Wherever your passion lies, the Criminal Justice major will equip you to make a difference.
Explore your options — classes, internships, research and study abroad. Using the Criminal Justice Major Guide, find what interests you, discover what you love, and create a major experience that jumpstarts your future.
Protect the innocent. Maintain public order. Identify crime trends and risk factors in the community. Intervene in the lives of young people who’ve made a mistake, and help them get back on track. Assist people who’ve served their time in re-entering society and becoming productive citizens.
This is a field that engages both the head and the heart: You’ll need to know the law and be able to process information and make smart decisions, but you’ll also need people skills, empathy, and a desire to contribute to something greater than yourself.
By studying Criminal Justice, you’ll learn to identify patterns of criminal behavior and understand the different facets of the criminal justice system. You’ll study the processes for rehabilitation and treatment for those who’ve committed crimes, and learn about the law and judicial philosophy.
Learn from professors with experience in the field and from guest speakers including Austin attorneys, law enforcement officers and counselors. Your community-based internship will give you the real-world experience you need for a career in a field that’s vital to society.
What do our graduates do?
Criminal Justice majors go on to a variety of careers and graduate schools from St. Edward’s. Here’s a sample.
- Officers in the Austin and Dallas Police Department
- Investigator for the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office
- Intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice
- Investigator for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
- Law students at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston Law Center
54 Alumni Who Inspire
St. Edward’s University counts more than 25,000 alumni around the globe. Some are making their mark in the job they started right after graduation. Others have excelled in multiple careers. Read about how they’re all building on the education they received at St. Edward’s.
The Classroom and Beyond
Your Criminal Justice classes will introduce you to real-world settings through field trips, observation, volunteer work and hands-on projects. You can apply the knowledge you gain through this experience in an internship. Student organizations dedicated to criminal justice give you a forum to learn about careers and meet students with similar interests.
In Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice, you’ll interview someone who works in the field to get a professional perspective on criminal justice careers.
In Criminology, you’ll examine the 19th-century case of the Austin serial killer known as the Midnight Assassin, using modern crime data information and patterns. In studying the case, which was never solved, you’ll learn about the culture and values of the community that influenced the investigation. You’ll work in teams in a structure that mimics that of professional criminal justice investigations.
In Principles and Practices of Science and Law, and in Mock Trial, you’ll visit one of the Travis County District Courts that handles criminal cases. Your professor will introduce you to the attorneys and judge, who will explain more about the process. A criminal attorney will also visit your class to discuss the profession.
In Mock Trial, you’ll learn about the jury trial system by staging a trial for a fictional case. Each student in your class will act as both a lawyer and a witness. You’ll learn how to present opening statements and closing arguments, direct and cross-examinations of witnesses, and introduction of evidentiary exhibits. The class will introduce you to legal reasoning and argument in the context of trial advocacy.
In Victimology, you’ll complete the Texas Victim Assistance Training, a statewide educational program that trains new victim advocates in the basics of service delivery. Then, you’ll have the option to complete an additional 30 hours of more specialized credits in victim service training. Or, you can volunteer 20 hours with an organization that provides service and education for crime victims. Students have worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Austin Police Department Victim Services, and the SAFE Alliance. In these settings, you’ll see real-world applications of what you’ve learned in class. This training background also can make you a more attractive candidate for future jobs and internships.
The St. Edward’s Criminal Justice Club is a chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association, Lambda Alpha Epsilon. The club meets twice a month to hear guest speakers, go on field trips, offer community service, and complete training together.
Alpha Phi Sigma is the national criminal justice honor society.
Phi Alpha Delta, the pre-law organization, meets weekly to listen to guest speakers, learn about the law school admission process, participate in mentorship programs, do service work and learn about internships. The club also has a mock trial team that competes in events hosted by the American Mock Trial Association and Phi Alpha Delta. The team has traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete.
Major Requirements: The BA in Criminal Justice requires 21 hours of criminal justice major courses, which include a combination of foundation courses about the criminal justice system, corrections, and law enforcement. In addition, 21 hours are taken to add an area of emphasis from Administration of Justice, Pre-Law or Law Enforcement.
Electives: Students complete 12 hours of elective courses in any area of study they choose. These courses do not have to relate to the major.
General Education Requirements: The degree requires 54 hours of general education courses that students complete over four years in addition to their major courses and electives.
View and download the full degree plan for the major (PDF).
A few examples of courses students in this major take:
- American Court System – The history, structure, law and mechanics of criminal prosecution and adjudication in the United States.
- Death Investigations – Review of the role of officers and detectives/investigators in various types of death investigations. This includes, but is not limited to, drownings, homicides, suicides, and accident fatalities.
