Criminal Justice Certificates

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Students lacking time or money to complete a full criminal justice degree program may pursue a less-expensive, quicker criminal justice (CJ) certificate. A certificate in criminal justice qualifies graduates for entry-level criminal justice jobs, such as jailer, corrections officer, and bailiff.

When combined with relevant degrees and work experience, certificates in criminal justice can lead to advanced, in-demand roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers for criminal justice graduates, such as forensic science technician and emergency management director, boast projected job growth rates of 14% and 5%, respectively, from 2018-2028.

Criminal Justice Certificate Programs

Criminal justice certificate programs usually comprise 12-15 credits, or 4-5 courses. Many online certificate in criminal justice programs allow for flexible, part-time attendance options, tailored to working adults who want to continue their education without giving up their day jobs.

Featured Online Programs

Explore program formats, transfer requirements, financial aid packages, and more by contacting the schools below.

Criminal justice certificate coursework usually covers topics such as criminal justice management, American courts, punishment and corrections, and policing. PayScale data indicates that general CJ certificate-holders make about $15.50 per hour. Earning potential grows with relevant work experience and/or academic degrees.

Certificate in Criminal Justice Courses


    Criminal law courses discuss justice, punishment, criminal defense, and the burden of truth. Students learn about the intersections between law enforcement, the court system, and corrections. Students also learn industry terminology and legal procedures related to common crimes.

    This course examines the dynamics between police departments and civilian communities. Students learn how law enforcement practices and programs can improve community relations, address social problems, and alleviate cultural and social tensions.

    This course examines how criminal justice organizations, institutions, and professionals prevent and address criminal activity. Students critically analyze the criminal justice system and explore how various agencies can work together to improve public safety and reduce crime.

    Examining legal accountability of law enforcement, this course surveys police responsibilities, roles, and rights. Students learn about various police accountability systems and trends, including preventive precautions, internal discipline procedures, civil liabilities, and governance by municipal police boards.

    Criminal procedure courses cover pretrial and trial rules, processes, and procedures. Learners study topics like constitutional safeguards, current trends, and relevant cases. Criminal procedure courses often include cross-cultural comparisons of criminal procedures.
  • Criminal justice careers typically fall into one of three areas of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, the courts, or corrections. Criminal justice salaries vary by position, with security guards earning a median salary of less than $30,000 annually and police and detective supervisors making over $90,000 annually.

    Criminal justice certificates help students qualify for entry-level law enforcement roles, such as security officer, and court system roles, like bailiff and court administrator. Certificate-holders may also pursue corrections jobs, such as parole officer.

    What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Certificate?

    Graduates with a criminal justice certificate can work as correctional officers and bailiffs, police officers and security professionals, and detectives and investigators. We outline several common careers and potential salaries for graduates below.

    Correctional Officer and Bailiff

    Correctional officers usually work inside jails or prisons, supervising arrested and incarcerated people. These professionals perform various safety inspections and procedures as they enforce rules, oversee activities, and transport incarcerated individuals. Also called marshals or court officers, bailiffs work in courthouses, delivering evidence and court documents, assisting legal professionals in enforcing courtroom order, and protecting the safety of all present. Consult this career guide for more information about becoming a bailiff.

    Median Annual Salary: $44,400
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):

    Security Guard and Gaming Surveillance Officer

    Security guards and gaming surveillance officers protect people and property from illegal activity. Security duties depend on context, but the job often entails performing security checks, restricting building access, and monitoring surveillance cameras. These professionals also make reports, respond to emergencies, and detain rule-breakers when necessary. This guide includes information on how to become a security guard.

    Gaming surveillance officers ensure fair game play and security by observing gambling patrons using audio and video surveillance equipment.

    Median Annual Salary: $28,530
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):

    Private Detective and Investigator

    These professionals gather information for a variety of purposes, including locating missing persons, solving cybercrimes, and detecting dishonest or illegal behavior. They may conduct background research and interviews, collect evidence, and perform surveillance of people of interest. Aspiring private investigators may consult this career guide for additional information.

    Median Annual Salary: $50,090
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):


    Firefighters respond to emergencies, extinguish fires, and prevent harm to living things and property. Daily duties may include operating emergency vehicles and equipment, rescuing victims and/or providing medical care, and maintaining readiness through drills and equipment maintenance. Firefighters also fill out incident reports and educate the public on fire safety. Some firefighters work for national or state parks to protect wildlands from fire destruction, while others perform hazardous material clean-up. Meanwhile, arson and fire investigators work to determine fire causes.

    Median Annual Salary: $49,620
    Projected Growth Rate (2018-28):

    Police and Detective

    Responsible for protecting people and property, police officers perform various tasks, including police call responses, area patrol, and traffic law enforcement. Police also perform searches, issue warrants, and complete forms and reports. See this career guide to learn about becoming a police officer. Police duties sometimes overlap with those of detectives, who observe suspects, gather evidence from crime scenes, and testify in court.

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

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What can you do with a criminal justice certificate?

    Students without a college education may turn to certificate programs to qualify for entry-level criminal justice jobs. Additionally, some students earn a criminal justice certificate to prepare for related undergraduate or graduate degree programs.

    What jobs can you get with a criminal justice certificate?

    Criminal justice certificates qualify graduates for entry-level law enforcement positions, such as jailer, deputy, police officer, and corrections officer. Certificates also qualify graduates for court system employment as bailiffs or court administrators. Nature-lovers may seek careers as U.S. park police officers or conservation officers.

    How long does it take to get a criminal justice certificate?

    Unlike associate degrees, which often take two years to complete, certificates in criminal justice often take only a few months to complete. Most programs entail about 12-15 credits, though more comprehensive programs may require up to 24 credits.

    What law enforcement jobs pay the highest salaries?

    According to the BLS, police officers and detectives make an annual median salary of about $63,000. Criminal justice careers such as fire inspectorforensic science technician, and emergency management director often fall within the $50,000-$75,000 range, but these jobs may require education beyond the certificate level. Higher-level police and detective supervisors often earn more than $90,000 annually.

    What is criminal justice?

    Intended to deter crime, stand up for victims, and rehabilitate criminals, criminal justice constitutes a series of interlocking governmental systems that process criminals and crimes. Law enforcement, the first stage of processing, identifies criminals and crimes. The court or legal system then takes over and governs the criminal's trial and potential conviction. If necessary, the corrections system handles punishment through measures such as incarceration and parole.

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