Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to common questions. This page is here to try to keep e-mail load to a minimum by answering some of the most frequent questions. Before sending your email you might ask the question: is this question so important that I would go to a staff or faculty member and ask them?

A caveat: The opinions expressed below may not be appropriate for your particular situation. Thanks for reading this page before considering writing with an important question.

Are you an "impacted" major?

Yes, Criminology & Criminal Justice Studies is an "impacted" major. Although many find this word distasteful, since it transforms what used to be a noun into a verb and has the status of jargon (or a medical condition), today it is embraced by the California State University bureacracy as a term that means a program has been officially determined to not have enough resources to meet student demand and must therefore restrict the number of students who can major in it. In the CSU today this is a fact of life for many majors. In CCJS this means that the Department relies upon a grade point average requirement in order to gain entry into the major.

Do you have to have a certain grade point average to get into the major?

Yes. A 3.0 cumulative GPA will be required as of January 31, 2014.

Are you applying different rules to first time freshman and community college transfer students than you are to students who have been at SSU for a while?


I am interested in applying to Sonoma as a transfer student, and want to major in criminology and criminal justice studies (CCJS). Why aren't the transfer requirements for CCJS on If you could explain to me what lower division classes I need to take in order to transfer, that would be great. is useful for ascertaining what community college classes meet SSU's general education requirements. No particular lower division general education courses from community colleges are required for the CCJS major at SSU. All the core courses for the B.A. degree in CCJS need to be taken at SSU.

I'm currently an SSU student and want to change my major/minor to CCJS. How do I do that?

To change your major, you must fill out the top portion of the Change of Major form that is readily available in the department office at Stevenson Hall 2084 or elsewhere on campus. We will go over your Academic Requirements Report (ARR) to make sure you have met the 3.0 GPA requirement for our major/minor.

Do you have a graduate program in criminal justice at SSU?

No, we do not have a graduate program at this time. The question is increasingly being asked by students and alumni. At SSU there are graduate programs in Counseling, Public Administration, Psychology, and other fields. There are graduate programs in Criminal Justice at other nearby California State University campuses, including San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Fresno, and maybe others. These frequently have an exclusive vocational or law enforcement emphasis. UC Berkeley's School of Criminology closed down decades ago, but Boalt Hall has a well regarded School of Jurisprudence and Public Policy. Criminologists in sociology departments offering Ph.D.s and M.A., historically the most common training places for criminology students, can be found scattered throughout the University of California system as well as at USC and elsewhere. See a partial list at Theory, Method, Teaching, Writing and Research: Sources and Related Help.

Who is my advisor? or I need advising. Who do I see?

See assigned advisor and advising information on the Academic Advising page.

When can I start my internship? Where do I find one? How do I add it to my schedule? Where can I find needed internship forms?

To answer most questions about internships please see Internships.

I'm a CCJS major and not getting e-mails from the department listserv. Everyone else is. What goes?

If your major or minor recently changed (in the last three weeks or so) then you're not in PeopleSoft as a CCJS major/minor yet. That will change after your form is posted. We do not know for sure when that will happen. You will have to ask the Office of Admissions and Records.

All CCJS majors and minors receive e-mail from the Department's mailing listserv, CCJS-Announce. In order to receive this you must check your SSU e-mail, which ends in The e-mail address you used to send your question is not an SSU e-mail address, but you are a CCJS major in PeopleSoft. The Department strongly encourages all students to check and use their SSU e-mail address. If you don't your (personal, non-SSU) e-mail may be felled by university spam filters--programs designed to prevent faculty and staff from receiving spam. Also, your intended e-mail recipients may have junk mail filters on their e-mail clients that will not accept your e-mail unless it is from the SSU domain--an e-mail address ending in Even if you have been successful in the past in sending faculty and staff e-mail using your personal (non-SSU) e-mail address you are strongly encouraged to use your SSU e-mail address in all e-mail communication with the University.

Can I apply to SSU online? How do I apply to SSU?

To apply to Sonoma State University go to CSU Mentor to apply online; go to future at Sonoma if you want to do it by postal mail. After you've been accepted you come to someone in our department and we will be happy to advise you. Distance learning possibilities in California through the California Virtual University were at last rumor dead. See for yourself.

