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Criminology Majors UC

Best Majors for Criminology and Law at a UC

All About Majors
1. Guide to Business, Econ, Math and Finance Majors by UC
2. Best Majors for Criminology and Law at a UC
3. 10 Easiest Transfer Majors: UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD
4. 10 Easiest Transfer Majors: UCI, UCD, UCSB
5. 10 Easiest Transfer Majors: UCSC, UCR, UC Merced
6. Capped + Selective Majors by UC Campus 2018
7. 12 New Majors at the University of California, 2018
8. A Multi-Career Approach to 9 UC Majors

Criminology vs Criminal Justice vs Criminalist, Oh My!

Maybe it’s just part of the time space continuum, but I have sure seen a lot of students hoping to transfer to UC Irvine’s Criminology major this year. So, in the spirit of synchronicity, I thought I would highlight the differences among some of the specialized fields and provide a list of other UC campuses that offer majors similar in nature. 

While a student might think criminology, criminal justice and criminalist (a sub-specialty) are equally inter-changeable, they really are their own entities. Below is an overview of the terms, and then below that I have listed the various majors that might be of interest to a burgeoning CSI, or the next Vincent Bugliosi (prosecutor who convicted Charles Manson), or a future Dream Team defense attorney (the Dream Team got OJ Simpson acquitted.


Criminology is the examination of crime and criminal behavior as it pertains to the social community at large. It’s steeped in the social sciences. Students in this major study both the cause of crime and its prevention. It’s an academic pursuit, and most criminology majors go on to higher degrees. Criminology involves an interdisciplinary approach, with courses from within anthropology, psychology, sociology, and legal studies. Want to get a job at Quantico with the FBI? Maybe this is your path.

Specialty areas include:

  • Biocriminology: the biological basis of criminal behavior
  • Feminist criminology: the study of women and crime
  • Penology: the study of prisons and prison systems

–> NOTE:  UC Irvine ranked #5 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Grad Schools for Criminology
–> UC Irvine is listed in USA Today’s best U.S. colleges for a major in criminology


Criminal justice refers to the actual nuts and bolts of criminal justice institutions, including jails, prisons, the courts, detention centers, border patrol, and the like.

Jobs might include:

  • Correctional officer
  • Border patrol
  • Police officer
  • Lawyer
  • Probation officer
  • Bailiff
  • Paralegal
  • instructor/professor


Criminalists are the science nerds. They are often referred to as forensic science technicians or crime scene investigators. It is their job to collect, analyze, document, and preserve the physical evidence found at a crime scene. While they may work a crime scene, the real home base for a criminalist is the lab. These are the experts who testify in court cases about crime scene findings.

Specializations might include:

  • Trace evidence at the crime scene
  • DNA and Serology
  • Drugs, Alcohol and Toxicology
  • Firearms and Bullet Markings

–> NOTE: UC Davis has an accredited Criminalist program.


Now that you understand the various career possibilities, below are some relevant majors that might peak your interest:

— Criminology, Law and Society (CLS)
— Sociology (specialty criminal justice system)
— Sociology (specialty organizational studies, including prisons)
— Forensic Psychiatry, grad school
— Sociology (3 specialties: Law and Society; Science and Medicine; Social Inequalities) 

Criminal Justice:
— Legal Studies
— Legal Studies
— Political Science (specialty Public Law)

— Nutritional Sciences – Toxicology (plus Molecular Toxicology, grad school)
— Environmental Toxicology
— Science and Technology
— Entomology (insects)
— Chemistry (specialty forensic)
— Forensic science, grad school 
— Entomology 

Certificate Programs:
— Crime Scene Investigation Certificate via Riverside Extension
— Paralegal Certificate via UC Davis Extension

So, this should give any of you interested in the field of criminal intent, some long-term, deep reading. Enjoy!

–> See my jazzy INFOGRAPHIC on all criminology/law-related majors here.

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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