You’ve determined that a career in Criminal Justice is for you. But how to begin? We’re here to help. Below you’ll find the Who, Why, What, Where and How: all the criminal justice degree basics.
You, of course, that’s who. What do you want out of your criminal justice degree? Do you have a degree path in mind? Have you done your criminal justice degree research? Take some time to consider things. What do you do well when it comes to school? Are you a social butterfly or a bookworm? Do you enjoy the classroom, or do you prefer hanging out online? What is important to you? What gave you trouble in school— writing papers, taking notes, or showing up to class prepared?
All of these are important factors to consider before moving forward. A good exercise is to sit down and write down answers to the questions above. College is challenging, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses before you go in is key. Take the time to really dig deep and understand yourself before taking the next step.
This is important: WHY do you want to get a criminal justice degree? Are you fulfilling a life-long dream of being a police officer or a forensic technician, or are you simply following the expectations of your parents or friends? Are you hoping for a job security and advancement, and a criminal justice degree is the next step down that path? Whatever your reason, if you are doing it for yourself and the dreams you hold for your life, you are more likely to succeed.
If you’ve already chosen to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice, you probably did your criminal justice degree research and already have some idea of what you want to do. Whether you’ve decided to work as a paralegal, a security guard, or a private detective, it’s still a good idea to take a good look at your personal goals before choosing your next step.
How much of an investment are you willing to make for your career? Will you pursue just an associates degree, or do you want a four-year degree? What about graduate school—are there advanced degrees available in your field of choice?
When considering which degree to choose, it’s important to consider your long-term goals. Sure, an associates degree will allow you to work as a paralegal, but is that what you see yourself doing in ten years? How about twenty? If you are planning a return to school now, it might be a good idea to earn the degree that best suits your long-term goals, rather than just propelling yourself into the workforce.
Once you know what you want to learn, the next step is figuring out where to learn criminal justice. This question is just as important but much more practical. Do you want to stay close to home, or are you eager to explore other places? Does your criminal justice major have a preferred college or university, or can you attend anywhere? Do you want a place where you can live on campus, or would you rather live off-site?
The first step, of course, is to find out the best college that offers the degree you want. Then you can check out the best local options as well as visit other locations. What college offers the courses you want at the times you want them? When visiting a college, be sure to check out the surrounding neighborhoods and the services they offer. After all, if you are going to spend a lot of time in that area, you will need more than just what the college offers—after all, you’ll also need to eat and shop!
Secondly, you should spend some time researching how the college assists its graduates. Does it have a strong career center? How about their job placement office? Once you’ve graduated you’ll need some assistance taking that next step. Check out how your college will help you.
Once you have all this information, you will know which college is the best place for you.
Ah, how may seem like the biggest question. How will I get in? How will I pay for college? How will I manage to work while going to school?
Luckily, in this day and age there are as many diverse options for earning your degree as there are students. You can go to school part-time and keep that good job. You can go to school online, part-time, full-time, or for just some of your courses.
Financial aid is readily available to anyone who needs it, making a college degree a reality for everyone. The admissions counselors at the college you choose can help you navigate the paperwork required and provide guidance on both financial aid and your course load.
To earn that criminal justice degree, all it takes is you making the commitment and taking that first step. Good luck, and good learning!