Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees

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Learners with a passion for fairness and protecting others should consider studying criminal justice. Graduates with a bachelor’s in criminal justice can work as police officers, detectives, emergency response managers, and forensic laboratory technicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for police officers to grow 5% from 2018-2028.

This guide covers important information for prospective bachelor’s in criminal justice students, including common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates.

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Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Programs

It takes full-time students an average of four years to complete a criminal justice bachelor’s degree, and most programs require around 120 credit hours. These numbers vary based on additional requirements, such as internships and capstones. Degree length also depends on how many credit hours each student takes per semester.

Students who value flexibility should consider an online bachelor’s in criminal justice program that features asynchronous courses. These programs allow learners to complete their coursework and watch pre-recorded lectures on their own schedule. Check out our ranking of the best online criminal justice bachelor’s programs.

Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Courses


    In this course, learners study the American criminal justice system’s functions. Topics include citizens’ rights and responsibilities and how communities and professionals play a role in preventing crime. Students also survey problems that arise in the criminal justice system and examples of possible solutions.


    This course examines the social and behavioral sciences in relation to the criminal justice system. Coursework covers topics like criminal history and how social structures shape crime. Students also look at various theories and case studies on reducing crime within communities.


    This immersive learning experience addresses how citizenship and participation in public affairs help shape communities. This course often requires students to complete a set number of hours with a community service organization or public service provider.


    This course examines criminal justice ethics and philosophies. Students learn about dilemmas facing law enforcement and correctional practitioners, emphasizing their ethical implications.


    This course examines the evaluation of crime scene evidence. Learners study the technologies and protocols used to examine evidence and the value of various pieces of evidence within a criminal investigation.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Career Outlook

    Bachelor’s in criminal justice graduates can join a workforce of passionate individuals ready to protect others. Those who prefer behind-the-scenes work should consider becoming forensic science technicians. Graduates who love coordinating and function well under pressure might work as emergency management directors. Finally, aspiring professionals who want to work on the frontlines may pursue careers as police officers with this degree.

    Regardless of their professional aspirations, criminal justice professionals benefit from job security. For example, the BLS projects the need for forensic science technicians to grow by 14% from 2018-2028, much faster than the national average for all occupations.

    What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree?

    Graduates with a criminal justice bachelor’s degree can work in diverse roles, such as forensic science technician and police officer. We cover several common roles and potential salaries for graduates below.

  • Forensic Science Technician

    Analytical people excel in this career, which involves collecting and studying evidence to aid criminal investigations. Forensic science technicians typically work in labs and must possess a strong understanding of chemistry and biology. These professionals usually need a bachelor’s degree.

    Median Annual Salary: $58,230
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):

  • Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technician

    This career involves the analysis of body fluids, tissue, and other substances. These professionals work in hospitals or diagnostic laboratories, performing tests and collecting samples for criminal investigations. Most laboratory technologists need a bachelor’s degree. Some states also require special licensure.

    Median Annual Salary: $52,330
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):

  • Probation Officer

    Probation officers work with law offenders in custody or on parole to help them rehabilitate and successfully transition back to life outside of prison or jail. They may test clients for drugs and offer substance abuse counseling, write reports and maintain case files, and connect probationers and parolees with community resources. These professionals typically need a bachelor’s degree.

    Median Annual Salary: $53,020
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):

  • Emergency Management Director

    These professionals prepare plans and protocols for responding to and recovering from emergencies. This lucrative job typically requires a bachelor’s degree and significant relevant experience.

    Median Annual Salary: $74,420
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):

  • Police and Detective

    Police officers and detectives serve the public by responding to and preventing crimes. Police officers mainly work to protect citizens and their properties, while detectives collect facts and evidence to reach conclusions about crimes. Becoming a police officer or detective requires additional training, plus a college degree.

    Median Annual Salary: $63,380
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):


    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What can I do with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice?

      Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can work in roles such as police officer, detective, and forensic technician. They can also pursue jobs as emergency responders, probation officers, and emergency management directors.

    • How many years does it take to earn a bachelor's in criminal justice?

      On average, it takes four years of full-time study to complete a bachelor’s in criminal justice. Part-time study may extend the degree by one or two years. Some programs feature accelerated programs that allow students to expedite graduation.

    • How do I get a bachelor's in criminal justice?

      Students must first apply to prospective programs. Application requirements vary by institution but typically include letters of recommendation, transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and a resume. After gaining admission to a program, students complete general education courses, covering topics like math and English, before advancing to criminal justice coursework.

    • What are the highest-paying jobs for graduates with a bachelor's in criminal justice?

      Emergency management directors rank as some of the highest-paid professionals in this field, earning $74,420 per year, on average, while private detectives and investigators earn $50,090 per year.

    • How many credits do I need to earn a bachelor's in criminal justice?

      Bachelor’s in criminal justice programs typically comprise 120 credits of general education, major, and elective courses.

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