11 Differences Between Criminology and Forensic Science

Forensic Science and Criminology are the common terms when defining the use of science to help judicial systems. 

Both the terms usually seem the same but they are different. Here is the table stating the key differences between Criminology and Forensic Science.

CriteriaForensic ScienceCriminology
DefinitionApplication of science in the court of law.Scientific study of the social phenomenon of violating criminal law
Goals & ObjectivesEstablish a link between the crime, suspect, and crime scene using scientific evidence analysis.Study the root cause of criminal behavior and address it to prevent future crimes.
Data typeNon-emotional and based on factual data from evidenceInvolves factual, statistical and emotional data
DisciplinesDactylology, chemistry, biology, toxicology, document, etc.Victimology, penology, bio-criminology, psychology, etc.
Job description & ResponsibilitiesForensic scientists analyze evidence as per a standard protocol.Criminologists study different aspects of a crime to understand why it happened and how to manipulate the causal factors to prevent such cases in the future. 
Job TitleForensic Pathologist, Crime Scene Investigator, Forensic Toxicologist, Digital Forensics Investigator, Forensic Engineer, Forensic AccountantCriminal Investigator, Probation Officer, Correctional Officer, Criminal Profiler, Victim Advocate
Job RequirementsMostly require a post-graduation with specialization or even a doctorate in related fields.Mostly require at least a bachelor’s degree, training, or certification in criminology.
Technologies usedScientific technologies that have been proven admissible in a court of law.Based on surveys, interviews, and case studies with statistical analysis.
Education and DegreesDiploma, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorateDiploma, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate
TrainingFrom collecting to analyzing and even presenting findings in a court of law.Questioning & Interpretation of data from visiting jails, recreational centers, and police stations.
Future scopeDemand a skilled forensic scientist in their field. Budget constraints and their necessity vary among countries.As a crime, violence, and social justice need regular improvement. However, the number of jobs could vary.
Interaction in Criminal Justice SystemProvide factual data backed by the scientific method and present their opinion in court.Investigates the root cause and work with the justice system in the investigation, court trial, custody, and post-custody life.

Forensic Science Vs Criminology: 11 Major Differences Between Two

Forensic Science Vs Criminology 11 Major Differences

1. Definition

Forensic Science is the application of science in criminal and civil laws. While Criminology is the scientific study of the social phenomenon of violating criminal law.

2. Goal & Objectives

The main objective of Forensic science is used to establish the presence or absence of a link between the crime, suspect, and the place of crime through scientific analysis of physical evidence.

However, the main objective of criminology is to study criminal behavior and to find the root cause and address it to prevent such crimes in the future. 

3. Disciplines

Some disciplines of forensic Science are:

  • Fingerprints and Other Ridge patterns (Dactylology and cheiloscopy)
  • Forensic biology and DNA analysis
  • Forensic chemistry and toxicology
  • Forensic anthropology and odontology
  • Forensic pathology and histology
  • Forensic psychology and psychiatry
  • Forensic engineering and physics
  • Digital and multimedia forensics
  • Firearms and tool mark analysis
  • Questioned Document examination and forgery detection
  • Bloodstain pattern analysis
  • Crime scene investigation and reconstruction
  • Fire and explosion investigation
  • Forensic accounting and financial investigation

On the other hand, some major disciplines of Criminology are:

  • Criminal and Sociology of crime
  • Biology and genetics of crime
  • Economics of crime
  • Political science and crime
  • Psychology of crime
  • Criminal justice and law
  • Victimology
  • Penology and corrections

4. Job Description and Responsibilities

Job Description and Responsibilities of forensic scientist vs criminologist

Forensic scientist has to analyze the given evidence using multidisciplinary science. They have to cooperate with the investigating officer who will be collecting the evidence and interpreting the findings in a court of law.

It is also the responsibility of the forensic scientist to maintain the integrity of the evidence through the chain of custody.

A criminologist has to study different aspects of a crime to understand why it happened and how to manipulate the causal factors to prevent such occurrences in the future.

Since social science is unpredictable and the variables are beyond control, it is a tough role to completely understand the various factors that play a role in the occurrence of a crime. 

5. Job Titles

Major job titles in Forensic Sciences are:

  • Medical Examiner and Coroner
  • Forensic Chemist and Drug Chemist
  • Crime Scenen Investigator (CSI)
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Fingerprint Expert
  • Polygraph Examiner
  • Forensic Biologist and DNA Analyst
  • Bloodstain Pattern Analyst
  • Questioned Document Examiner
  • Forensic Serologist
  • Forensic Photogpraher
  • Forensic Odontologist
  • Forensic Entomologist
  • Forensic Engineer and Accidental Reconstruction Specialist
  • Forensic Psychiatrist
  • Foresnic Psychologist
  • Forensic Accountant

Major Job titles in the field of Criminology:

  • Criminologist
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Corrections officer
  • Probation officer
  • Victim advocate
  • Crime analyst
  • Security specialist
  • Homicide detective
  • Juvenile court counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Legal consultant and Paralegal
  • Criminal justice professor
  • Court administrator

6. Job Requirements

Following are the skills that a forensic job may require:

  • Bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate in specific forensic disciplines (stated earlier).
  • He or she has strong analytical and problem-solving skills based on evidence at the crime scene or at the lab.
  • Have a good understanding of laboratory settings.
  • Familiarity with scientific methods and techniques for analyzing evidence.
  • Knows the basics of collecting, preserving, and documenting evidence at the crime scene.
  • Should know how to write a report of their finding and how to opine them in legal terms.
  • Maintaining the log of work daily along with maintaining the chain of custody.

