What is a Criminal Justice Degree?

A Criminal Justice degree opens the door to a rewarding and flexible career in law enforcement, non-profit work or in federal employment. Before you decide if criminal justice is the field for you, it’s important to know what you’ll learn in school and what opportunities you’ll get with your degree.

Criminal Justice Degree Courses

You can earn an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice. No matter what degree you pursue, you’ll need to master the same general subjects. English is an important component of your degree program; almost any criminal justice job will require strong writing skills. Of course, you’ll study criminology and sociology to understand the academic theories on crime and social deviance. Classes that focus on race are common for criminal justice students in America. Many programs require you intern at a law office or police station or in a courtroom. Your program might also contain skills-oriented courses like First Aid or Modern Police Tactics.

Can You Work and Go To School?

Working during college is a great way to cut down on student loans and beef up your resume. Criminal justice programs are often tailored to working students; you can take many classes online or in the evenings. In many cases, you can even get college credit for your job, and some universities like to employ criminal justice students as police cadets or security guards. While you may need to take a lighter course load than your unemployed classmates, you’ll graduate with a much better chance of finding a full-time job. A criminal justice degree is also a good choice for former military.

Do You Need a Graduate Degree to Get a Job in Criminal Justice?

If school is not your passion, then criminal justice could be a good field for you. Criminal justice degrees feature hands-on classes and interesting topics. Plus, you can start working in the field with just an associate’s degree. Many law enforcement jobs, including conservation officers, police officers, prison guards and parole officer do not require a bachelor’s degree. However, you often earn additional money with an advanced education, and higher-level jobs in administration require higher levels of schooling. If your ultimate goal is to become a lawyer or work for the federal government, you will need a bachelor’s degree and graduate education to fulfill your career goals. Keep in mind that many students start with a two-year degree and enter the workforce before continuing their education as a way to save money.

Where You’ll Work

With a criminal justice degree, you’ll be qualified to work in a variety of fields. You can work as a secret agent for the federal government, as a public speaker for a non-profit that fights drug abuse or as a police officer. If you earn a bachelor’s in criminal justice, you can work in management or policy design. Whether you earn an associate’s or a doctorate, you can count on a wide selection of jobs.

If you want a boring desk job or an unstable career, criminal justice is not the right choice for you. However, if you’re ready for a physically active, exciting job making your community a better place, consider getting your criminal justice degree.