- Mock Trial – Explores effective advocacy, appropriate professional conduct, and trial preparation. Students have the opportunity to participate in direct and cross examination of witnesses, opening statements, closing arguments, and the introduction of evidentiary exhibits.
Internships help you understand professional work conditions and how the material you’ve learned in class looks in the real world. Students have interned with these organizations:
- Sobering Center Austin
- Juvenile Probation
- Austin Police Department
- Travis County Sheriff’s Office
- Dallas County Public Defender
- Travis County District Attorney’s Office
- The office of Houston-area Texas State Representative Armando Walle
The Criminal Justice faculty come from a wide variety of criminal justice-based disciplines. We are dedicated to providing the best student experience possible through classroom innovation and engaged-learning styles. Faculty also ensure a personal advising experience which allows individual students to share their dreams and aspirations for their future within the criminal justice discipline.
"The field of criminal justice requires that students use their brains and their hearts to work through complicated problems. In the classroom, students use their intellect and empathy, as well as actual criminal justice data, to identify, diagnose and respond to real-world challenges."
- Warren Anderesen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Criminal Justice
"Teaching is my passion and St. Edward’s allows the opportunity to engage with students on many different levels. Criminal Justice is an important field in our society, and is ever changing. Criminal Justice students at SEU have the opportunity to gain foundational knowledge of the system, interact with criminal justice professionals on campus and off, and study the latest research trends. My research focuses primarily death penalty issues concentrating on future dangerousness, race, and ethics; as well as, juror decision-making, moral foundations and crime, veterans’ treatment court, and incarcerated mothers."
- Lisa Holleran, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Criminal Justice
"For me, learning is about making personal connections and engaging with the material in a way that makes it familiar to the student. My courses are designed around this philosophy and involve scenario based learning. This allows students the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in the course to problems they will encounter as practitioners in the criminal legal system.
My research focuses primarily on trust in the police, program evaluation and policy analysis, LGBTQ+ people and the criminal legal system, and social inequalities, crime, and justice."
-L. Nic Cabage, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
"Criminal justice offers students a chance to explore real world issues and challenges that impact individuals and communities. I push my students to analyze issues from different perspectives and to reflect on how their values shape their conceptualization of crime and justice. I want them to be prepared to be active leaders in their professional and community lives after graduation.
As a career prosecutor, I worked on thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases. My experience informs my classroom approach. I use real world examples to help students understand concepts and apply them to different situations. I want them to understand the complexity of justice as an applied idea.
My areas of interest include prosecutorial decision making, ethics and criminal justice,
cybercrime, search & seizure law, and digital evidence."
John F. Lopez, JD, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Each year, a Criminal Justice major is awarded the Randall Vetter Memorial Scholarship. This award recognizes a current student who excels in scholarship, community service, and civic leadership.
The scholarship honors Randall Vetter '94, a DPS trooper who was killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop near San Marcos. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Criminal Justice from St. Edward's University in May 1994. During his days as a St. Edward's University student, Vetter served as both vice-president and president of the university's chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the national criminal justice academic society. He was described as the "quintessential poster-boy for what professional law enforcement in our democratic society should stand for at the dawn of the new millennium," by Dr. David M Horton, who taught Vetter at St. Edward's University.
Criminal Justice Minor
Students who are interested in doing work related to the criminal justice system can expand their knowledge and experience by getting a minor in Criminal Justice. A minor in Criminal Justice is particularly helpful for students who are interested in pursuing criminal investigations and enforcement.
Required Courses for a Minor in Criminal Justice, General (18 hours):
- Administration of Justice
- Constitutional Criminal Procedure
- 6 hours of upper-division Criminal Justice coursework
- 6 hours of the following: Criminal Law I, American Court System, American Law Enforcement, Criminal Evidence and Proof
Required Courses for a Minor in Criminal Justice, Pre-Law (18 hours):
- Administration of Justice
- Criminal Law I
- American Court System
- Constitutional Criminal Procedure
- Law of Evidence and Proof
- Criminal Law II or Prosecution and Adjudication
Required Courses for a Minor in Criminal Justice, Criminological Theory (18 hours):
- CRIJ 1302 Administration of Justice
- CRIJ 2336 Criminology
- CRIJ 3331 Victimology
- CRIJ 3352 Crime and Drugs
- CRIJ 3354 Crime, Justice, and Diversity
- PSYC 3000+ course
Are you a current student? Contact your advisor for next steps on declaring your major or minor.
SEU To You
This timely course, taught by Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Lisa Holleran, will explore questions with students about the criminal justice system, such as: Why do some people commit crimes while others do not? What are the relevant factors in a person's life that contribute to crime? What do police officers actually do on the job? How come only 6% of cases go to trial? What happens to the rest? Who helps victims?