I recently started hosting career panel discussions with our coaches so that we could share our knowledge and experiences and learn from each other. Today’s career panel topic is Criminal Justice and Criminology. Included on our career panel were three coaches. Coach Vanessa got her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and minored in Psychology and Criminalistics. Coach Iris majored in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Coach Janae’ earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minored in Criminology. Here are some interesting points from our discussion:

Coach Vanessa, I understand that Criminalistics includes the study of evidence. Is that correct? Yes, we learned how to lift fingerprints and tire marks and analyze a crime scene.

From what I can tell, Criminology is more about the anatomy of a crime versus Criminal Justice, which is more about law enforcement. Do you think the programs at different colleges have a different focus? Coach Janae’ said that her school (Western Kentucky) only offered a minor in Criminology when she attended, but the program was expanded after she left. Coach Vanessa said that UNT offered a Criminal Justice degree, which was the focus, but she was also required to take Criminology courses. Coach Iris said that her school (UTA) combined Criminology and Criminal Justice, which gave her a feel for both sides.

How did you first become interested in Criminal Justice? Coach Vanessa became interested after watching TV shows that involved criminal justice. Coach Iris became interested in the justice system after she was attacked and had to pay a fine upon reporting it. She also became interested in being a SWAT officer when SWAT came to deal with some drug dealers in her neighborhood. Coach Janae’ was familiar with law enforcement because her mom was a police dispatcher. She also took Forensic Science as a high school senior, and she was able to practice lifting finger prints and analyzing blood spatter in mock crime scenes.

Were you interested in a certain area of Criminal Justice? Coach Vanessa was interested in working crime scenes. She said if that’s the field that interests you, you really should study Forensic Science because a certificate in Criminalistics can only get you so far. Coach Janae’ and Coach Iris were both interested in law enforcement.

How do you think the fields of Criminal Justice and Criminology differ from how they are depicted on TV? Coach Iris said that TV makes them look more dramatic. In real life, there’s a lot of paperwork.  

How did your college major compare to what you thought it would be like? All of the coaches agreed it was not as hands-on as they thought it would be. Instead, these areas of study involve a lot of law, history, and statistics.

Janae’, how did Criminology tie in with Sociology? “Sociology is the study of human behavior. When you look at people’s backgrounds and what they’ve been through, it starts to make sense why they do what they do.”

Vanessa & Iris, how does Criminal Justice tie in with Psychology? The coaches said that when you look at the Psychology side of it, you focus on how people think and why they commit crimes.

Did you do any volunteering in this field? Coach Iris volunteered with the police and participated in the Ride-Along program.  

Why didn’t you pursue a career in Criminal Justice? Coach Vanessa said that she wasn’t happy with how the justice system works, so that made her reconsider. Coach Iris worked in a detention facility but quit after a week because she wasn’t happy with how minorities were treated by the detention officers. She wanted to make a difference with individuals, so she’s now more interested in social work. Once Coach Janae’ realized how dangerous law enforcement was, she decided not to take that risk. Now she’s more interested in civil rights law.

What else is important to know about this field? Coach Vanessa said law enforcement has a high divorce rate, and people might turn on you.

Is it true that people in law enforcement are always aware of their surroundings? Coach Vanessa said that she’s always aware of the room. She doesn’t like to have her back to a door because she wants to be aware of what’s happening and who’s coming into a room. She says that it can make you paranoid.

What would you tell a student who wants to be a forensic scientist but doesn’t like science? The coaches agreed that the student should pick another field. Forensic Accounting or Cyber Security might be good options for such students to consider.