Following are the skills that a forensic job may require:

Job Requirements in criminology
  • Bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate in criminology and their specific disciplines.
  • He or she has a good understanding of criminal justice systems and procedures for handling a case.
  • He or she has strong research and analytical skills.
  • One of the important skills for a criminalist is the ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data to prevent and get the idea of crime.
  • Knows how to talk in different environments. Eg: he/she knows how to talk to the victim and criminal differently.
  • Knows the cultural, and social diversity and background of the case and associate norms.

7. Technologies Used

The technologies used in forensic science are mostly borrowed from other streams of science like chemistry, biology, and physics.

But certain aspects of the science are also peculiar to this field like anthropometry, handwriting analysis, fingerprint pattern comparison, tire mark comparison, etc.

Also, some individual scientific discoveries have developed vastly due to their application in forensics, like human identification through DNA profiling.

Technologies and Methods in Criminology: On the other hand, there are a number of methods adopted in criminology that overlap with social scientific research. Most of the study is conducted through surveys, interviews, and case studies with statistical models applied to generalize the findings.

In certain cases, like recreation and penalty, where the variables can be controlled, experimental methods have also been adapted. Other than that psychological profiling, interrogation, and predictive analytics are common methods in criminology.

8. Education and Degree

 Education and Degree in forenisc science vs criminology

Education and Degree in Forensic Science: For the sake of easiness, I divided it into two types of forensic scholars: (1) Those who are not working in any government and (2) Already working in judicial systems.

Scholars that are not working in any government system, should acquire a master’s degree in their respective field of forensic science. He/she should focus more on the fieldwork and participate in various workshops.

And officials that are already working in the judicial system, they major try to get a diploma or certificate course in forensic science. Most of these courses are funded by the government to make them more efficient in dealing with evidence and their analysis.

Like Forensic Science, Criminology also focuses on the same. You should have a bachelor’s master’s or doctorate in your respective field (The higher the better).

Here also, the fieldwork is important including visiting jails, recreational centers, and non-profit organizations to study the brain behind the crime.

Read More: Bachelor’s Forensic Science Vs Criminology: Which One To Choose?

9. Training

Training in Forensic Science: Training can be divided into field visits and laboratory work.

Field visit (mainly to the crime scene) is an important part of the training process. While laboratory work involved the use of evidence to evaluate scientific data. This includes various chemical tests and the use of laboratory instruments to find specific information from a given evidence.

In Forensic Science, officials which additional education and experience in specific disciplines is always preferred.

Unlike, Forensic Science, in criminology, certain on-duty officials are instructed to complete a training program or certification. Example: probation officers, may be needed to train in other aspects of criminology from preliminary investigation to the surveillance of a person.

10. Future Scope

With the advancement of various scientific fields, there are new methods and instruments introduced every day and so does their application in forensics.

In addition, many disciplines in Forensics can open gates for newbies in forensic science with proper training and certification. Various private detective and forensic labs in the USA are good places to do internships and enter in forensic world.

The future scope in criminology is more defined and somewhat saturated than in Forensic Science. This is because many of the officials are appointed by the government and very less private firms as compared to forensics.

There is an exception for legal advisors and paralegals. They are very common in private law and investigating firms.

11. Interaction in Criminal Justice System

As already discussed, the main objective of forensic scientists is to extract information from evidence. And that’s how they serve the criminal justice system.

Apart from this, forensic scientists deduce theories and opined on the result that in future used as evidence in a court of law. They also provide training to other law enforcement agencies and legal communities to evaluate a better interpretation and analysis of evidence.

The term criminology itself is associated with the criminal justice system. They are the key to understanding the nature of crime and punishment enforcement in society by the law. So, one can be called it a bridge between the cause and result of the government policy on the general population.

It helps in understanding the real cause of crime other than the surface-level factual data represented by forensics (scientific result).


  • Adler, F., Mueller, G. O. W., & Laufer, W. S. (2018). Criminology. Mcgraw-Hill [Book]
  • B R Sharma, Dr. (2020). Forensic science in criminal investigation & trials. Universal/Lexisnexis.
  • Paul Leland Kirk. (1974). Crime Investigation.
  • Ram Ahuja. (2000). Criminology. Prem Rawat For Rawat Publications.

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