Criminal Justice Bachelors Degree

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice provides students with broad knowledge of the criminal justice system. Students enrolled in four-year criminal justice programs will learn about such topics as the role of technology in forensics and criminal justice, how the corrections system works, how the courts work with law enforcement, and criminal justice theory. Many online criminal justice programs allow the student to focus on an area of interest, such as paralegal studies or forensic science. A bachelor in criminal justice degree also provides the education needed to become a police officer and advance to positions like detective or criminal investigator. Whether you're looking to land an entry-level position or advance your career, a criminal justice bachelor's degree will give you the education you need to increase your experience and earning power. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a worker's earnings increase with education level and those with a bachelor's degree can earn 30% percent more per week than those with an associate's degree.1 Bachelor's program graduates also have lower unemployment rates than those with lower educational attainment.1 Due to growing demand, many schools are offering online criminal justice programs. You can learn more about distance learning options through our guide to earning an online criminal justice degree, which includes our ranking of the top online programs in criminal justice and related fields.

Did you know? One trend in the criminal justice field is a greater demand for higher education as law enforcement is increasingly viewed as a profession rather than a vocation. A US Department of Justice study found that 37% of large police agencies required applicants to have some college experience as of 2000, up from 19% in 1990.2

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice will help prepare you for some of the most highly sought-after jobs in the criminal justice field, such as detective or criminal investigator positions. In 2015, professionals in these occupations earned a median annual salary of $77,210.3 Investigative positions at all levels of the criminal justice system require integrity, self-control, and attention to detail, which a bachelor's degree will help you develop.

Examples of courses in a criminal justice bachelor's degree curriculum include:

  • Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice
  • Drugs and Society
  • Deviance and Social Control
  • Crime in America
  • Constitutional Law
  • Principles of Investigation
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Criminal Evidence
  • Statistics in Criminal Justice
  • Research Methods in Criminal Justice
  • Crime Prevention
  • Critical Issues in Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice Internship
CJDS Fact: Individuals with a higher education are less likely to be unemployed and on average, those with a bachelor's degree earn 40% more than those with only a high school education.1

Profiles of Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

University of Colorado Denver awards a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice through its School of Public Affairs. The interdisciplinary curriculum prepares students to understand and apply criminal justice knowledge and theory in a professional and ethical manner. Students focus on the criminal justice system and institutions, ethical concerns, and social and behavioral influences on crime and delinquency. Typical major courses include Criminal Justice Research Methods, Statistics for Criminal Justice, Police in Contemporary Society, and White-Collar Crime. An internship in the criminal justice field is a graduation requirement, though students with at least one year of professional criminal justice experience may request a waiver. An online completion option for the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice is offered as an alternative to traditional on-campus study. Students considering post-graduate study in criminal justice may also be interested in the school's Master of Criminal Justice program or Dual Bachelor/Master of Criminal Justice.

Florida Gulf Coast University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that aims to endow students with a balanced perspective in criminal justice and an extensive understanding of the criminal justice system and its components as a whole. Through a focused choice of electives, students can also build career track specializations in such areas as corrections, juvenile justice, law enforcement, legal studies, international justice, or management/administration. Required courses for the major include Theories of Criminal Behavior, Ethics in the Criminal Justice System, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, and Substantive Criminal Law. Courses are offered during the day, evenings, and weekends, as well as online. All faculty at the Department of Justice Studies, through which this degree is offered, have practical experience in the justice field. The practical experience aspect of the department's internship program, which places students in roles involving criminal justice-oriented tasks, is of additional benefit to program graduates.

Bay State College offers a Bachelor's of Criminal Justice program that is flexible by design, with courses offered days, evenings, weekends, and online. Sample courses for the major include Criminal Investigation and Procedure, Forensics, Function of Police in Modern Society, and Criminological Theories. A minimum 120-clock hour criminal justice internship, which takes place in a law office or criminal justice agency setting, is a requirement for graduation. Students may optionally complete a second internship during the final semester of study for elective credit. A degree concentration in Domestic and International Security is offered to on-campus and online students. On-campus students may complete the degree through either the Back Bay (Boston) or Taunton campuses. Though options for part-time study are available, the program is designed to be pursued full-time; the majority of students successfully complete the program within a four-year time frame.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Bachelors Degree?

A criminal justice bachelor's degree may be a good launching point for a wide range of careers in the criminal justice field. Some examples 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What majors are there for bachelor's degrees in criminal justice?

Answer: While an individual school will typically offer a limited range of majors, the possibilities for criminal justice majors are as broad as the field itself. Online and on-campus majors in criminal justice can help you specialize in such areas as corrections, criminology, homeland security, forensics, information security, or police science. It's best to do your research and choose a school that offers a major that compliments the criminal justice career you want to pursue.

Question: Will I have more career options with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, and can I get promoted faster?

Answer: A bachelor's degree in criminal justice opens up a wide variety of career pathways. Many federal criminal justice jobs, such as FBI officers and Secret Service agents, generally require a bachelor's degree. In addition, many police departments look favorably on candidates with a bachelor's degree for promotional opportunities. In these cases and in other areas of the criminal justice system, having a bachelor's degree can offset having less in-the-field experience when seeking promotion.

Question: What are the benefits of earning a criminal justice degree online?

Answer: One of the top benefits to earning a criminal justice degree online is the flexibility. Many schools offer asynchronous courses, meaning that students can log in to study and complete assignments at times convenient to their schedules. Programs that are conducted entirely online are also often open to students from other states, so you can attend classes and earn your degree without relocating.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment 2015:
2. Harr, J. Scott. Careers in Criminal Justice and Related Fields. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2010.
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages May 2015, Detectives and Criminal Investigators:

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