Is studying criminology worth it?

John Cleese has a law degree & things turned out pretty damn well for him, right?

Law school. LAW SCHOOL. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? There’s something really satisfying about answering Aunt Mabel’s favourite Christmas party question (‘so, are you married yet?’) with ‘well, no, but I just got accepted into law school’. Oh yes, the music conveniently screeches to a halt, all eyes are on you and someone drops a glass but doesn’t break their stare at you. Law school is going to be just great, you think. I mean, sure, you’re doing a double law degree, and you’re only doing it because you have no idea what to do with your life, and, sure, it’s five years and you may as well be going through high school again, but who cares?! It’s law school.

So you move into your residential college (‘you mean I don’t have to cook or clean?! And the bathrooms are co-ed!’), you somehow survive O-week on a grand total of 5 hours sleep and you rock up to your first-ever law lecture. With pens and paper (amateur!). As everyone around you opens their shiny new laptops, you start to panic.

As the lecturer sprouts a decent chunk of what sounds like Latin but is probably only Latin in a drawling monotone, everyone else seems to be following along. But you managed to avoid the  memo telling you that you were meant to read the entire $170 textbook (you later learn to use Booko to get the cheaper online) before you attend your first-ever class. ‘Wow’, you think. ‘I never knew there were so many people smarter than me!’ But hang in there, young tadpole, because you’ll be thinking this for the next five years, but I promise you’ll have a few of the opposite moments too.

And so you fall into a routine of hauling-arse out of bed to trek to class (note to self – it’s all podcasted anyway), ‘networking’ at various alcohol-fuelled events (note to self – drink water before bed to avoid hangovers) and trying to avoid the notorious Fresher Five (note to self – avoid aforementioned events).

Before you know it, your first year is over and you’re a somewhat cocky second year. Your university has conveniently changed to trimesters without adjusting the workload, but hey, who needs a break from study anyway?! And on top of all that, you decide to do summer study too, because nothing beats a day hitting the books when all your mates are at the beach.

Somehow you manage to drag yourself through the precariously toppling stack of textbooks on your desk, and manage to pull off a superhuman effort submitting four 2500 word assignments all due in the one week, not once, but twice that year. Next thing you know, you’re over halfway through your degree and it’s too late to justify bailing out now. So you do the next best thing and try and figure out what to do with your life.

Unfortunately, throughout your degree, you’ve been hearing about those elusive ‘graduate positions’ which, from your understanding, are small items perched on top of near impassable mountains which will grant the lucky few a relatively measly sum of money yearly in return for doing all the jobs that nobody really wants to do (‘hey, new guy, I have this awesome job for you!’). You’ve also been hearing about how the majority of law grads are unable to find legal work and often go to other fields.

You decide that living on campus is getting crazy. Those alcohol-fuelled networking events are now the bane of your existence, co-ed bathrooms lost their novelty after a few Saturday mornings began with finding someone else’s vomit around the cubicle and you feel that the dining hall food is slowly getting closer to killing you. So you move out of your university town to become one of those external students you’ve heard so much about on Moodle.

Your move to a new town coincides with your thought that you should probably get some career experience. So you try your best to look somewhat competent and bumble around the local law firms, hoping someone will take pity on your life choices and take you in. By some miracle, the second firm you try agrees. Before you know it, you’ve clocked up a few hundred hours and countless blisters and your experience has gone from shadowing the solicitor at court to doing a whole bunch of office work that a secretary would be paid $22.83 an hour for. But you’re a student, and it’s experience for the future, so on you press.

Suddenly it’s your fourth year, and you’re still doing experience, although after responding to a job ad (by the same firm you were doing unpaid work experience at only a week ago) you’re now on secretary wage. As you organise the criminal files for the umpteenth time (seriously, how is the solicitor so unorganised?!) you stumble across a few (alleged) rap sheets courtesy of society’s worst. You start to question whether you could stand up in court and defend these people and their crimes. You start to question whether you could listen to them admit they did it and try to justify it. You  start to question whether you could sleep at night knowing you were the reason for a reasonable doubt and that you are the reason an alleged child rapist has just walked free, even though you’ve got a pretty good feeling that he did it.

And by this stage you’ve finished your fourth year and your secondary degree and you have four law units to go. Students who started with you have, by this stage, finished their degrees and some even have one of those fancy graduate positions. Hell, students who started after you have finished their degrees. You’re sick of being broke, you’re sick of studying and you’re sick of watching your HECS HELP debt grow every four months or so. You whinge to your family and friends, who tell you ‘it will be worth it when you finish though!’ Maybe it will be. Maybe you’ll find some newfound passion for the law between now and this time next year. Or maybe you’ll have just spent the last four years figuring out that the degree you’re doing, the degree you’ve committed over four years of your life to, is exactly the opposite of what you want to be doing, but because you’re so close to the end, you might as well push on to get the damn thing over with.

You’re a pregnant lady who just wants that damn thing out. You’re in a tunnel and you can glimpse the light, but you know there’re pretty big speed bumps in the form of Jurisprudence, Corporations Law and Moot before you get there. Your friends have all graduated, you’re in a small town where no one else studies what you do and you’re no closer to establishing a career than you were four years ago. You wish you’d pursued something you’d been interested in, even if it didn’t require tertiary education, rather than panicked and done law because you didn’t know what else to do.

At least you can console yourself with the fact that John Cleese has a law degree and things turned out pretty damn well for him.

Is studying criminology worth it?
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