Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice vs. Bachelor of Arts

Bachelor Science Criminal Justice vs Bachelor Arts

There are two types of bachelor’s in criminal justice available – the BA in criminal justice and the BS in criminal justice. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is ideal for students who want to gain an in-depth understanding of the field and explore the theory and practice of criminal justice in today’s society. Learn the differences and similarities between the Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and the BA to determine which path is right for you.

Overview of Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Programs

Degree Length

Most four-year colleges and universities offer criminal justice degrees at the bachelor’s level. You must earn a total of 120 credits in order to earn your criminal justice degree. If you study full-time, you can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.


The prerequisites for entry to bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice are typically a high school diploma, GED or associate’s degree from an accredited institution; a minimum required GPA; and minimum required SAT/ACT scores.

Areas of Specialization

Many programs offer online degrees, giving criminal justice students the flexibility and freedom to complete their studies online. Possible areas of specialization that criminal justice majors can focus on include the following:

  • Corrections & case management
  • Policing
  • Forensics
  • Emergency management
  • Computer crime

Difference Between a BA in Criminal Justice and a BS in Criminal Justice

The primary difference between a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice is that the latter tends to focus more on the technical and scientific aspects of the field. For example, if you want to work in criminal psychology or forensics, the BS would be a better option. BA students may be required to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language and tend to focus on the more liberal arts aspects of criminal justice.

Criminal Justice Curriculum

Irrespective of whether you choose a BA or BS program, you will obtain the in-depth training and skills required to work in the criminal justice field. The curriculum of criminal justice programs draws from a variety of disciplines, including law, psychology, sociology, and political science.

Criminal Justice Courses

Courses that students in criminal justice programs are typically required to take include the following:

  • Criminal justice systems
  • Corrections and penology
  • Data analysis for criminal justice
  • Prosecution & adjudication
  • Crime in America
  • Law enforcement administration

What Students Learn

Students come away with an understanding of the nature of crime and criminals, as well as of the institutions, personnel, and processes that prevent and respond to crime. They also develop strong communication, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.

Career & Education Opportunities After the Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree

Career Opportunities

Criminal justice majors qualify for a variety of different careers. Potential jobs for criminal justice graduates include:

  • Police officer
  • Private investigator
  • Corrections officer
  • Probation officer
  • Parole officer
  • Crime scene investigator

Education Opportunities

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice also prepares you for graduate study in criminal justice, law, and related areas. A master’s degree in criminal justice is required to become a criminologist, forensic psychologist, criminal psychologist or college professor. If you want to advance to high-level management positions, having a master’s degree in criminal justice can also be beneficial.

Criminal Justice Job Outlook

Projected Growth

Employment for criminal justice positions tends to be competitive and the job growth is often projected to be slower than average. Bilingual candidates, as well as those with military experience or bachelor’s degrees, should have the best chances for employment.


Salaries in the criminal justice field vary from one job to the next, but entry-level positions for graduates holding a bachelor’s degree tend to fall within the same range. The best paying criminal justice jobs are with state and federal agencies. In 2012, the median annual salaries for the following positions were:

From the security of our nation to the security of neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and communities, public safety has become a major concern in our society. If you want to play an active role in making your community a better, safer place to live, consider pursuing a bachelor of science in criminal justice. A criminal justice degree could qualify you for a variety of career paths and help you achieve your professional goals. Explore criminal justice programs on our site today.

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