I'm a freshman and wondering how much math is required?

That depends. How did you do on your ELM (the math placement test)? If your score is high enough you only have to take one math class. If your score is not high enough you have to take a remedial math class.

Assuming your ELM score is high enough you can take any course listed in category B4 of the 51 unit GE pattern. We advise that you take Math 165 because it is a helpful (but again not required) background for our class in research methods (CCJS 370).

What is an elective chosen under advisement?

Go to the advisement page. Figure out whether the old (entered the major prior to Fall 2011) or new rules (entry into the CCJS major on or after Fall 2011) apply to you.

Where can I learn about available jobs, or how to prepare a resume, or how to interview, or how to get a job?

At SSU there are various resources. See the CCJS resources on jobs at Redwood Highway under "Local Web Links". There are links there about local, state and national jobs, how to prepare resumes, how to post them on the world wide web, and links to other job-getting strategies. In the department, students frequently take CCJS 399, the Lecture Series, to learn about jobs from people in the field. The core requirement, CCJS 499, Internship, is a bridge to the world of work that also allows you to see if a particular job is for you. CCJS 490, Senior Seminar, also gives some preparation for the world of work.

Where can I get a degree in forensics? or, I really want a degree in forensics or, Do you offer a degree in forensics?

These have to be among the most frequently asked questions. The publicity of the older, high profile O.J. Simpson and other trials, along with recent so-called "reality" police shows, as well as shows with a forensic theme, like C.S.I. whatever, coincide with interest. Popular interest is so great today that if you look around you'll find degree programs now offering or wanting to offer minors, certificates or some other "forensics" related degree or program. See our "Forensics" links.

If you look at people who practice "forensics" today, you'll find that they have degrees and/or training in a wide variety of areas. Some have obtained their training through a law enforcement academy or training program while others have gone to a professional school, medical school, a clinical program, to name a few. Although to many forensics means crime scene investigation, in the public mind "forensics" often means many things, among them the broader idea that a professional gives advice or expert opinion at court or the science of determining understanding evidence and developing opinions about what might be provided there; a more general usage is to speak in front of a public group. Typically a "forensics expert" establishes a reputation in their given field and somehow finds a niche at court--whether it involves doing DNA workups for criminal trials, analyzing pretrial publicity data on potential jurors to help a court decide whether or not a capital case should be moved to another jurisdiction, interviewing defendants or offenders and rendering opinions as to an individual's sanity or fitness, or what have you. As you can see, "forensics" in many cases isn't a "degree," it is a relationship one has with a court.

There are departments that offer degrees in "forensics," mostly very recent, including John Jay College of Justice (a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. emphasis in Forensics) and Northeastern College in Boston, as noted elsewhere in our "Forensics" links. The largest official list of programs in forensics we've seen is the American Academy of Forensic Scientist's list on the Redwood Highway. You should take note that these are very recent changes, which suggests that you should be on the lookout for attempts to build on popular cultural definitions of student interest. The California School of Professional Psychology in Fresno, now called Alliant, just created a new psychology Ph.D. degree program in forensics.

Check out these or other programs very carefully, particularly the price tag and what you are actually learning or getting (certificates in this or that, mostly). Many of these programs use popular "hooks" to grab students to get into their program, promising future careers in criminal justice even though they may have limited to no experience in criminal justice as such. Make sure you know that you are getting what you want and that the faculty have something special to offer beyond some experience at court or a capacity to train individuals for this purpose. It would be especially important to know what job placement success the program has had if forensics is their main selling point, e.g., what "forensics" jobs have they placed their students in? (It is likely these jobs are not going to be the ones that are glamorized on television--many will not be in criminal justice.) If you're very serious about a particular program try to find an older graduate student to talk to if the program has been in existance long enough--try to get them to talk about forensics. Talk to active professionals in the field (e.g., those who have the job you think you want) to see what they think you should do, including the young and old, from cop to coroner, and judge to prosecutor. Some students have done work with local crime scene investigation unit, asour Alumni Aaron Damm did at the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department recently; others have interned at the coroner's office to see if that line of work is for them; others got jobs in a lab that did DNA testing. Some students have continued in these areas while others have not.

