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Criminal Justice Degrees and Programs

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, January 31, 2013

A criminal justice degree can lead to an exciting career that will bring you a new set of challenges each and every day. There are many different career options, so choosing the right criminal justice program and the right criminal justice degree are integral to your future. You may want to become a police officer or a forensic scientist, or pursue a more specialized career in Homeland Security or the FBI. Each position could require a different education path. Here is an overview of the criminal justice degrees and programs available and the potential careers they afford.

Criminal justice degrees

Criminal justice certificate
A certification in criminal justice can be earned from a variety of online schools and 2-year colleges. This equips you for entry-level positions in the criminal justice field, such as criminal justice technician or forensic nurse.

Associate degree
This degree takes approximately 60-credit hours to complete, and it is offered by many online schools as well as 2- and 4-year colleges. An associate degree in criminal justice can lead to careers in general criminal justice, corrections, law enforcement, Homeland Security, investigations, and private security. This is one of the most popular degrees, as it is the minimum requirement to be a police officer in many communities.

Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice is offered by both online schools and 4-year colleges. As noted, an associate degree qualifies students for general careers in criminal justice, including police officer. A bachelor's degree is not necessarily required to be a police officer, but it will definitely set you apart from other job candidates. This degree is required for most state and federal positions. It also has more specialized programs than an associate degree, and it opens more doors of opportunity. Other possible careers include criminal investigator, special agent, forensic specialist, probation officer, and airport, railroad, or TSA security among others.

Master's degree
A master's degree in criminal justice is a popular choice for people already working in the criminal justice field who want to further their careers. Attending an online school is a good way for working people to get their master's degrees in criminal justice. This degree can lead to careers in corrections management, disaster preparedness, Homeland Security, public administration, and forensic science.

Criminal justice programs

There are a variety of criminal justice programs available which lead to a specialized degree. By specializing, you are narrowing your prospects but increasing your marketability to employers. Here are some of the criminal justice programs available.

Certification programs:

  • Criminal Justice Technician
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Fire & Emergency Certification
  • Homeland Security Information Systems
  • Occupational Safety Certification

Associate degree programs:

  • General Criminal Justice
  • Corrections
  • Law Enforcement
  • Private Security
  • Homeland Security
  • Criminal Investigations

Bachelor's degree programs:

  • Corrections
  • Cybersecurity
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Fraud Examination
  • Crime Analysis
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Law Enforcement
  • Organizational Management and Security

Master's degree programs:

  • Corrections
  • Criminal Justice
  • Crime Analysis
  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Homeland Security Administration
  • Justice Administration
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Police Science

As with any degree, you will want to first decide what career you want to pursue, and then pursue the criminal justice degree that will allow you to reach that goal. It is a rewarding field and one that continues to grow year after year.

Colleges Offering Criminal Justice Programs
About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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