What Is a Criminal Justice Degree?
You can complete a degree for work in the criminal justice field at the undergraduate and graduate levels. An associate degree can be an introduction to criminal justice, the first step to an entry-level position, or a segue to more advanced education. A bachelor's degree can help prepare you for a career in law enforcement and public safety as a police officer, private security, corrections officer, bailiff, parole or probation officer, or in victim advocacy. A master's degree can help prepare you for a career in public administration, Homeland Security or other federal law enforcement agencies, criminal law, or advanced leadership roles within the justice system. In addition, you can specialize by selecting a concentration within each degree path to hone your skills to focus on a specific criminal justice career path.
Criminal Justice Degree Program Requirements
Each school and program has specific requirements to meet to successfully enroll in and graduate from a criminal justice degree program. If you can't meet these enrollment or degree requirements, it can cause delays in starting and finishing a program. Therefore, it helps to have everything dialed in to avoid any unnecessary delays.
Admission requirements may vary slightly from school to school. However, it can help to gather as much information as possible regarding your work and school history before starting the enrollment process to ensure you have everything you may need.
Graduation Requirements by Degree Level
Criminal Justice Classes
Criminal justice degree coursework supports industry expectations of what professionals need to succeed in their careers. While course titles may change across programs and schools, learning outcomes and goals are similar. Courses between associate, bachelor's, and master's programs also vary in complexity because graduate coursework prepares students for more advanced leadership roles within the criminal justice system.
Examples of Associate and Bachelor's Degree Criminal Justice Courses
Examples of Master's Degree Criminal Justice Courses
Criminal Justice Specializations
When planning for your career, it can help to choose a concentration within a criminal justice degree program. A concentration is different from a minor because while a minor can be in any subject, a concentration is within the same discipline as the major. By choosing a concentration, you'll acquire job-specific knowledge and skills that can help you become a subject matter expert and more competitive in the job market. It usually takes approximately 15 credit hours to fulfill concentration requirements.
Common Criminal Justice Degree Concentrations
Core Skills Developed in a Criminal Justice Program
There are two types of skills needed to perform almost any job: soft skills and hard or technical skills. Soft skills can't be taught in school and develop from our personality, attitude, work ethic, and personal experiences. They include how we interact with others, approach our work, and think. Hard or technical skills can be learned in school, and proficiency with these skills is measurable.
Employers often find soft skills more valuable because they influence your interactions with others, how easily you can learn new things, and how well you may do your job. In addition, these skills may give you a competitive edge.
Criminal justice majors bring a balance of both soft and hard or technical skills to their occupation. The skills can be interdependent. For example, you can't successfully present report findings to a large audience if you don't have strong communication skills. One set of skills may enable you to cultivate the other.
- Active listening
- Analytical thinking
- Attention to detail
- Critical thinking
- Ethical leadership
- Problem solving
- Written and oral communication
- Adherence to safety standards
- Computer literacy
- Conducting criminal investigations
- Forensics and criminology
- Interviewing and interrogation
- Law and ethics
- Presentation skills
- Project management
- Report writing
- Research methods
- Social justice
- Theories and practice
Still Have Questions?
The decision to enroll in a criminal justice program can be overwhelming, and you may still have questions. A program advisor at the school you are interested in attending should be able to answer any other questions you may have. You can also see what others think of the schools and programs you are interested in attending by checking out student reviews or connecting with current students and alumni through professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. You may be able to learn what it's like to complete these degree programs and what career options may be available to you from the invaluable experience of others.