Providing students with a solid foundation in the theories and techniques used in law enforcement, corrections, and security, an associate’s degree in criminal justice can prepare you for direct entry into careers in law enforcement, corrections, and other areas of the criminal justice field. It may also serve as a foundation for you to continue your education in criminal justice or pursue four-year degrees in other fields ranging from pre-law to sociology. Get your foot in the door of the criminal justice field by pursuing a criminal justice associate’s degree.
Earning an Associate’s in Criminal Justice: What to Expect
The associate’s in criminal justice is typically offered at community colleges and technical colleges, and prerequisites for admission are usually a GED or high school diploma. You can earn a criminal justice associate’s degree online or on a traditional campus. Most associate’s degree programs take around two years to finish, requiring students to complete a minimum of 60 credit hours.
Programs in criminal justice typically cover the three main components of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Courses are often taught by leaders in the field of criminal justice to ensure their relevance. Students may also have the opportunity to pursue an area of specialization in their degree program, such as law enforcement, correctional services or homeland security. In addition to fulfilling general education requirements, classes you might take include the following:
- Introduction to criminal justice
- Constitutional liberties & rights
- Fundamentals of policing
- Foundations of the criminal justice system
- The court system
- Introduction to security
- Introduction to juvenile justice
Skills that criminal justice programs are designed to develop among students include strong critical thinking skills, leadership abilities, decision-making skills, and communication skills. Students may also be encouraged to develop the technical skills predominant in today’s criminal justice environment. Some programs may also give you the opportunity to complete an externship to gain valuable hands-on experience in their areas of interest.
Job Opportunities for Criminal Justice Associate’s Degree Holders
The field of criminal justice encompasses multiple areas, including court and administrative services, corrections, private security, juvenile justice, law enforcement, and investigation. Therefore, job opportunities for criminal justice degree holders are vast and varied. Some jobs that a criminal justice degree may qualify you for include the following:
- Corrections officer
- Police officer
- Private investigator
- Courtroom bailiff
- Homeland security officer
State and federal criminal justice jobs are typically more competitive than jobs in local departments. As a result, federal jobs may require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree and related work experience. In 2012, the median annual salaries for the following criminal justice positions were:
- Security guards– $23,970
- Correctional officers and jailers– $39,040
- Private detectives and investigators– $45,74
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists– $48,190
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers– $55,270
If you like the idea of having a job in which no two days are the same, consider entering the exciting field of criminal justice. Whether your goal is to become a police officer, corrections officer or security officer, an associate’s degree in criminal justice can help you prepare for the challenges of working in this dynamic field. Research degree programs today to start building your criminal justice career.