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Crime and justice is a key focus of Oregon State online sociology degree

Scott Akins, a professor of sociology at Oregon State University, poses in front of a building. Scott's teachings focus largely on crime and justice.

Sociology professor Scott Akins helps students analyze the fact that social variables and power structures play a significant role in determining which people are exposed to the criminal justice system.

Specialization option provides a gateway to criminal justice careers

By Tyler Hansen
May 11, 2020

When Scott Akins was growing up, he says he was “a bit of a juvenile delinquent.” Now he’s a Ph.D. professor of sociology at Oregon State University, and he owes much of his career work to, well, his “work” as a troublemaking kid.

“After experiencing criminal behavior and law enforcement from the ‘other side,’ I became very interested in studying the behavior, why it occurs and what can be done to prevent it,” Akins says.

That’s precisely what students can study as part of the crime and justice option in Oregon State’s sociology bachelor’s degree program online. It provides opportunities to use social science concepts as a means of analyzing the relationships between crime, justice and public policy from a sociological perspective.

In order to help you learn more, we asked Akins a series of questions about the crime and justice option, which is particularly relevant for sociology students who want to build careers in criminal justice, law or social services.

1. Why is it important for us to have a better, sociological understanding of how crime, justice and public policy are interrelated?

“Sociology is the systematic study of social behavior and human groups. It focuses primarily on the influence of social relationships on people’s attitudes and behavior and how societies are established and change. Who chooses a criminal path and who is exposed to the criminal justice system is highly affected by social variables and power structures, and that is fundamentally a sociological question.”

2. What types of things will students learn in the crime and justice option?

“They will learn about the causes of crime, methods of reducing crime, and the personal and social consequences of different crime control strategies.”

3. What career opportunities could the crime and justice coursework create for students?

“Graduates of the crime and justice option have commonly been employed in positions in law enforcement and corrections, law, and social work or social services.”

4. Students in this option can pursue an internship at a criminal justice or social service agency in their local area. What added value would an internship like that bring?

“Having a practical and applied experience via internship can assist a student in determining if that career field may be an appropriate, long-term career path. Additionally, many interns often move on to permanent employment with the agency they are placed at, enhancing chances for early employment following (or even prior to) graduation.”

5. Looking at the big picture – as a professional, member of society, etc. – how will students benefit from earning a sociology degree with a focus in crime and justice?

“Students earning a degree in sociology with a focus in crime and justice will be provided with the tools needed to work in a variety of crime- and justice-related fields, ideally affecting policy to ensure an evidence-based approach to the causes and responses to crime.”


Want to learn more about the crime and justice option in Oregon State’s online sociology bachelor’s program?

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