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Criminal Justice
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Are you one of the students who have seriously thought about pursuing a career in criminal justice? If so, it is essential to explore this career option completely and find out – Is a criminal justice degree worth it? In addition, answer questions such as these —

  • Is a degree in criminal justice worth it if you need to earn it online?
  • If I want to go into law enforcement, is a criminal justice degree worth it?
  • Is a degree in criminal justice worth it at the associate’s level if you plan to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree?

The reality is, criminal justice degrees open many career options that include a forensic scientist, a parole officer, a police officer, or even an attorney. While some of these criminal justice career options may require a more advanced degree (or even specialized training), many criminal justice careers begin with an associate’s or bachelor’s level academic degree.

There are criminal justice jobs available from coast to coast, although the potential job outlook for criminal justice careers may vary from region to region or state to state.

Most Popular Schools with Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

In-Demand Jobs for Graduates of Online Accredited Criminal Justice Degree Programs:

OccupationsJob OpeningsAverage SalaryTypical Entry Level Education
Lawyers45,700$145,300Doctoral or professional degree
Paralegals and Legal Assistants40,400$55,020Associate’s degree
Compliance Officers30,700$72,850Bachelor’s degree
Loan Officers29,900$76,200Bachelor’s degree
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists8,200$59,910Bachelor’s degree
Legislators4,300$49,440Bachelor’s degree
Forensic Science Technicians2,400$63,170Bachelor’s degree
Law Teachers, Postsecondary2,200$129,950Doctoral or professional degree
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary1,700$72,980Doctoral or professional degree
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates1,500$128,550Doctoral or professional degree
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

If you find that your initial exploration into available jobs with a criminal justice degree yields promising results, consider what you can do with:

If you have more of an interest in learning how to enter a specific sector of the criminal justice degree, think about:

  • law enforcement
  • police investigative work?
  • a dual degree in psychology?

Jobs With A Degree In Criminal Justice

Criminal justice jobs fall into these broad categories –  law enforcement, the legal system, and corrections. Although it depends upon the exact criminal justice position, many rewarding criminal justice careers require the completion of more specialized training or credential work. Here is a simple list of some of the more popular, available jobs with a degree in criminal justice.

  • A homicide detective is a police professional who is responsible for investigating events and crimes that lead to the loss of life. Detectives interview suspects and witnesses and collect evidence from crime scenes.
  • A forensic psychologist approaches the criminal justice system from a psychological angle that allows them to evaluate criminals, perform psychological research, assess in jury selection, and determine the competency of suspects to participate in their own defense.
  • A criminalist facilitates the law enforcement process by reconstructing crime scenes and analyzing collected samples.
  • An FBI agent works for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working crime scenes and events, including evidence collection and witness/suspect interviewing.
  • A prison warden is one of the senior managerial members who manage prisons and correctional institutes’ operations. Much of their responsibilities include the managerial functions of budgets, policies, and scheduling, to name a few.

In addition, additional jobs with a degree in criminal justice include becoming a sheriff, game warden, juvenile officer, DEA agent, postal inspector, park ranger, or correction officer, among others.

Degree Types – Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate in Criminal Justice 

Criminal justice degrees are offered at four academic levels – Associates, Bachelor’s, Masters & Doctoral degrees. Each level requires the completion of more advanced coursework, which also prepares each graduate for the many available vocational pursuits for those who have earned one of the many types of degrees in criminal justice. 

It is noted that many students choose to augment the different types of degrees in criminal justice with a specialty in an effort to make themselves more competitive in the job marketplace. There are many criminal justice degree programs available across the country, and many of these schools offer eligible students financial assistance in a number of ways.

Accredited Online Associate’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

Some of the best online criminal justice associate’s degree programs are also some of the most affordable. An associates degree in criminal justice online typically requires the completion of 60 credit units over a two year time period; however, some online criminal justice associates degree programs offer accelerated programs to motivated students, which allow students to complete an associated degree in criminal justice online in only about 1.5 years.

In addition, many on-campus and online criminal justice associates degree programs may offer credit to applicants for relevant professional experience.

Accredited Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

Any on-campus or online criminal justice degree program requires students to complete the core competencies that are mandated to reach professional success. Most on-campus and online criminal justice bachelor degree programs require the completion of about 120 semester credits, which is completed, on average, in about four years.

Online criminal justice degree programs at the bachelor’s level typically include the school’s undergraduate core classes plus coursework related specifically to the online criminal justice bachelor degree program you select.

Classes for either an on-campus or an online criminal justice degree baccalaureate program includes –

  • Judicial Administration
  • Criminology
  • Community based services
  • Incarceration theories and solutions
  • Legal traditions, to name a few.

Students enrolled in a bachelor’s online criminal justice degree will also be given the opportunity to select from a number of concentrations related to the criminal justice degree, like homeland security or legal studies, among others.

Accredited Online Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

Like the available bachelor’s degree programs, there are a variety of master’s in criminal justice online or on-campus programs from which to choose. The majority of criminal justice masters programs online programs require between 30 to 40 semester credits to meet program requirements. On average, criminal justice graduate programs online or on-campus take approximately 18 to 24 months to complete, although each program varies.

