The criminal justice system is essential to a society where people feel safe and are treated fairly. A degree in criminal justice teaches how the components of the justice system work together, increases diversity awareness and ethical decision making, develops strong critical thinking abilities and enables you to apply theories and research to real-world problems.
What is a Criminal Justice Degree?
There are several types of Criminal Justice degrees, including undergraduate-level associate or bachelor’s degrees and graduate-level master’s and doctoral degrees.
Most accredited colleges and universities will require students to take introductory courses on policing, corrections, crime and violence, law and politics to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. In addition to completing criminal justice-specific studies, undergraduate programs require students to fulfill core course requirements in the social sciences, humanities, science and math. Earning a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice provides the foundation to pursue graduate-level education. This can include law school or a Masters in Criminal Justice or Security Studies.
A master’s degree is essentially an extension of the bachelor’s degree, but it provides a curriculum focused on criminal justice topics without requiring core course requirements in other disciplines. Master’s programs prepare students for advanced research instead of emphasizing practical skills. Additionally, a master’s degree will prepare students for entry into doctoral programs.
Doctoral degrees in Criminal Justice are theoretically grounded, methodologically sophisticated, rigorous programs of study that require students to be competent researchers. Upon degree completion, doctoral holders will possess the knowledge and ability to teach criminal justice and security studies at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
Criminal Justice vs. Criminology
Criminal Justice studies the justice system, which includes laws and agencies such as the police, lawyers, courts and prisons. By contrast, Criminology is the study of crime and criminals. A degree in Criminal Justice will prepare you to work on the front lines, whereas a degree in Criminology concerns profiling and researching illegal activity.
Careers in Criminal Justice
The criminal justice field offers a wide range of career options in corrections, law and policing. Some criminal justice careers do not require a degree but advancing your education can lead to jobs with higher pay. With a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, you will develop skills that help you get jobs in many different criminal justice-related fields, including:
Corrections officers work in correctional facilities such as prisons, jails, and detention centers, to enforce regulations and keep those in custody safe. Many states and the federal jobs require a bachelor’s degree to become a correctional officer.
Court clerks work for the local or federal government to help prepare the court for judges and keep records for the court. They also do data entry and assist the public.
A paralegal assists lawyers in conducting research. Paralegals also help lawyers prepare for trials and draft and organize documents. There is a growing demand for paralegals nationwide.
Probation officers support criminal offenders who have completed their sentences. They work with the court, law enforcement and individuals to support the offender’s transition back to society. Probation officers meet with offenders regularly to ensure they fulfill their probation rules.
An intelligence analyst is responsible for analyzing large amounts of data to help provide information about security threats. Typically, they work for the government and require high computer and data analysis skills and strong research skills. The average salary for an Intelligence Analyst is $72k.
Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?
Understanding how the criminal justice system works will help you achieve and advance your career goals. Your vast knowledge of the criminal justice system will help protect citizens and manage offenders in an impactful way.