In our humble opinion, we suggest that you ask yourself, "Why do I want to pursue such a degree or job?" If you want to do forensics work in law enforcement complete an undergraduate degree that can give you a good broad education and communication and writing skills; then go to the academy and get specialized training in forensics there. As an alternative, seek out work that requires a B.A. or B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D., J.D. or other relevant degree from a reputable undergraduate or graduate school. If you're in California, try hard to get into a UC, if for no other reason than that the schools are generally of excellent quality, they are relatively cheap, and they can give you some of the legitimacy you need to practice "forensics." In California, the criminalistics masters degree program at CSU Los Angeles is an important place to check out. The criminal justice program is on the first floor of the building, and the remaining floors house the crime labs for both Los Angeles Police Department and the L. A. County Sheriffs Department. Imagine that! In addition, these degrees will hopefully provide skills or a foundation for skills that can support you if you can't find such work or develop other interests.

I noticed that you wrote an article/book on arson (or gangs or parole or jails or...) ...How can I get a job in arson investigation? Policing? Probation? Parole? etc.

Talk to your instructors or people who work in these occupations to find out the local educational requirements, employment prospects, the mobility of workers in each occupation (e.g., whether you can only get in through lateral transfers or only through entry level hires), pay, work location (a key consideration for money), working conditions, etc. If, at the point of looking for a job, you have done all that (or more), try posting a resume on the web (see a list of places to do this at Redwood Highway page under Jobs).

Can you help me with my paper? The topic is ...... (fill in the blank)

If you're a student our classes we will. You should know that we are inundated with requests for information on a wide variety of topics from students around the world, and we are not able to respond to them.

Can you suggest another criminologist who I can turn to to get help in writing my paper on the topic of .... (fill in blank) for my class?

No. Criminologists are very busy people, including those who do research. If they are teachers they may carry a heavy teaching load as it is and/or have heavy pressures to publish and to serve their universities in a myriad of other ways. Imagine how much their workloads would increase if thousands or millions of web surfers in this huge and growing field started showing up in their e-mail with questions?

I am interested in getting a BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies. Would you please send more information on Sonoma, including a catalog, financial aid information, and other points of interest in your region.

If you wish to look at the Department course requirements then go to the department homepage. If you need a catalog, financial aid information, etc., try contacting Admissions and Records, which you can find via the SSU homepage.

Do you offer paralegal training?

No, but you may be able to receive training through Extended Education at SSU. There are many such programs available. Note: Paralegal courses at SSU do not count toward unit, course or elective requirements in CCJS.

I am a junior in high school and I would like some information on what classes to take in order to become a detective or a police officer. I also would like to know what classes I should take while I'm still in high school.

There is no one right answer to your question. Here are some ideas. Seek out the advice of others. Try doing very well in your required courses, learn how to write very clearly and develop a good vocabulary. Try to learn math and algebra well--one of the best measures of success is performing well in mathematics. However, do not despair if you're not great at math. Learn how to type; this skill will pay for itself many times over. A broad knowledge of government, conflict resolution skills, driving ability and common sense will take you a long way. We leave it to you to take the particular classes that will bring you these life skills. Before you go into your field, try out a summer internship or placement in law enforcement, such as an Explorers program, to see if you are sure about your choice. Go to the SSU Local link to see if there's anything there for your situation (I haven't looked). The glamorization of policing on television is one of the greatest sources of misinformation about this line of work and a constant source of complaints by recruiters.

Where can I get training to take the law school admission test?

Here is the link to the Law School Admissions Test via the Law School Admission Council. Speak to Professor Eric Williams, CCJS Department, who is the University's pre-law advisor.

I need to speak to. . . (faculty), I'd like to make an appointment, etc.

Faculty are available during office hours. Office hours are available online, posted on their office door, at the front door to the office, on the department bulletin boards inside the office, and on course syllabi. If you cannot make their office hours, give them a call or e-mail and they will schedule an appointment with you. The Department Office Coordinators do not make appointments for them.