Criminology is a behavioral science that studies all aspects of crime and its impact on society. Offered by the Department of Sociology, the Criminology major explores topics such as law enforcement, racial profiling, cyber crime, the death penalty, and the prison system.

What is a Criminology Degree?

Criminology is the study of the origins, extent, causes, and effects of crime on societies. You'll learn the history and practice of crime control, as well as gain the research skills to draw larger conclusions about the nature and effects of crime.

Why Study Criminology Here?

Your Criminology major will prepare you for a career as a federal law enforcement agent or analyst, a police officer, a corrections officer, a probation and parole official, a victim services counselor, or a social justice activist. The major also provides a strong foundation for graduate study in criminology, criminal justice, and law.

Beyond the Classroom


Field Work
Get Experience

Internships are a popular way to gain experience in the field. Our students often intern at a residential facility for juvenile delinquents or with the Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, or Christiansburg police departments. Other local agencies that host our students in internships include law offices, free clinics, the Raft Crisis Hotline, the Head Start program, and the YMCA.

Contact our internship coordinator, Donna Sedgwick, to talk about internship opportunities.

Criminology major internships


Faculty Mentorship

Our students conduct undergraduate research with faculty in our Center for Race and Social PolicyCenter for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, and Laboratory for the Study of Youth Inequality and Justice. You can design your own project with a faculty mentor and study topics that interest you. Some recent topics include:

  • Policing and urban social control
  • Youth violence and juvenile justice
  • Race and criminal justice
  • Terrorism
  • White-collar crime

A Criminology major's undergraduate research

Student Organizations

Strong Community

Join social or cultural student organizations, where you learn about the roles individual and group identities play in society.  

Student Organizations

Friendly, Motivated Faculty

Our professors have a reputation not just for their scholarship, but also for being friendly, caring, and passionate about making the world a better place. They’ve won local and national awards for both research and teaching.

What Our Students Are Saying

“That is the beauty of the Department of Sociology: you have the faculty and staff investment and care of a small college within a major university. The knowledge I gained from my classes combined with the hands-on experiences from service learning and internships enabled my federal law enforcement career to take off from day one.”

- Ben Shannon, '12

“My Virginia Tech education prepared me to understand the complexities of diversity among social groups, specifically as it relates to identifying various types of people with different characteristics, lifestyles, and attitudes. I regularly use these skills to segment and target populations in regards to community engagement and donation initiatives.”


- Danielle Hardy '12

Careers and Further Study

Criminology vs. Criminal Justice

What's the difference between a degree in criminology and a degree in criminal justice?

Criminal justice is a professional degree that specifically focuses on methods for detecting crime, detaining criminals, and criminal prosecution and punishment. It's designed to prepare you for entering a career in the criminal justice system, such as law enforcement, the courts, and corrections.

Criminology is a branch of sociology that provides a broad academic education and research skills to prepare you for graduate school, law school, and analytical careers. Criminologists are qualified to enter the same fields as criminal justice majors, and many do pursue jobs in law enforcement. But they also graduate with the skills necessary for a broader range of careers, such as researchers, analysts, legal assistants, victims-rights advocates, mediation experts, conflict management specialists, rehabilitation workers, and governmental researchers.