Where a criminology and criminal justice degree can take you
If you are fascinated by crime and want to better understand what drives people to commit crimes, then studying criminology could be the course for you.
You’ll learn about the causes and consequences of complex crime, criminal justice, forensics, cybercrime, border protection and biosecurity, and graduate ready to work in a highly valued professional role in the community.
But it’s not all Law and Order. Building a rewarding career in criminal justice takes critical thinking, excellent communication skills, knowledge of criminology and law, and empathy.
We spoke with constitutional and human rights lawyer Professor Patrick Keyzer, Dean of ACU’s Thomas More Law School, about where studying criminology could lead.
What types of careers could a criminology and criminal justice graduate apply for? What sort of skills will they be graduating with that they could put to good use in these careers?
“We anticipate that Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice graduates would work in corrections, in justice departments, in the courts as administrators and in the police force – state, territory or federal. They could work in the Australian Border Force and in immigration with the Department of Home Affairs. We expect that our graduates would get jobs in the public service. We also think that some of our graduates will go on to study other degrees, such as law, and they would then leverage their advanced knowledge of the criminal justice system in that context.
“The compliance component of Australia’s economy is going to grow significantly, so justice jobs are booming. And, because these tend to be government jobs, they tend to have a high starting salary and good working conditions.
“And you don’t need to be a lawyer to work in the justice system. There’s plenty of work for people who don’t have a law degree or don’t want to have a law degree.
“When it comes to skills and knowledge that we impart within that degree, we’ve designed a curriculum that ensures that, when people graduate, they will have high-quality written and oral communication skills; they will be able to critically evaluate law regulations, policies and the like; they will be able to develop high-quality policy responses to criminal justice problems; and they will have a thorough understanding of local, state, national and international institutions which have a bearing upon their work practices.
“We know that students will graduate with a high-level understanding of the importance of the dignity of the human being, and we know that they will graduate with a significant understanding of the human rights of people – not only of criminal justice defendants, but anybody and everybody who comes into contact with the criminal justice system, including as victims.”
How can studying another degree alongside criminology and criminal justice, such as law, human rights or psychological science, affect students’ career options?
“I think that doing a double degree gives you more than twice the career options.
“If you do a double degree with psychology, such as our new Bachelor of Psychological Science/Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, you’re opening up the possibility of continuing on to do a professional year and becoming a clinical psychologist. You are opening up the possibility of commencing or continuing a career within the corrections context, where psychology is an extremely valuable skill. Psychological knowledge is very highly prized and valued in a variety of policing and justice contexts. You’ll also understand the criminal justice system better, so you’ll be a better corrections psychologist for having done that.
“When it comes to the Bachelor of Human Rights/Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, anybody who practises in human rights law knows that 90 per cent of human rights practice in Australia happens in a criminal justice context. So having a double degree in those two areas of knowledge is really going to enrich your career, no matter what you end up doing.
“A double degree with law, such as our Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice/Bachelor of Laws, is a wonderful thing. Even if you don’t go on to practise law, legal knowledge is incredibly valuable if you’re going to work in government and policy contexts. And of course, for those people who do go on to practise law, having a criminology degree as a double with your law degree is going to significantly enrich the knowledge and skills that you bring to your legal qualification.
“I did an arts degree before I did law and that was great, because it means I’ve got an understanding of history and literature that enriches my legal practice. I’ve continued to rely on that. For people who are exploring whether to do criminology with law, they will find that when they get to the end of their double degree, they then have choices. Not everybody who does a law degree decides to go on and be a lawyer. It is nevertheless powerful knowledge. Not everybody who does a criminology degree ends up working in the criminal justice system, but it is also powerful knowledge.”
How much of a role does gaining practical experience with potential employers during the degree play in securing employment?
“Students do 40 hours of placement in their third year of the Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice. We find that people who participate in our pro bono placements in the law program find those experiences to be very enriching. And they provide students with contacts in the legal profession, which often result in offers of ongoing employment.
“These placement opportunities increase the job readiness of our graduates. We know from experience that our students who have gone on to be lawyers in various private and public practices often speak about the significance of their placement program in leading them down the path towards employment.”
With the single Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, what kinds of employers may a student get practical experience with?
“Students will be able to do placements with the police, corrections, justice agencies and various government and non-government institutions that are involved in a criminal justice context. We’ll also be leveraging ACU’s very rich range of contacts in Catholic social welfare agencies that do work in a criminal justice context, so placements will be available with those too.”
Is moving into research (studying a master’s or research degree after completing your bachelor’s) a good move for students in this area? Why or why not?
“Our criminology degree is relatively new, but we anticipate that a number of students will want to embark upon research careers. We’ll have well developed pathways for those students into doctoral programs, if that’s something they’re interested in.
“But also, criminology and criminal justice is a very diverse, and significantly funded, area of public research. Governments are interested in why people commit crime and in the diversity of crime. That’s good news for research students.
“For example, 10 years ago, internet and social media scams were non-existent, and now they’re very common. This has created a whole new workforce, not only in IT, but also in policing and prosecutions, particularly at the federal level because the federal government oversees the internet.
“The government has had to recruit a whole range of people, who work in Australian Federal Police and in the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, to manage all of the litigation and all of the policymaking required to counteract internet scams. And it’s only going to expand given the arrival of artificial intelligence and deep fakes.”
How relevant is a qualification in criminology and criminal justice to the real world? How will it equip students for a sustainable working future?
“The core subjects we’ve developed to include in the syllabus are focused in work areas. For example, there are specific subjects on policing, corrections, border protection and criminological research. They’re very career focused. That was a deliberate design feature of the degree.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“The criminology and criminal justice degree is fun. And it’s interesting. I mean, I wish there had been a criminology degree when I was doing my arts degree. I would have done it before I went on to do my law degree. The Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice/Bachelor of Laws is a very popular double degree, particularly for people who want to work in the criminal justice sector.”
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