Despite the small size and population of the state of Rhode Island, there are a handful of educational institutions that offer an undergraduate degree in criminology: the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. While the two programs differ in many respects, the ultimate goal of the curriculum is the same.

Both universities want to prepare students for the career opportunities that they may have following successful completion of the program. A student that would like to live in Rhode Island while receiving their criminology education will need to look at the different approaches provided by both schools to decide on the correct school.

Because of the small size of Rhode Island, both of the campuses are within commuting distance of many cities and location of the student has less of a bearing than the nature of the education they desire.

Taking the University of Rhode Island first, the degree that is offered is listed as a BS in Criminology and uses sociology concerns as the primary base for the education. The first year at the University of Rhode Island is mainly concerned with establishing a fundamental base in sociology concepts and then building upon these concepts in later years.

For the degree program, there are a number of courses that are required learning, including the following: General Sociology, Crime and Delinquency, The Criminal Justice System, Sociological Research Methods, Theories of Crime and Delinquency, and Policy Issues in Criminal Justice.

While these courses are the backbone of the criminology education system at the University of Rhode Island, there are other courses required for graduation.

Because the scope of the criminology program is focuses on the sociology aspects of the field, students are asked to take at least two classed that deal with inequality issues that are relevant to the field. The list of these inequality courses that a student can choose from are Race and Ethnic Relations, Sex and Gender, Social Inequality, Institutional Racism, and Class and Power.

In addition to the inequality studies, there is also a requirement to select two of the following higher level courses that address societal concerns of criminology: Police in Democratic Societies, Punishment and Corrections, Family Violence, Topics in Sociology, Field Experience in Sociology, or an Independent Study project course.

In contrast to the sociology aspect of the University of Rhode Island, the criminology degree at Rhode Island College concentrates more on the criminal justice and legal side of the equation. By examining the local and federal laws and regulations, students are encouraged to develop potential solutions for present justice problems.

These academic exercises help to acquaint the student with the American justice system and how to work in the scope of the agencies that are involved in this process. In addition, the program takes an academic approach to crime, relying on statistical data and methodical analysis rather than the psychological and sociological background that is used at the competing university.

This means that students who follow the program at Rhode Island College may be more geared more for academic careers than the sociology centric program which is meant to prepare students for working in government agencies.

This academic approach is not to say that the Rhode Island College criminology program is one dimensional. In fact, the opposite is quite true as the courses required for a degree come from a wide variety of disciplines. The standard requirements of the degree include philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology classes that must be completed prior to graduation.

In addition, there is a requirement for two Research Methods courses that can teach a student how to investigate social and criminal situations. For students following the concentration in justice and society, there are a number of additional requirements including the following necessary courses: Comparative Law and Justice, Western Legal Systems, Seminar in Justice Studies, Social and Political Philosophy, Civil Liberties in the United States, The Sociology of Delinquency and Crime, and Law and Society.

From the two approaches offered by Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island, a criminology student should be able to find one that meets their needs and complete a degree program that teaches a stable background of knowledge as well as how that knowledge should be used.