What Is Criminology? (Essay Sample)

What Is Criminology?

A brief description and definition of criminology is: the scientific study of crime. Criminology is not and should not be misconstrued to mean criminal justice. These two are different, and it is essential to understand this fact. Criminology is a broad field, and aside from studying crime, it also seeks to understand the causes of crime, the methods used to prevent crime, and the responses staged by the criminal enforcement. This field is closely related to sociology which seeks to study social behavior and hence it also to a great extent studies criminals and their behavior patterns. While the law enforcement looks at crime vaguely with the aim of identifying the criminals and having them charged, criminology seeks to understand the cause of crime. It goes further than determining the causes of crime as it also studies the effects of crime and the crime patterns in the society. Over the years, crime has continued to metamorphosize which has made it increasingly difficult for the law enforcement to comprehend crime and the behavior of criminals. However, criminology has also evolved, and through it, the law enforcement has managed to revamp their efforts to fight and prevent crime in the society. This article seeks to explain what criminology is vividly, its sub-categories, provide details regarding the different schools of thought, explain the role of a criminologist, and finally, discuss the career opportunities in criminology.

Sub-Categories of Criminology

Criminology like its parent field of sociology is also divided into several groups. These include:

  • Penology – penology seeks to understand and study punishment and prison systems. Here, you study how criminals are treated, and the best ways of administering punishment. This course is mainly designed for criminal justice practitioners or anyone who is working within the criminal justice system.
  • Feminist criminology – this field strictly deals with women and girls. Here you study girls and women and crime. It has long been specified that crime patterns in males and females differ. This field, therefore, seeks to further the notion above by studying the crime patterns of women.
  • Criminalistics – criminalistics is a broad field which deals with crime detection. This sub-category of criminology is concerned with scientific tests which are mainly used to detect crime.
  • Biocriminology – biocriminology is a sub-category of criminology that seeks to understand the genetic and biological factors of crime.

Schools of Thought in Criminology

As already stated, criminology seeks to understand the motives behind any criminal activity. Aside from understanding crime and criminal behavior, criminology also attempts to develop effective ways and means of preventing crime. As a result of these objectives, several schools of thought have been developed, and each seeks to explain crime differently while also providing varying approaches to dealing with crime. The two schools of thought include the Positivist School and the Classical School.

  • Classical School of Thought

The Classical School of Thought is founded on the premise that people commit crime because they want to or out of free will. As per this school of thought, people understand what is considered wrong and right in the society. Furthermore, people make the conscious decision to go against the set rules and regulations. Therefore, this school of thought proposes that they be punished justly and swiftly. It also adds that the punishment should be in direct proportion to the crime committed.

This school of thought purports that people are always making conscious choices in life. Therefore, before committing a crime, one always compares the cost (of a crime) versus the benefits (to be accrued).

  • Positivist School of Thought

Unlike the classical school of thought which believes people commit crime willingly, the positivist school of thought believes that other factors could be in play. This school of thought introduces internal and external factors which can be in play and thus cause deviant behavior. It goes on to explain that some of these factors could be beyond the control of the criminal who may find it hard to control his behavior.

It bases its conclusion on the premise that everyone is different and this does not necessarily mean physically or intellectually. This school of thought purports that the environment, as well as life experiences and circumstances, can also contribute to one’s behavior. It continues to explain that the understanding of what is right and wrong can be different to people who grew up in varying environments. Therefore, punishing a crime was not as dictated in the classical school of thought was not appropriate. Here, only the individual would be punished and not the crime.

Who is a Criminologist and what are the roles of one?

A criminologist can be described as a social scientist tasked with studying crime, criminals, and the motivation behind any criminal activity. While working as a police officer, you will be required in the field on multiple occasions but as a criminologist, being in the field is not a requirement unless you are gathering evidence. On most occasions, criminologists make use of raw data and statistics about a crime to identify any patterns in criminal behavior. Explaining crime is not easy and requires time and research to either identify patterns of criminal behavior and also to determine the appropriate methods of preventing crime.

Crime prevention is the main goal of criminology. Information retrieved from the study of criminal behavior is often used to explain the underlying reasons why people commit crime. Theories are often formulated with the cause and effects of the reviewed criminal behavior clearly defined.

Career Opportunities in Criminology

  • Every student wants to know whether they will be able to secure a job after they have graduated. Securing a job can be a stressful activity, and people often end up frustrated and eventually depressed. Therefore, it is essential to understand the career opportunities in the field you are pursuing. Continuity in employment is also an important consideration, but this is often for people who are already employed.
  • If you are studying criminology or are yet to make up your mind because you are unsure of the career opportunities in this field, here are some rewarding areas:
  • Forensic Psychologist.
  • Law enforcement criminologist.
  • You can also choose to be an academician and either teach at a university or focus on further research in criminology.
  • Police detective.


  • Roufa, T. (2017). What is Criminology? The Balance. Retrieved October 4, 2017 from https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-criminology-974589
  • University of Cincinnati. (2017). Criminology Schools of Thought. Retrieved October 4, 2017 from http://cjonline.uc.edu/resources/news/ criminology-schools-of-thought/
  • Vioreanu, D. (2017). What Can I Become If I Study Criminal Law and Criminology? Masters Portal. Retrieved October 4, 2017 from http://www.mastersportal.eu/articles/583/what- can-i-become-if-i-study-criminal-law-and-criminology.html
related articles