What is Criminology and Justice Studies?

  • the study of the various reasons people commit crimes
  • the study of how societies label, track and treat behaviors they deem deviant
  • the study of how societies respond to crime, and alternatives to punitive approaches to crime
  • a social science involving the study of the crime, law and punishment
  • the study of our legal and illegal behavior as social beings, covering everything from the analysis of interactions between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social crime definitions and trends
  • a way of understanding the criminal justice system through a lens of social justice

While CJS is NOT a major where you will learn to solve crimes, like you see on TV, it is a great program for learning background reasons why some people commit crimes, while others do not. You will also learn how we measure crime trends, how the criminal justice system handles race, class, gender and sexuality, and how much of what you may think you know about crime is actually false.

Major in Criminology and Justice Studies

Criminology and Justice Studies (CJS) students find an active and supportive departmental culture that surrounds coursework in criminological theory, methods, inequalities of crime and justice, law, policy & action. Faculty members teaching in this major come from multiple disciplines central to addressing current issues facing the U.S. systems of justice and law.

Students pursuing careers in traditional criminal justice fields such as law enforcement, probation and prisons will have a solid foundation to work and effect social change. Law enforcement agencies usually have extensive training programs on the specifics of work in their organization (investigation procedures, safety protocols). These employers are often looking for candidates from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds who can demonstrate the learning outcomes established for this CJS major.

Service learning is integrated into the curriculum through the inequalities and crime course. Internships are encouraged for the capstone experience.

Sociology students at Cal Poly Humboldt have access to a variety of hands-on learning and research experiences. While most universities save these opportunities for grad students, our students are working alongside their professors from the undergraduate level.

Because of the breadth, adaptability and practical applications of a liberal arts degree in CJS, graduates choose to work in many different sectors: non-profit, private business, social services, education, health services, public relations, criminal justice and government, as well as graduate studies.

How can I prepare for a major in Criminology and Justice Studies?

In high school take math, writing and any available social science courses (such as history, psychology, criminology or sociology).

How can I change my major to Criminology and Justice Studies?

Current students interested in the CJS major should take knowledge-based requirements and core classes that are currently being offered (such as STAT 108 or SOC 382). For more information about the course requirements, see the Humboldt Catalog and Major Planning Guide.

When you are ready to switch majors, visit the Sociology office (BSS 518) and fill out a Major Change form.  Learn more about changing majors here.

What can I do with a B.A. in Criminology and Justice Studies?

Graduates with a B.A. in Criminology and Justice Studies from Cal Poly Humboldt have solid skills that look good on a resume, but also have the critical thinking skills to be successful in a wide variety of careers. Because this program is part of the Department of Sociology, you will have a degree that allows you to use your Sociological Imagination to understand issues faced by people and groups that interact with the criminal justice system. By the time you complete your degree, you will have experience with designing and conducting your own research, performing data analysis, making presentations, and reading and writing at a high level. You will be well prepared to enter a Master’s or Ph.D. program, or enter the workforce with the ability to think critically about social forces and how they impact our daily lives.

This degree will not specifically prepare you for the vocational aspects of working in the criminal justice system (for example, we do not teach you how to perform forensic analyses or how to be a detective), but we do give you a solid foundation in how to understand where crime comes from, how it is defined and punished, and the most relevant theories on why some people commit crimes, while others do not. We will teach you to think critically about the myths of crime you see in the popular media, in comparison to the realities of crime and the effects of the criminal justice system. Learn more about Criminology vs. Criminal Justice.

Former Sociology graduates from Cal Poly Humboldt have gone on to be social workers, to work for non-profit agencies, to work in law enforcement, and to work in various academic jobs—just to name a few!

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in Criminology and Justice Studies:

From the American Sociological Association:
Careers in Sociology
Undergraduate Student Resources
Research on Jobs and Careers
The Undergraduate Sociology Degree’s Real-World Application
Famous Sociology Majors

Other CJS Career Resources:
Sociology Majors on the Job Market
Famous People Who Majored in Criminology

Plan Your Coursework

Picking Courses: Each semester, you will want to check in with your Academic or Major Advisor, and plan what to take next semester. The Humboldt Class Schedule is usually updated close to the time registration opens to show dates and times for courses offered the following semester.

Major Planning Guide: These forms will show you all of the courses you must take to get your degree in Sociology or Criminology and Justice Studies. You will use this form with your Academic or Major Advisor to map out a plan for completing the degree.  The Loading... and Major Planning Guide will assist you in completing your DARS and preparing for graduation.

Course Rotations: These show you what the Department of Sociology plans to teach each semester for the next five years. Use this for short term and long term course planning.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Think critically about social and environmental justice efforts and inequalities in communities and environments.
  2. Make linkages between empirical data and theoretical concepts.
  3. Develop the ability to critically engage with research methodology.
  4. Communicate effectively orally (a) and in writing (b).

Capstone Planning

Your capstone experience is the culminating project you complete as you finish your degree in Sociology and Criminology and Justice Studies. You will choose between completing a Thesis, an Internship, or a Community Action Research project. Click here to learn about your BA capstone.