The best online masters in criminal justice degree programs require students to either complete an internship, practicum, capstone project or related thesis. Some of the best online criminal justice masters degree programs offer degree candidates the opportunity to study abroad.

Students enrolled in criminal justice masters programs online explore managerial topics and techniques that include decision making and strategizing using data analytics and other management principles applicable to the criminal justice industry. Graduates of a masters in criminal justice online or on-campus programs are prepared to enter the workforce in roles of leadership. A masters in criminal justice online can also apply their learned skills internationally. 

Accredited Online Doctorate Degrees in Criminal Justice

Earning a criminal justice PhD online or on-campus is considered the industry’s terminal degree. The majority of online PhD in criminal justice degrees require about five years to complete, although many motivated students complete their PhD in criminal justice online degree sooner if allowed by program guidelines.

There are two primary types of online doctorate in criminal justice programs –

  • The PhD in criminal justice online or on-campus program focuses mostly on teaching, research, and the publishing of research.
  • The second type of online doctorate in criminal justice is the type of online criminal justice PhD program the emphasizes managerial training as it serves to prepare graduates to be the next generation of criminal justice leaders.

There are several quality schools that offer an online criminal justice PhD program, although many of these online criminal justice doctorate programs have varying requirements. Most online doctorate in criminal justice programs mandate the completion of 50 to 75 semester credits to meet the criminal justice doctorate online degree’s mandates.

Students enrolled in an online PhD in criminal justice program generally are required to complete doctoral-level classes over the first two years of the criminal justice PhD online program. Most online criminal justice doctorate degree candidates spend the next several years engaging in practical training or research as they prepare for their culminating criminal justice doctorate online degree.

Most degree candidates enrolled in a criminal justice doctorate online, or on-campus program have a preference as to which direction they wish their studies to take.  

Accreditation

If you are considering enrolling in a college-level academic program, the concept of accreditation is extremely critical to your decision. In the United States, there are two fundamental levels of accreditation, regional and specialized. The USDE – the U.S. Dept. of Education operates regional agencies to offer regional accreditation.

Most accredited criminal justice degree online programs will have received specialized accreditation through the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS).

It is important to determine if the academic program you choose has received either –

  • An accredited online criminal justice associates degree program
  • An accredited online criminal justice baccalaureate degree program
  • Accredited online  criminal justice associates degree programs in criminal justice, among others

The importance of the process of accreditation is vital as it impacts essential issues like a student’s ability to transfer credits earned from an accredited criminal justice degree online program.

Certifications and Licensure

As one’s career advances, most criminal justice professionals agree that it is beneficial to earn additional certifications to augment their academic and professional training. There a variety of criminal justice certificates online that can help underscore one’s abilities as a criminal justice professional. Choosing to complete a certificate in criminal justice online or on-campus provides a competitive edge because holding an online criminal justice certificate might be the leverage one needs when applying for a criminal justice position.

Online criminal justice certificates and credentials are offered by many smaller schools and well-known universities. Those who take the time to earn a criminal justice certificate online or on-campus show great motivation and versatility – qualities every employer looks for in a new employee.

Examples of On-Campus and Online Criminal Justice Certificates

The Crime Scene Technician Certification – these criminal justice certificates online prepare students for working a crime scene appropriately.

The Certified Criminal Justice Professional (CCJP) Certification – this certificate in criminal justice online requires the completion of 270 hours of coursework to prepare those credentialed to work with drug offenders.

The Professional Peace Officer Certification (POST) – this type of criminal justice online certificate is a good fit for those students who wish to eventually work in state or local law enforcement. It is noted that the requirements for this criminal justice certificate online varies by state.

The Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) Certification – this criminal justice credential is generally pursued by those who wish to become paralegals. 

Scholarships

Earning a degree in criminal justice can lead to a rewarding and lucrative career in the fields of law, public safety, or law enforcement, among others. Like most students, the field of criminal justice offers a variety of scholarships for criminal justice majors. Scholarships for criminal justice students are offered by schools, professional organizations, and industry icons, to name a few. There are college scholarships for criminal justice degree candidates to serve a variety of needs like –

  • Criminal justice scholarships for minorities
  • Scholarships for women in criminal justice
  • Criminal justice scholarships for women of Latin heritage
  • Scholarships for criminal justice majors with a Native American heritage

Here are a few examples of scholarships for criminal justice majors offered by industry-related associations –

The National Technical Investigator’s Association (NATIA)

This organization is a nonprofit group that offers scholarships to two students each year. Students enrolled in accredited law enforcement programs are eligible for the NATIA scholarship; however, applicants are required to be high school seniors at the time of application.  

The American Criminal Justice Association (ACJA)

This organization offers yearly scholarships for those students who wish to earn Criminal Justice degrees at either the Bachelors’s, Master’s, or Doctoral levels. Students who are active members of the American Criminal Justice Association are provided priority considerations when applying for available scholarship awards. Scholarships are awarded to those candidates who can demonstrate both faculty recommendations and a strong, ongoing academic performance.

Related Rankings:

Best Online Associate’s in Criminal Justice

Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice

Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice