Criminal Justice Degree

Why a Criminal Justice Degree?

Criminal justice is an important component of environmental protection. Criminal justice professionals enforce environmental laws and investigate related crimes. For example, certain employees of the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have criminal justice degrees. This credential can also prepare you for a career in law enforcement with the U.S. National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and state agencies.

Criminal Justice Certificate Programs

Undergraduate certificate programs typically provide the minimum education required to prepare students for entry-level careers. They cover the processes of the criminal justice system and the basics of policing. They can stand on their own, or count toward a full bachelor's degree. Most certificate programs are offered by community colleges. Because they are less involved and take a shorter time to complete than bachelor's degrees, many are offered online.

What are the education costs associated with earning an undergraduate certificate in criminal justice?

The amount of money you'll spend depends on several factors, including the school you choose and the length of the program. Undergraduate certificate programs may require anywhere from 3-14 courses. You could spend anywhere from about $800 for a three-course certificate at a local community college to $9,000 or more for a more extensive program at a private college. Some schools offer grants that reduce tuition for former military personnel and their spouses.

What are the entry requirements for undergraduate certificate programs in criminal justice?

Applicants typically need to have a high school diploma or GED.

What coursework is required by undergraduate certificate programs in criminal justice?

While programs can require up to 14 courses, most are much shorter three-course certificates. Coursework typically includes a foundational course in criminal justice, as well as more in-depth courses on the court system, policing, and prisons. Some programs include courses on sociology and terrorism.

What are my employment options with an undergraduate certificate in criminal justice?

Students who have completed certificate programs find entry-level work in law enforcement, the courts system, corrections, and juvenile justice. Some become caseworkers or probation officers.

School Spotlight

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester offers a broad-based online certificate in Law & Legal Process. The program goes beyond basic criminology and law enforcement to include coursework on judicial administration, the American legal tradition, business law, forensic law, politics, and state and local government. On its own, the credential prepares working professionals for career advancement. It can also be transferred to an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Anne Arundel Community College - Maryland

Anne Arundel Community College grants a Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice Certificate designed for current criminal justice professionals. Students take required courses in criminal justice, penology, criminal law, terrorism, and homeland security. In addition to the generalized certificate, students can choose from three options. Graduates who complete the 42-credit Police Option will be provisionally certified by the Maryland Police Training Commission and qualified to work as Maryland police officers. The Investigator Option prepares students to work as investigators in various disciplines and settings. The Law Enforcement Evidence Technician Option deals with forensics, and prepares students for careers as laboratory assistants.

Criminal Justice Associate's Degrees

The criminal justice coursework offered by associate's degree programs is typically similar to that of undergraduate certificate programs. However, associate's programs also include general education requirements. While they take longer to complete, associate's degrees are low-cost credentials that give students an edge in the job market, and can also transfer to full bachelor's programs. Many community colleges across the country grant associate's degrees in criminal justice.

What are the education costs associated with earning an associate's degree in criminal justice?

You'll need to complete a total of about 60 credits. Since two-year colleges typically charge in-district students about $110 in tuition and fees per credit hour, the average degree will cost about $6,600.

What are the entry requirements for associate's degree programs in criminal justice?

Applicants to two-year programs in criminal justice need to have a high school diploma or GED.

What coursework is required for a criminal justice associate's degree?

Coursework generally includes an introduction to the criminal justice system, as well as more in-depth courses on policing, corrections, and the court system. Students must also take required courses in math, science, and the liberal arts.

What are my employment options with an associate's degree in criminal justice?

While many jobs in criminal justice do not require an associate's degree, earning one can help advance your career. Applicants to police academies and law enforcement jobs who have associate's degrees many receive extra points in some states. An A.S. may also qualify you for higher-paying jobs.

School Spotlight

Washburn University - Kansas

Washburn University administers an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice. The program includes major area coursework in criminal justice, law enforcement, public and private safety, criminal law, investigation, criminology, and legal terminology. Students choose from electives in forensic science, the judicial process, crime prevention, legal issues, firearm decision-making, fire investigation, security technology, and administration. The program focuses on developing communication skills for criminal justice, analytical skills, and a solid background in criminal justice theory. The school's Criminal Justice Association for students gathers to discuss educational and professional issues, and participate in campus events. Department faculty members are also active in the Kansas Correctional Association.

Criminal Justice Undergraduate Programs

Bachelor's degree programs cover criminal justice in greater depth and may offer specializations. They also involve general education courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Typical coursework includes corrections (rehabilitation and punishment), criminology (motivations for criminal behavior), the workings of the justice system, and the principles of law enforcement. Bachelor's programs take longer to complete than certificate programs, but offer a broader education. These programs are widespread throughout the country.

What are the education costs associated with earning a criminal justice bachelor's degree?

The cost of your degree will depend heavily on the school you choose. In-state students pay an average of $9,139 per year in tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, while out-of-state students pay nearly $23,000. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice from a private college costs approximately $31,231 per year.

What are the entry requirements for undergraduate programs in criminal justice?

Applicants to bachelor's programs in criminal justice must be high school graduates, or have completed a GED. SAT scores are typically required.

What coursework is required for a criminal justice bachelor's degree?

Undergraduate programs cover fundamental concepts in criminology, as well as law, policing, police administration, corrections, security, juvenile justice, alternatives to incarceration, and ethics. They may offer specializations in these areas. Some programs teach basic research skills for social science. Students must also complete general education courses in the liberal arts and sciences.

What are my employment options with an undergraduate degree in criminal justice?

A full bachelor's degree in criminal justice can qualify you for promotions and higher-level positions in police administration, crime prevention, security management, and court administration.

School Spotlight

Indiana University

Indiana University offers a liberal arts-based Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs with a concentration in Criminal Justice. The program provides a strong foundation in public policy. Students gain an understanding of the origins of law and the legal process, and learn how to apply quantitative methods to public policy issues. All students take foundational courses in criminal justice, environmental law, health services, and public affairs. For example, all public policy students take People and Environment, which explores issues such as population, pollution, and natural resources.

Students also take classes in public sector management, finance, and budgeting. In addition to the criminal justice major, tracks in environmental policy, health services administration, legal studies, and public management are also available. Students interested in the environment may choose to complement their coursework with classes from the environmental policy track. A variety of flexible internship options is available.

Florida International University

Florida International University in Miami grants a nationally-recognized Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. The program covers procedures in the criminal justice system, criminological theory, constitutional and legal issues, terrorism, public policy, and research methods. Students can also choose to complete six credit hours of internships. The Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs has received millions of dollars in funding through its Center for the Administration of Justice.

Online Programs

Pennsylvania State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that has been certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. The program covers both the practical and theoretical aspects of criminal justice. It introduces students to law, policing, and security, as well as professional ethics. Students also take classes in courts and the prosecution process, border security, professional ethics, sociology, security and policy administration, and sociological research methods.

Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice

Post-baccalaureate certificates in this discipline provide an opportunity to update skills, without investing in a full graduate program. They typically require four courses and can sometimes be completed in less than a year. This option is well-suited for those who don't wish to conduct research or complete a thesis. Alternatively, they can be short-term credentials that give candidates upward mobility while finishing a full master's degree. Coursework typically includes policing and criminology. Graduate certificate programs may also include coursework in the departments' areas of specialty, such as forensic science or juvenile justice.

What are the education costs associated with earning a criminal justice graduate certificate?

The cost of a graduate certificate is difficult to estimate. While students typically pay more for graduate-level courses, criminal justice degrees can be less expensive than other degrees. A typical four-course (12 credit) graduate certificate program in criminal justice may cost anywhere from $1,000-$11,000 at a public college and up to $25,000 per year at private institutions.

What are the entry requirements for graduate certificate programs in criminal justice?

Applicants to post-baccalaureate certificate programs need to have a bachelor's degree, usually from an accredited institution. Some schools have a minimum GPA requirement.

What coursework is required for a criminal justice graduate certificate?

Coursework typically covers policing and criminology. Graduate certificate programs may also include coursework in the faculty's areas of specialty, such as forensic science or juvenile justice. Students may also learn research methods and statistics that they can apply to their work in higher-level positions.

What are my employment options with a graduate certificate in criminal justice?

Students who have completed a graduate certificate program will be prepared to advance into managerial positions in the criminal justice field.

School Spotlight

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University at Commerce offers an undergraduate Criminal Justice Management Certificate. Students take four of the following courses: Seminar in Policing and Law Enforcement; Seminar in Criminology; Criminal Law and the Courts; Seminar in Corrections; and Special Topics courses. Each of these courses is offered online. The coursework develops an understanding of criminal behavior and motivation, criminal law, police management, policy, and correctional settings. Anyone with a bachelor's degree from an accredited university can apply to the certificate program. Once completed, the credits earned count toward a Master of Science in Applied Criminology (MSAC) at Texas A&M.

Capella Univrsity

Capella University, a regionally-accredited school, administers an online post-baccalaureate Criminal Justice Certificate. There are four required courses: The Juvenile Justice System, Criminal Justice Policy Analysis and Social Change, Law Enforcement: Intelligence-Led Policing, and Psychopathy and Criminal Profiling. Students may take up to three of these at once. Applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree in any area from an accredited institution.

Master's Degrees in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is a popular degree program, and there is no shortage of options for students who wish to pursue a master's degree. While some master's degrees are intended to help graduates attain higher-level positions in applied criminology, more traditional graduate programs prepare students for doctoral studies by focusing on research skills.

