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What Role Does the National Institute of Justice Play in the World of Criminology?

The NIJ is a national leader in the study of crime and crime prevention.

Why do people commit crime, and what’s the best way to stop them? For most of human history, people had simplistic answers to both questions. But in the modern world, we’ve learned to apply science to the problem and have developed a much more nuanced understanding, recognizing that a wide variety of conditions can lead to crime and that a wide variety of techniques can help keep the public safe.

The scientific study of the causes of crime and the various ways crime can be controlled and prevented is known as criminology. It’s a science that’s vital to running our criminal justice system and ensuring our day-to-day safety. Which makes the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) one of the U.S. Department of Justice’s most important divisions.

What Role Does the National Institute of Justice Play in the World of Criminology?

What Is the National Institute of Justice?

The NIJ is the research, development, and education wing of the U.S. Department of Justice. In its own words, the NIJ’s mission is to provide “objective and independent knowledge and tools to inform the decision-making of the criminal justice community to reduce crime and advance justice, particularly at the state and local levels.”1

In addition to coordinating and funding criminology research and the development of programs focused on preventing and policing crime, the NIJ also provides two other services. The first is funding programs designed to reduce the backlog of DNA evidence and improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical examiner services; the second is administering an equipment standards and conformity assessment program for law enforcement, corrections, and criminal justice professionals.

What Does the NIJ Study?

The NIJ supports scientific research and program development focused on a wide variety of subjects, including:

  • Causes and correlates of crime
  • Crime prevention and control
  • Prevention of violence and victimization
  • Forensic sciences 
  • Corrections practice and policy, including community corrections
  • Law enforcement effectiveness, legitimacy, accountability, and safety
  • Courts and adjudication  

How Does the NIJ Work?

The NIJ is committed to providing valuable research and developing effective programs. To ensure this, it follows a process involving six key steps.

  1. Identify Needs: Through meetings, workshops, and working groups, the NIJ engages those working in the criminal justice field (criminal investigators, prosecutors, corrections officials, etc.); policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels; and criminology researchers. This engagement helps the NIJ focus efforts on the most pressing concerns.
  2. Develop a Research Agenda: Based on the strategic goals derived from the identification of needs, the NIJ creates a long-term research agenda.
  3. Implement Research: The NIJ awards funding to outside researchers whose proposals meet the strategic agenda, have been reviewed by independent peer panels, and are approved by the NIJ director. In instances when the NIJ has expertise on staff, it conducts intramural research, either independently or in collaboration with experts and scientists from other organizations.
  4. Monitor Post-Award Activities: After the awarding of a grant, the NIJ monitors research activities and provides technical assistance and guidance where necessary.
  5. Evaluate Research: At the completion of a research project, the NIJ evaluates the work internally, through external peer review, or both. When appropriate, the NIJ also conducts internal or external field testing.
  6. Disseminate Research: After completing the evaluation, the NIJ disseminates research through publication, multimedia presentation, and other appropriate means, making it available to policymakers, experts in the field, and the public at large.

How Can You Learn More About Criminology and Start a Career In Criminal Justice?

Whether you want a law enforcement job, a criminologist job, or any other career involving criminal justice—including those within the NIJ—consider earning a BS in Criminal Justice. With this criminal justice degree, you can gain important knowledge about the causes of crime and the methods of crime policing and prevention.

Fortunately, earning a bachelor’s in criminal justice doesn’t require you to move cities or dramatically alter your day-to-day life. That’s because online education makes it more convenient to be a criminal justice major. Instead of traveling to a campus to earn your degree, you can complete your coursework from home. Plus, online learning gives you the power to attend class at whatever time of day works best for your schedule, making it more possible than ever to earn the degree you need to begin a criminal justice job.

There will always be a need for people committed to understanding and preventing crime. You can start or advance your criminal justice career with a degree designed specifically for criminal justice professionals.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a BS in Criminal Justice degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,