One of the most popular degrees in current times is criminal justice. A slew of television shows have glorified this profession and while reality may not be as glossy as what you see on the television, a career in criminal justice can be an exciting one because it allows you to exercise your brains and spirit.
A criminal justice degree teaches you about crime and criminals. You will learn to investigate and catch criminals. The three main branches in criminal justice include law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Criminal justice is often confused with criminology which is more about why crimes are committed and what their impact is on society and revenue.
With a degree in criminal justice, you can explore a range of jobs such as crime scene investigator, forensic science technician, correctional counselor, FBI agents, paralegal, and police detectives. Essentially, your work would involve dealing with crimes and criminals. Criminology informs your work in criminal justice though it is a different discipline.
As with all education programs, criminal justice degrees are available in various levels including non-degree programs. They give you the opportunity to specialize in specific areas of interests such as forensic science, cybersecurity, and legal nursing. Before choosing a degree, it is important to learn more about the regional and national accreditations to ensure that they are valid and allow you to practice your career.
You can obtain a certificate in criminal justice by completing a specialized training program which will prepare you to take on jobs such as crime scene photography or patrolling. It is a good way to get entry-level jobs in the field in a specific area of specialization.
An associate degree in criminal justice opens up opportunities to build a career in criminal justice in roles such as police officer, border patrol officers, corrections officer, and paralegal. The degree will provide you with a foundational knowledge of the criminal justice systems, policies, and theories. It is a 60-credit program and is two years long.
A bachelor’s degree program is often considered as a minimum degree by many criminal justice agencies. It requires 120 credits and it is a four-year program. It will prepare you for higher degrees and specializations in criminal justice. The degree is available in arts and science, with the latter leaning toward scientific methodologies. Some of the subjects that a bachelor’s degree will cover are an introduction to criminal justice and security management. You will learn about criminal procedure and investigation, as well as administration in correctional and law enforcement centers. Specific areas of crime such as juvenile delinquency and drugs are a part of the curriculum. You may also get the opportunity to complete research work.
A master’s degree in criminal justice covers 30 credits and it is generally a year long. At the master’s level, you will go deeper into policies, training, and management. It will prepare you for leadership roles and roles in higher administrative offices. The course will cover subjects such as data analysis, planning and evaluation of programs, and theory and practice. Similar to the bachelor’s degree, you can opt for either a Master of Arts or a Master of Science in Criminal Justice depending on whether you are interested in the social or technical aspects of criminal justice.
If you are interested in research and teaching, a doctorate degree in criminal justice will prepare you for a career in those areas. You will get to explore social justice, ethics, and prison reform. Courses that could be part of a doctorate degree study are public policy with regards to terrorism, contemporary issues in criminal justice, criminology, and policy an analysis.
Depending on your personal interests, you can decide on the right degree and specialization. The higher the degree, you can count on higher pay. With specialization, you can position yourself as an expert in your field, which will open up opportunities for career growth in criminal justice.