BA in Criminal Justice

A close-up of a student sitting at a desk in class

The Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice program examines the historical development of criminal justice and its evolution into modern legal systems. Through interactive classes and practical seminars, students analyze how different forms of criminal justice affect individuals and society. All students complete a required internship, drawing on GW’s unique proximity to a wide array of advocacy organizations, government agencies and think tanks.

As the department’s most popular major, the BA in Criminal Justice brings together a diverse group of students with varying interests. Many pair the major with minors or combined majors in political science, history and psychology, or use it as a foundation to pursue advanced criminology degrees or law.

This major can be combined with the following programs in the sociology department:

  • HSSJ major or minor
  • Law & Society minor
  • Health Equity micro-minor

Capstone and Internship for Criminal Justice Majors

Through the end of AY 2023-24, all criminal justice majors must complete SOC 4192: Advanced Seminar in Criminal Justice, as well as a concurrent internship course, SOC 4193. The seminar curriculum explores core issues and contemporary topics in criminal justice, with in-depth examination of the three branches of the criminal justice system. In these combined courses, students use the theoretical and methodological knowledge they have gained to give class presentations and prepare an original research project and paper.

Capstone Guidance

Finding an Advisor

The first step in doing an independent study is to identify a faculty member or members who may be a good fit with your area of interest. Students should plan to meet with the faculty member to discuss the possibility. Faculty members are not obligated to supervise independent studies, though many are willing to do so in areas where they have a special interest or expertise.

Proposal Guidelines

Once a faculty advisor is secured, students must submit a proposal to the advisor. Please begin your proposal well in advance of submitting it to your faculty advisor. Badly organized, poorly written, unclear or incomplete proposals will not be accepted.

Proposal Components:

  • Cover sheet including name, major and graduation year
  • Proposed title of thesis paper
  • Introduction that answers: What is the key topic(s) of your thesis? What brings you to this topic? What are your research questions?
  • Preliminary literature review and theoretical underpinnings of the project. What sociological literature and/or other existing research is relevant to your project? What have other researchers written about this area of inquiry before you?
  • Conclusion. What do you hope to achieve in this independent research project? What is the proposed timeline for the preparation and completion of your thesis? How often will you meet with your faculty advisor? What do you see as their role in your project?
  • Initial bibliography formatted in American Sociological Association style. Include five–eight scholarly publications, with appropriate books and articles from academic journals. Avoid overusing online materials.

Submit the proposal in both hard copy and electronic file to advisor at least two weeks before the registration date for SOC 3195.


Credit Options

Students may choose to enroll in one, two or three credits for the course, with final paper length requirements varying based on credit amount.

  • A one-credit paper must be between 2,500 and 3,000 words, which is about 10-12 pages (not including visuals such as charts, tables, pictures, appendices, the bibliography or any other back matter).
  • A two-credit paper must be between 3,800 and 5,000 words, which is about 15 to 20 pages (not including extra visual items and sources).
  • A three-credit paper must be between 6,000 and 7,500 words, which is about 25-30 finished pages (not including extra visual items and sources).

Internship Guidance

  • Must be completed with an approved agency or organization in the criminal justice field.
  • Must be taken concurrently with the seminar course.
  • Must be off campus, in an agency or organization that deals specifically with criminal justice issues. If the agency works on non-criminal justice issues, do not work there.
  • Must involve work that enables the intern to learn a substantial amount about criminal justice. The work should not include filing, copying or other clerical work.
  • Must be an organization that works with offenders, victims or the criminal justice system. Alternatively, the organization should deal with criminal justice issues, including policy issues. Interning at a law firm is not allowed because they typically assign interns menial work.

View Potential Internship Sites


AY 2024 - 25 Curriculum Change

Beginning in AY 24 - 25 all Criminal Justice majors will instead be required to complete ONE of the senior capstone options below.

This course combines a weekly classroom seminar with an applied experience.
The applied experience may be new or continuations of existing jobs or internships, may be paid or unpaid, must be for a minimum of 8 hours a week, and must be in place by the time the semester begins.

The Senior Research Seminar offers students the opportunity to develop and complete a senior research thesis. This is directed research and writing on sociological and criminal justice topics.

Information Session Recording

Passcode: tGd1!PN3

Curriculum Change FAQ

Criminal Justice Student Association

The GW Criminal Justice Student Association (CJSA) is a new organization on campus that allows students to come together who are seeking a better understanding of the criminal justice issues that our country is currently struggling with. CJSA strives to provide a platform to those who want to do more, but are not informed on how to do so, and will foster a community for students with similar interests. CJSA welcomes anyone to join the club! This includes criminal justice and sociology, majors, minors and concentrations, as well as people who are simply interested in criminal justice-related issues.

Visit the CJSA Website

Course Requirements

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Undergraduate Programs.

Program-specific curriculum (below).

Achievement of a minimum grade of C- in any course that counts toward the degree.

SOC 1001Introduction to Sociology
or SOC 1002 The Sociological Imagination
SOC 1003Introduction to Criminal Justice
SOC 2101Social Research Methods (recommended to be taken before the senior year)
SOC 2102Techniques of Data Analysis (recommended to be taken before the senior year)
SOC 2135Youth and Delinquency
SOC 2136Criminology
SOC 2145Criminal Law
SOC 4192Advanced Seminar in Criminal Justice
SOC 4193Internship in Criminal Justice
Five courses selected from the following, including at least one Sociology (SOC) course and at least one non-Sociology course:
AMST 1160Race, Gender, and Law
ANTH 3513Anthropology of Human Rights
or ANTH 3513W Anthropology of Human Rights
ECON 2167Economics of Crime
HIST 2341History of FBI Counterintelligence
FORS 2107Fundamentals of Forensic Science
HIST 3370U.S. Constitutional History
PSC 2213Judicial Politics
PSC 2215U.S. Constitutional Law and Politics II
PSYC 2011Abnormal Psychology
PSYC 2554Psychology of Crime and Violence
SOC 2137Transnational Crime
SOC 2139Alternatives to Imprisonment
SOC 2143Criminal Justice System Arrest Through Appeal
SOC 2146The Bill of Rights and Criminal Justice
SOC 2164Sociology of the Holocaust and Genocide
SOC 2167Sociology of Law
or SOC 2167W Sociology of Law
SOC 2178Deviance and Control
SOC 2184Violence and the Family
SOC 2185Victims, Victimization, and the System
SOC 2189Special Topics in Criminal Justice

Note: A student majoring in sociology may not declare a second major or a minor in criminal justice, or vice versa.