Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice

An associate's degree in criminal justice can typically be earned in two years with full-time study. Some schools offer an accelerated format that includes summer semesters and allows students to finish an associate's degree in as few as 18 months. A criminal justice associate degree prepares students for entry-level jobs in the criminal justice field, and in many cases, the credits earned can be transferred towards a criminal justice bachelor's degree program. A high school diploma, GED, or the equivalent is required to begin a 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.

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 embedded certification 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 Science 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: Law Enforcement 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, Corrections or 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 fieldwork 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

An associate degree is required for many entry-level law enforcement jobs, especially those that involve specialization. For example, an associate's degree is a common qualification for police identification and records officers, who 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. Over 117,000 individuals work as police identification and records officers in the US, earning a median wage of $37.12 an hour or $77,210 a year, according to O*Net OnLine.1 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, the use of blood and DNA collection kits, and a working knowledge of law and government.

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 learn more about opportunities in criminal justice through our criminal justice career guide, which includes information on the typical minimum education required, employment figures, and average salary data for over 50 different career paths.

Police Career Advice

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What are the benefits of earning an associate's degree in criminal justice?

Answer: An associate degree in criminal justice conveys to employers that you are committed to your career and have earned professional training in the fundamentals of law and criminal justice theory. In addition, a growing number of employers, especially in metro areas, are showing preference for candidates who have at least 60 semester hours of college experience. An associate degree in criminal justice typically satisfies this requirement, meaning you may have more career options after earning your degree.

Question: How long will I have to go to school for to earn a criminal justice associate degree?

Answer: Most two-year programs in criminal justice require 60 to 65 credit hours to complete. Full-time students can typically complete all of the courses required in two years. Part-time students usually take between three and five years to complete an associate's degree.

Question: What types of criminal justice jobs can I get with an associate's degree?

Answer: An associate's degree in criminal justice is strong qualification for police jobs, especially in major metro areas like Chicago and New York where college experience is a requirement. An associate's degree can also qualify you for careers in forensics, corrections, and security.

1. O*Net OnLine, Police Identification and Records Officers:

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