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Associates Degree in Criminal Justice

Students can earn an associates degree in criminal justice in two years. In some cases, it can be finished in less than two years at some criminal justice schools. Having a criminal justice associate degree prepares students for entry-level jobs in the criminal justice field, or students can go on to pursue a criminal justice bachelor’s degree. In many cases, current criminal justice course credits or military experience can be applied toward associate degree credit. A high school diploma, GED or equivalent is required to begin an criminal justice associate’s degree program. It’s a very popular degree, in part because it can be completed relatively quickly, but also because at least some college credit is now a required condition of employment at many law enforcement agencies around the country.

Did you know? Privatization of criminal justice is one of the major trends in the criminal justice field with private security growing much faster than any other segment. As a result, there are a lot of opportunities for careers in the private security industry.1

Examples of courses in a criminal justice associate’s degree curriculum include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Fundamentals of Policing
  • Introduction to Corrections
  • Foundations of Psychology
  • Crime in America
  • Constitutional Law
  • Legal Aspects of Law Enforcement
  • Ethics in Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Procedure and Process
  • Court Systems and Practices
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Criminal Justice Externship

Profiles of Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Programs

Columbus State Community College offers a criminal justice degree program that leads to the award of an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice. Graduates are prepared to take on entry level roles in local, state, and federal agencies involved in the criminal justice system. The curriculum is built on fundamental courses such as Government and the Law, Juveniles and the Criminal Justice System, Introduction to Homeland Security, and Crime Scene Investigation. Emphasis areas in topics such as Victim Advocacy, Homeland Security, and Crime Scene Investigation are available through groups of electives. Students also take the Peace Officer Academy courses for Law Enforcement Officer Certification in the State of Ohio through the school, which meet the requirements set by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. This certification through the Columbus State Community College Police Academy is embedded in the curriculum and is typically completed during the second year of study in the autumn and spring semesters.

Miami Dade College, through its School of Justice, awards an Associate in Justice in Criminal Justice Technology to students who complete its two year program. Students pursuing the degree develop foundational law enforcement skills and an understanding of legal systems, crime prevention, and corrections at all stages of the legal process. This technical degree is intended for students who intend to seek careers in non-sworn law enforcement positions. In addition to general education and major course requirements, students complete elective courses such as Management of Police Functions, Intelligence Analysis and Security Management, Dynamics of Behavior, and Criminal Justice Ethics and Professionalism. Students are also exposed to theory and applications of criminal justice law and policy. The Miami Dade College School of Justice has an international reputation as a training and education center for public safety professionals and its graduates are prepared to assume roles in public, private, and not-for-profit public safety institutions.

St. Louis Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science in Criminal Justice that equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to work in the criminal justice system at the entry level. Students can choose from two concentrations for the associate’s degree in Corrections or in Law Enforcement. Required courses for either concentration include Rules of Criminal Evidence, Criminal Law and Procedures, and Juvenile Justice. Students in the Corrections concentration also complete a practicum that provides field work experience. Either degree concentration may be pursued on a full or part time basis. St. Louis Community College additionally maintains a dual admissions program with the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which may ease the transition for students planning to seek a bachelor’s degree at a four year institution by maximizing the transferability of credits earned for an associate’s degree.

Additional Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Information

While an associate degree is typically required for most entry-level law enforcement jobs, it does not mean those are all desk jobs. For example, police identification and records officers play a key role in the law enforcement process. They photograph crime and accident scenes, look for trace evidence such as hairs or fingerprints, and analyze and process the materials they collect. This occupation is growing faster than average in the United States. In 2008, the median wage for police identification and records officers was $29.29 an hour or $60,910 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This profession requires dependability, attention to detail and adaptability. An associate’s degree in criminal justice will give you the additional skills required, such as proficiency in photo imaging and charting software, how to use blood and DNA collection kits, and a working knowledge of law and government.

Associate Degrees from Accredited Online Criminal Justice Schools

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What Jobs Can You Get With an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Some possible job titles for graduates with an associate’s degree in criminal justice include:

You can also view current job openings in your state and research job requirements at our criminal justice job board.

1. Harr, J. Scott. Careers in Criminal Justice and Related Fields. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2010.