Investigate the Hard Side of the Law: Criminal Justice

Earning a criminal justice degree will introduce one to a wide selection of specialties that include but not limited to crime prevention, law enforcement and the rehabilitation of senior and junior public offenders. As a major, a criminal justice degree studies crime and the enforcement of law through the United States legal system. In some cases, students may also be presented with an option to study and train as localized security specialists with a view to moving into homeland security. Those who earn a degree in criminal justice can expect to pursue careers as investigators at local, state and federal levels, forensic specialists or a plethora of positions within the legal system.

Criminal Justice Degree Information

Criminal Justice is the study of processes put in place by the government in order to prevent, deter and control crime. An effective criminal justice system is a prerequisite for a functional, free society. Without ways to regulate or reduce crime, laws would have little meaning and society would suffer. Criminal Justice agencies include law enforcement, the courts and the prison system. Those pursuing the Criminal Justice Degree have professed an interest in helping to manage crime or enforce the law. The practice of criminal justice can take a variety of forms, including service as a corrections officer or probation officer, the study of forensics or criminology, service as a police officer or detective, or work in security administration or immigration. Those interested in criminal justice on a Federal level may opt for a career in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Study Options

Students in the field of criminal justice can pursue an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice. When earned at an accredited college or university, this general degree will help students qualify for careers in the police force, law enforcement, security, corrections and other related fields. Students can opt for an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice, which will provide in-depth information on how law enforcement and law enforcement agencies such as correctional institutions and courts function. Students looking for a more challenging education in criminal justice than may be provided by the associate's degree may opt for a bachelor's in criminal justice. Successful completion of the course requirements for this degree prepares students for entry level positions in areas of law enforcement, such as probation and criminology.

Advanced Degrees

While a bachelorís in criminal justice can be rewarding and provide new and important insights into the criminal justice system, those pursuing a career in crime management or law enforcement will often wish to pursue a higher degree in criminal justice.

Master of Science

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice provides specialized knowledge in law enforcement, training students in the scientific aspects of criminal justice such as the law, history of law enforcement, sociological underpinnings of crime, psychology of crime and crime management. Those who receive this degree will be well-suited for careers in crime prevention and criminal investigation.

Master of Arts

The Master of Arts in Criminal Justice is one of the best segues from a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. Students can advance their studies of the criminal justice system, from the courts to the prisons to legal policy. The Master of Arts in Criminal Justice is also a popular choice for existing law enforcement personnel, criminal lawyers, corrections officers and court administrators looking to expand their knowledge base and do their jobs more effectively.

Further Education

To get the best career in criminal justice that you can, further education may be required. For example, a police officer will have to attend classes at the police academy and a forensic psychologist will need to do all the course work required to obtain a psychology doctoral degree. A secret service agent or federal investigator must undergo a battery of tests and exams in addition to specialized federal law enforcement training. Lawyers and judges must attend law school. A background in criminal justice will not only make continuing your education easier, it may also be a prerequisite for the career path you wish to pursue. An accredited criminal justice degree from a quality institution simply gives individuals more options in their chosen field.

Choosing A Degree

High school students looking for a fresh and rewarding career opportunity may well turn to the field of criminal justice. Those who study criminal justice will receive information on a wide variety of topics related to our legal system. Students will learn the causes of crime and delinquency in society, studying the factors that lead to increased crime. They will study the nature of the law and how it applies in contemporary society, including the inner workings of the court system. Advanced crime solving techniques, such as criminology and forensics, are other possible areas of study.

Career Opportunities

Those who graduate with criminal justice degrees will have the background to pursue careers as police officers, detectives, security personnel, criminologists and even lawyers and judges. However, these options are just a few of the possibilities open to criminal justice professionals. Degree recipients in criminal justice may also pursue careers as crime scene investigators, forensic psychologists, ATF agents, CIA agents, corrections officers, sheriffs, marshals, even DEA agents and INS agents. The criminal justice degree may not be a sufficient condition for these occupations, but they provide a solid foundation for a future career in one of these areas.

Earning Potential

The average criminology professor earns around $86,000 per year. The average forensic psychologist earns between $38,000 and $68,000 annually. Median salaries for police officers are in the neighborhood of $46,000 a year. Private investigators make in the neighborhood of $50,000 and corrections officers earn an average salary of $35,000 a year.

Getting Your Degree Online

Earning a criminal justice degree through a distance learning program online is perfect for those who have been out of school for some time and/or are already working at a full time job. Continuing education at a physical college or university can be too much of a burden for those with fully active lives. A criminal justice degree from an accredited online institution can carry the same weight as an offline degree, but can be done on oneís own time, without worrying about scheduling personal obligations around pre-set class times.

Getting Your Degree Offline

Those who do choose to earn a degree from a brick and mortar institution should take the time to find the school with the best criminal justice program they can find. Some schools focus more on their criminal justice departments than others, and different programs offer different emphases. Since you may be spending two to four years or more at your institution, researching schools and finding the top school you can is of paramount importance. Students in criminal justice will need to do meticulous academic research. In addition to studying existing material, they will need to apply what they are learning to research subjects in subjects of their own design. Students will require access to a variety of research tools to facilitate evaluation of criminal justice structures and techniques.

Criminal Justice Degree FAQs

Do I Need a Degree to Work in Criminal Justice?

Jobs in criminal justice almost always required a bachelor's degree in the subject. Some career options within the realm of criminal justice, such as paralegal studies, only need an associate's degree or two-year program from an accredited school or college.

Other jobs, such as detectives or police officers, can start by attending police academy and taking a combination of college classes. For higher level work in the FBI or another federal agency, you will need a bachelor's degree or higher, as well as another degree or minor in computer science or information technology.

What Are the Requirements for Acceptance Into a Criminal Justice Degree Program?

Any accredited college or university offering criminal justice degrees will require students to have a high school diploma or graduation equivalent. Other qualifications, such as fluency in a second language or physical fitness, are also taken into consideration.

Advanced degrees in criminal justice require a four-year degree with top grades in criminal justices studies and related fields like psychology. Get in touch with the admissions office at the college or university's degree program where you have an interest.

What Topics Are Covered in Criminal Justice Degree Programs?

Criminal justice degree programs cover an array of studies within law and government. Most of these classes are within the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, criminology and so forth. Other classes will cover basic procedures for varying aspects of law enforcement, such as trials, investigations, forensics, parole and probation.

What Careers Are Available in Criminal Justice?

The class work for criminal justice degrees prepares students for careers in law enforcement, correctional institutions, courtrooms and federal agencies. Graduates from criminal justice programs go on to work in local police departments, state and federal courtrooms, prisons, the FBI and other government agencies. Another option is to head to law school, as a criminal justice background can prove quite handy.

What Is Required of Someone Who Works in Criminal Justice?

A career in criminal justice can be rewarding and stimulating, yet extremely rigorous with demanding hours and work. Individuals considering careers in criminal justice should be driven, organized and ready for a challenge, as well as logical thinkers cognizant of the dangers involved in many positions that criminal justice studies prepares for, such as law enforcement.

What Kinds of Salary Can I Expect From a Career in Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice includes many different professions. The median salary for police officers is approximately $46,000 a year, depending on experience and location. Top Private investigators can earn around $50,000 a year, whereas correction officers earn about $35,000 annually.

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