Criminal Justice Certificate

A criminal justice certificate can help individuals to prepare for a career in law enforcement and related fields while helping improve their attractiveness as a job candidate. While not all police departments require a college degree, many departments require some college credit or give preference to applicants with college experience.

Criminal Justice Certificate Programs

Criminal justice certificate programs are often shorter than associate's degree programs and can be completed within a few months instead of years. Due to the shorter timeframe to complete the program, certificate programs are generally less expensive than associate's and bachelor's programs and can help increase your earning potential. According to a report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, certificates add close to $117,000 in lifetime earnings when compared to a high school diploma alone.1 Criminal justice certification programs typically provide an introduction to the basic aspects of criminal justice and the law. An online criminal justice certificate program can be a convenient way to earn this degree without having to travel to campus and attend class.

Examples of courses in a criminal justice certificate curriculum include:

  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Administration of Justice
  • Police Community Relations
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Corrections and Criminal Justice
  • Crime Prevention and Control
  • Critical Analysis of the Criminal Justice System
  • Perspectives in Law Enforcement Management
  • Policies in Policing
  • Legal Issues in Law Enforcement

>>Find a Certificate Program from a Criminal Justice Schools

Did you know? Unlike the non-stop action portrayed on television, in reality about 80% of police work is patrol and paperwork while 20% involves action like investigations, arrests, and car chases.1

Profiles of Criminal Justice Certificate Programs

University of New Haven awards a Criminal Justice Management Certificate to students who complete its 12 credit hour, four-course criminal justice certificate program. The curriculum emphasizes the fundamentals of modern management and its applications to the criminal justice field. All students take courses in Criminal Justice Management, Problem Oriented Policing, and Leadership Issues in Policing. To complete the curriculum, students choose between Computer Applications Research and Program Evaluation or Problem Solving: Plan, Analyze, Evaluate. This certificate program is offered through the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, which has an international reputation for quality academics and research in criminal justice. Courses are taught by criminal justice professionals and use state of the art technology. The Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, the National Crime Scene Training Center, and the Institute for Law and Public Affairs are also located at the University of New Haven, providing additional training and learning opportunities for students.

Portland State University maintains a comprehensive program that leads to the award of the Leadership in Criminal Justice Certificate. This certificate program is designed to help students build and implement leadership skills in the criminal justice environment. Classes are held online to accommodate the needs of professional students and emphasize practical skills, decision making, and the understanding of the complex interactions between criminal justice agencies and the administration of criminal justice. The 24 credit hour program includes courses in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Punishment and Corrections, Criminal Law and Reasoning, and American Courts. Students may transfer up to 8 credit hours from another accredited institution. The certificate is offered through the College of Urban and Public Affairs, which is the only school in the US that combines the disciplines of contemporary urban studies, community health, and government within one school. Students enrolled in the school’s programs have access to state of the art labs for instruction and research.

Southern New Hampshire University awards a Certificate in Justice Studies – Crime and Criminology that can be earned entirely online. This interdisciplinary program includes the study of the American justice system and perspectives from the social sciences in addition to traditional courses in criminology and law enforcement. To earn the certificate, students take 5 courses in total: 3 required courses in Introduction to Criminal Justice, The Victim and the Justice System, and The American Legal Tradition plus two elective courses. Credits earned in the certificate program may be transferable towards the school’s Associate of Science in Justice Studies or Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies programs. In addition to associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, Southern New Hampshire University also offers undergraduate certificate programs in Terrorism and Homeland Security; Police and Law Enforcement; and Law and Legal Process. Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.

Criminal Justice Career Outlook

There are several career paths available to individuals within the criminal justice field including police officer, crime scene technician, and border patrol agent to name a few. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detective jobs are projected to grow 4% through 2024.2

What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Certificate?

A criminal justice certificate can help graduates pursue a wide range of criminal justice careers. Some examples of potential careers 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: Do I need to have a college degree to earn a criminal justice certificate?

Answer: Many schools offer undergraduate certificates in criminal justice designed for first-time college students and working professionals, and accept students who only have a high school diploma or GED. In some cases, credits earned through an undergraduate certificate program can later be transferred towards an associate's or bachelor's degree, making a criminal justice certificate a flexible option for career development.

Question: What law enforcement jobs can I get with a criminal justice certificate?

Answer: To start, earning a criminal justice certificate can make you a more competitive applicant for open positions compared to a candidate who does not have a criminal justice education. While some employers prefer applicants who have an associate's degree or higher, a criminal justice certificate is entry-level preparation for such jobs as corrections officer, police officer, bailiff, and evidence technician.

Question: How long does it take to earn a certificate in criminal justice?

Answer: While the length of a program depends on the certificate and whether the student is full- or part-time, one of the most convenient aspects of a criminal justice certificate program is that it requires fewer credits than earning a degree. Undergraduate certificate programs in criminal justice generally require between 12 and 20 credit hours and can be earned in as few as two semesters (one school year).

1. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: Certificates – Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees:
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives:

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