Criminal justice and administration of justice degrees are very similar and can often lead to the same career choices. However, there's a lot more to learn in each degree program offered, and much more to know about the program's coursework and skill-set. In addition, criminal justice programs offer different learning approaches that may be suitable for a variety of disciplines. The following are some of the main differences between criminal justice and administration degrees.
Education: Although administration of justice is a more general course of study, the curriculum used by criminal justice schools is tailored specifically to address the goals of each discipline. There's less emphasis on coursework that would relate to criminal defense, for example. This means that criminal justice majors will be taught more about prison practices, prison culture and its relationship to society, and the role of corrections in American society. Criminal justice majors will also be trained in administrative law and corrections management. This includes training on how to conduct inmate interviews with parole officers.
Concentration: Another difference between criminal justice degree programs and administration programs is their focus on one discipline. For instance, a criminal justice major will complete two years of general studies and then a year or two of specializations. An administrator will complete four years of general education, but will pursue specializations such as corrections administration, criminal justice law, and community services administration. The length of time in which a criminal justice student can choose a specialization is entirely up to him or her; an administrator must first decide which specialization to pursue.
Major or Specialization: Both degree programs include general education. However, criminal justice students will spend longer hours on campus than administrators, who must complete their courses in the classroom and in the lab. They also must complete the same number of units as administrators. Additionally, an administrator needs to take four years of classes, while a criminal justice major can earn the same number of units in three years. This means that a criminal justice major may graduate earlier and apply for a lower starting salary than an administrator who has the same amount of time on campus and the same number of units taken.
Career Paths: Since administration of justice degree programs focus on the management and administration of prisons, this might be what you want to do in the future. But, if criminal justice is more your cup of . . . . . . tea, then you may find a career in law enforcement. or corrections. You can also apply to be a court reporter, clerk or investigator, a forensic anthropologist, or a corrections officer.
If you're not sure what kind of career path you want to pursue after completing a criminal justice degree, it's helpful to talk to other people who have been through the process of earning their degree. Your advisor can give you valuable information about the career options available to you.