers. Social and welfare professions are also a popular route for graduates, including positions such as adult guidance worker, housing manager, local government officer and many more.


So in summary, while a career related to criminology and criminal justice might not be all chase scenes, wailing sirens and improbable science, this exciting and global field still has a huge amount to offer. Inspired to start studying criminology and criminal justice? Download our prospectus now.