What are the education costs associated with earning a criminal justice master's degree?

The average cost of a master's degree in criminal justice can run anywhere from $11,000 per year at a public college ($916 per credit hour) to $25,000 per year ($2,083 per credit hour) at private institutions. Five-year combined bachelor's and master's programs are an excellent option for earning a master's degree while paying only one year's worth of additional tuition.

What are the entry requirements for graduate programs in criminal justice?

Applicants typically need a bachelor's degree in any field, a minimum undergraduate grade point average, and acceptable GRE scores.

What coursework is required for a criminal justice master's degree?

Courses emphasize criminological theory, management, decision-making, leadership skills, crime analysis, and collaboration with other public agencies. Many programs also include coursework in forensics.

What are my employment options with a master's degree in criminal justice?

Graduates find employment at federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Park Service. Some graduates go on to law school or Ph.D. programs.

School Spotlight

Washington State University

Washington State University offers a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. Students can pursue the conventional track, or a track with an additional Certificate in Global Justice and Security. The conventional track involves nine courses, including core courses in criminological theory, research methods, quantitative methods, and criminal justice processes and institutions. Students can take two electives from any relevant program, with departmental permission.

The certificate track integrates political science to address security issues within their global context. The additional certificate is only available to students in the full M.A. program. Students of either track must submit a master's writing portfolio to their advisors and the graduate school. Teaching and research opportunities are available, but not required. While most graduates go on to applied work in criminal justice, the M.A. also provides a solid foundation for doctoral studies.

University of Nebraska

The University of Nebraska Omaha grants a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice through on-campus, online, and blended formats. This non-thesis program is a professional degree designed to help criminal justice professionals expand their knowledge and skills and qualify for promotions. Coursework includes theories of crime, biosocial criminology, victimization, corrections, statistical methods, and biosocial criminology, an interdisciplinary approach that an interdisciplinary field that explores criminal behavior from a biological and environmental perspective. Students must conduct independent research and write a professional report similar to those created by criminal justice agencies.

Doctoral Programs in Criminal Justice

Ph.D. programs focus on disciplinary theory and research methods to prepare candidates for employment at public policy research centers, colleges, and universities.

What are the education costs associated with earning a doctorate in criminal justice?

The cost of a doctorate in criminal justice will depend on which school you choose. Most Ph.D. programs require 60 credits, which can amount to a total of $55,000 at a public college and $125,000 at a private university.

What are the entry requirements for Ph.D. programs in criminal justice?

Applicants must have earned at least a bachelor's degree. Some programs may require a master's degree. Some programs only accept applicants with lower-level degrees in criminal justice, and those with work experience in the field.

What coursework is required for a criminal justice doctorate?

Coursework emphasizes criminological theory, policy, statistics, and research methods. Through coursework and research, students develop an in-depth specialization in a particular area of criminal justice. Candidates must to pass a qualifying exam and successfully defend a dissertation before they are granted their doctorate.

What are my employment options with a doctoral degree in criminal justice?

Graduates with a Ph.D. in criminal justice typically fill research positions at public policy centers, or become faculty at colleges and universities.

School Spotlight

Rutgers University - New Jersey

Rutgers University grants a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice. Students take seven required courses in criminal justice theory, policy, statistics, and research methods, as well as seven elective courses. With departmental permission, the electives may be from other graduate-level programs, such as Rutgers' Department of Environmental Science. Candidates develop expertise in a particular specialization within the field. They also must attend seminars, colloquia, and conferences to begin networking and making professional contacts in the field.

Employment

Graduates interested in environmental crimes find work as fish and game wardens, park police, and criminal investigators at federal and state agencies, such as the EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A few work as wildlife forensic science technicians who study evidence from wildlife crimes.

Jobs for police officers and detectives are projected to grow slowly over the next several years. The same is true of forensic science technicians. Since wildlife forensic science is a relatively new and very small field, the number of new jobs will be limited. Demand for fish and game wardens will also see little or no change in the coming years. Opportunities in this area will depend largely on government funding.

Skills You'll Develop Studying Criminal Justice

  • Speaking - Police officers, probation officers, and rangers develop oral communication skills so they can effectively convey information to citizens.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Workers in the criminal justice system must be aware of the behavior of others and understand the reasons for these behaviors.
  • Problem Sensitivity - Knowing when something is wrong, or when a situation will likely get out of hand, is critical to this line of work.
  • Deductive Reasoning - Criminal justice professionals need to apply general rules to specific problems.
  • Inductive Reasoning - Crime analysts must be able to generalize patterns and rules, based on various pieces of information.
  • Critical Thinking - Higher-level positions in this criminal justice require the ability to use logic and reasoning to evaluate alternative approaches to problems.

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