Criminology as a Degree

A while back I wrote a blog post about Criminology and what it entails. However, it being almost two years since then (yikes!), I thought I would give it a much-needed refresh and update you all on the things I’ve been getting up to in my degree since!

As I previously mentioned, simply put, criminology is the study of crime, criminals and criminal justice. We study almost everything there is to study about these three factors and the interrelationships between them in any way relevant to understand it. This means that it is a very broad degree encompassing so many different views across several fields. While criminology is mostly based in sociology, we also touch on areas of psychology, law, penology, philosophy, economics, politics, and even forensic science! If you are at all interested in criminals and/or criminal justice but are not sure how or what you want to get into as a career, criminology (or it’s related degrees) is quite possibly for you!

At the University of Surrey, the Criminology degree is a BSc and not a BA, meaning we don’t just learn about criminology theoretically but there is also a strong research component. While research and statistics may not be everybody’s favourite, it is definitely worth doing as it is a highly transferrable skillset and puts you in a much better position in terms of employability. If you are looking into a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, I would therefore highly recommend ensuring it is a BSc and not a BA, as this usually implies it has some level of research training.

In the second semester of my second year, I studied Applied Criminological Theories, Punishment and Society, Crime and Media, and Quantitative Methods II. Crime and Media was probably the most exciting, as we got to explore the dissemination of crime through all forms of media in the historic and modern world. And while Quantitative Methods tends to not be everyone’s favourite, I absolutely loved it! I’ve always had a soft spot for math (especially statistics) and though it may not be among the most exciting of subjects, it certainly is very helpful in social sciences.

During my placement year, I undertook what is known as a 50/50 placement, spending six months working full-time at Surrey County Council, and roughly about the same amount of time studying abroad. I have written at length about the amazing time I had in New Zealand, and all the awesome stuff I got to do while I was there (have a read if you’re interested!) but one thing that might not have been made so clear was the fact that I was there to study. Yes, contrary to popular belief, I was not just on a “5-month holiday”, as my friends liked to tease me, but was studying at the prestigious Victoria University of Wellington. While there I studied four modules, all of which I was über excited about – Criminal Psychology; Psychology, Crime and the Law; Historical and Theoretical Foundations of Restorative Justice; and White-Collar Crime. The first two I was particularly intrigued by as, though we had touched on Forensic, Investigative an Criminal Psychology during my studies up until then at Surrey, it was nothing we had gone in depth about and something I was (and still am!) very interested in. My excitement proved to be well-founded as it was a highly rewarding and interesting course – I learned a lot about the field and got to be taught by some notable leaders in it! The Restorative Justice module was also highly enriching. The entire course consisted of just nine students – four of which were distance learners and so there was only five of us in the classroom – among which I was the only undergraduate. The rest were all well established educators and justice workers (including one senior employee of the Department of Corrections!) that were undergoing the Restorative Justice chair to gain a deeper understanding of the employment and benefits of restorative solutions to offending. It was definitely very nerve-wracking at first to sit in such a classroom and be able to hold my own in the weekly debates and discussions we had, but ultimately I gained so much knowledge and respect for the field as well as a much improved professional skillset!

Currently, in my final year, I am only studying three learning modules. This is because my dissertation takes up the space of one of the modules. My favourite so far has got to be Criminology of Pleasure. In it we explore the fine and often murky line between human pleasures and what constitute criminal acts, particularly focusing on topics such as music, drugs, sex and religion. Weird as it sounds, it is very insightful, and has got me thinking far beyond anything I have thought so far in my degree, and into topics and fields I would never have considered. The lecturer for the module is very good and very entertaining as well – we got to play Kahoot! in one lecture so that’s always a plus! Aside from this, I am also studying Youth Crime and Control, and Prisons and Prisoners.

In terms of assessments and contact hours, my Criminology degree is much more dependent on independent learning than, say, Physics or other more scientific degrees. This means I have fewer contact hours (less time spent in lectures or seminars) but have more to do at home and of my own accord. This tends to be the same with most social sciences and generally across most universities. While we have less contact hours, this doesn’t mean there is nothing to do as there is always reading to be done as well as your own independent learning to supplement that done in lectures. Though it may not look like it when you look at your timetable and have only eight hours and two free days a week (as I do this semester), there is still work to be done!

On top of keeping up with lectures and the course is completing assignments. Generally, I tend to have two assessments per module and four modules per semester, and so eight assessments a semester and sixteen a year. Most of my assessments are essays and other coursework or assignments, and so I rarely have exams – usually only one or two a semester. Though this means I have a much lighter load than some during exam period and have less to worry about then, it does mean I have more to do during the teaching period and I am pretty much almost always working on an assignment. Assignments are usually arranged such that one is due around halfway through the semester and another due at the end – although this is not always the case. This semester, for example, I have two assessments about midterm, one due at the end of term, and two exams during the January exam period.

For those interested in a Criminology course at Surrey, it is worth noting that the course is almost always under review and improvement, so it is not guaranteed that these are the exact modules you will be studying should you come here, nor in the exact order in which you will be studying them. However, it is a good idea of the content that is studied here at Surrey so feel free to use it as a guide for your considerations! The Criminology page on the Surrey website is always your best bet for the most up-to-date information, so if I have inspired you in any way be sure to check that out!

As always, lovely writing to you all!

Till next time.