Criminal Justice Degrees

There are two big reasons why criminal justice degrees are currently so popular. One, they can serve as a launching pad for a wide range of careers. Two, more and more, law enforcement agencies are requiring some college credit in order to qualify for a given position. Criminal justice programs cover everything from research methods and statistics to corrections and criminal law and give students a working knowledge of how the courts, corrections institutions and law enforcement agencies function. Those who earn a degree often go on to accept jobs such as a crime scene investigator, probation officer, correctional counselor, FBI special agent, paralegal, criminal justice professor or police detective.

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Top Criminal Justice Degrees

Question: Is this a good time to enter the field of law enforcement?

Answer: This is probably the best time to become a police officer. -Sue Rahr, former King County Sheriff (Seattle, WA)

Degrees by Level

Selecting from the various degrees needed is determined by what profession you intend to pursue. Some occupations require a two-year associate degree, while others require the more rigorous course of study offered by a master’s degree program. As you browse the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree pages on this site, you’ll learn about some of the jobs you’ll be qualified to apply for after earning each respective degree.

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Certificates
The most basic degree that can be earned in the criminal justice field is the Criminal Justice Certificate. Students are typically awarded a certificate with the completion of a specialized training program. Certificates can be used in a specific criminal justice career, such as crime scene photography, or as a stepping stone for a more advanced degree. Other types of careers that can be obtained with a certification in criminal justice include corrections, probation, law enforcement, immigration, security services, and homeland security. Due to the competitive nature of these fields, candidates are advised to enroll in specialized programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for careers with criminal justice certification is between $31,500 and $52,100.

Associate’s Degree
Many law enforcement careers only require the applicant to possess a high school diploma. However, more and more agencies are seeking applications with an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice due to the raising complexity of the criminal justice system. A criminal justice associate’s degree typically focuses on law enforcement, theories of crime causations, court systems, corrections, and crime control policies. Common professionals that graduates of criminal justice associate degree programs include police officer, computer forensics specialist, border patrol agent, bailiff, corrections officer, and fish and game warden. The average salary earned for those with an associate’s degree in these criminal justice fields is between $32,250 and $77,500.

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Bachelor’s Degree
The Criminal Justice Bachelors Degree level not only shows potential employers your willingness to work hard, but is also the minimum requirement for many criminal justice professions. In addition to law enforcement careers, bachelor degree holders can also work as fraud investigators, private detectives, accounting jobs, DEA agents, probation officers, criminologists, computer forensics, paralegal, and FBI agents. Most government and federal agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, and the Secret Service, require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Average salary of careers in the criminal justice field with a bachelor’s degree is between $31,900 and $119,000.

Master’s Degree
A Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice allows students to explore particular aspects of criminal justice, such as administration. These candidates are also eligible to become social caseworkers, instructors in criminal justice, and officers in courts. Areas of study that may be included in a chosen criminal justice program may include forensic behavioral analysis, psychology, criminology, and sociology, issues in juvenile crime, criminal law, and criminal justice theory. Possible career opportunities for a master’s degree include criminal investigation, correctional administration, attorney at law, and management of forensic science faculties. The average salary for those who have obtained a masters degree in criminal justice is between $36,186 and $135,750.

Doctoral Degree
A Doctoral Degree in Criminal Justice is designed for those who have attained a master’s degree and would like to advance their career. Opportunities for those with this highly-regarded degree are able to obtain a leadership, private, academia, policy making, or governmental research position with various agencies. The most common careers for those with a doctoral degree in criminal justice include criminology research, criminal justice process and policy, forensic psychology, and criminological theory. The average salary of a doctoral degree in criminal justice is between $68,400 and $115,720.

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Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, many entry-level criminal justice jobs will be available through 2014. Most of these jobs require some college credit, if not an associate’s degree. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that police and sheriff’s patrol officers will be one of the 20 fastest growing, highest earning occupations through 2014. Most of these jobs require only a two-year associate’s degree for employment. While this is good news for those seeking an associate degree, taking the next step toward earning a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree will only expand your opportunities and earning potential.

Earn a Criminal Justice Degree

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University of Phoenix
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • A.A. in Criminal Justice
  • B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration/Human Services for Criminal Justice
  • B.S in Criminal Justice Administration/Cybercrimes

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Walden University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • B.S. in Human Services - Criminal Justice 
  • Ph.D. in Social Work - Criminal Justice
  • B.S. in Criminal Justice - Crime and Criminals

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Capella University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • MS - Criminal Justice
  • PhD - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

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Colorado Technical University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Human Services
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice

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Liberty University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • Masters in Criminal Justice: Command College

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Keiser University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Criminal Justice, BA
  • Criminal Justice, AA
  • Legal Studies, BA (Online)

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Grand Canyon University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • B.S. in Justice Studies
  • M.S. in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • M.S. in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement

Additional Resources

20 Jobs You Can Get With a Criminal Justice Degree
10 Jobs You Can Get With a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree
Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?
Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs

Page Edited by Charles Sipe.