Those interested in careers in law enforcement, social work, criminology, and public safety should consider earning a criminal justice degree online. With a degree like this, you can pursue meaningful and necessary careers that make our communities safer and help bring healing to others.
We need individuals who are willing to keep the public safe, help crime victims heal, rehabilitate offenders, and maintain the social order. It’s true that several criminal justice careers require nuanced skills and knowledge. A criminal justice degree offers a general understanding of the field to prepare students for countless related careers.
Continue reading to learn more about a criminal justice degree program as well as the opportunities, salaries, and job outlook for those who pursue it.
What type of work can someone do with an online criminal justice degree?
There are a number of roles that someone with a criminal justice degree can pursue. Accordingly, here are some of the curricular topics one might be exposed to in a criminal justice degree program:
- Various organizational and operational elements related to law enforcement
- Methods of crime investigation and the application of forensics
- The growing and ever-more important field of cybersecurity
- The role social workers play in working with and helping crime victims
- An overview of various theories on crime as a form of deviant behavior within society (this might be offered through a criminology degree, which is closely related to a criminal justice degree)
- The effects of crime on the psychological and social level for victims, offenders, and the community at large
- The complex workings and development of the criminal justice system within the U.S.
- Widespread terrorism and counterterrorism activities
As a result, there are many career paths available to those with a criminal justice degree. Some of these careers may require additional experience and, in some cases, further education. Still, here are some popular careers for those with a criminal justice degree:
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Criminal Case Worker
- Cybersecurity Specialist
- FBI Agent
- Fish and Game Warden
- Forensic Scientist
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent
- Parole Officer
- Police Detective
- Police Officer
- Private Investigator
- Probation Officer
- Secret Service Agent
- Security Guard
- Social Worker
- U.S. Marshal
Do you want to protect your communities from danger and the possibility of crime? Would you like to apply deductive reasoning and logic in order to solve crimes? Are you interested in maintaining national security by working for an agency to combat terrorism?
Or do you want to help suffering victims find healing and assist reintegrating them into their communities? Are you passionate about defending those who can’t defend themselves in a court of law? Do you want to help rehabilitated offenders return to society in a productive and healthy way?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s worth considering a criminal justice degree program. Ultimately, the degree allows you to make a meaningful impact on the safety and health of our communities.
What are the requirements to enter an online criminal justice degree program?
As with any bachelor’s degree program, it’s necessary to have graduated from high school or earned a GED. The exact requirements will vary depending on the criminal justice program in which you are interested.
Aside from completing an application and having a high school diploma (or GED), some programs require previously-earned college credits. This is true if you’re transferring into a traditional undergraduate program or enrolling in a degree-completion program. Make sure to read all the requirements before applying by visiting the program website or speaking with a counselor.
Also, it’s important to have an interest and passion for the material covered in a criminal justice program. If little of the material interests you, then you likely won’t find a related career rewarding.
However, if one or more of these apply to you, then earning a criminal justice degree is worth considering:
- You are interested in the workings of the criminal justice and legal system in the U.S.
- You are interested in providing counseling and sympathetic aid to crime victims
- You are passionate about defending the innocent within a given community
- You like to apply critical thinking to solve problems with real-world implications
- You are interested in serving within a correctional facility and/or working with offenders to help them rehabilitate
Of course, there are many other reasons why you might be interested in pursuing a criminal justice degree. But the above list should at least give you a starting point.
Will a criminal justice degree program allow me to focus on a specific area?
Unlike business programs, for example, many criminal justice degree programs won’t necessarily offer various concentrations. Rather, programs will often allow you to take certain course electives in order to focus on a specific area of interest.
Therefore, you might opt to take more law-related courses if you want to enter the legal field after graduating. Or you may take more courses related to social work and victimology if you want to specifically aid victims.
It’s important to find out which courses are required for a program and which can be taken as electives. This way you can determine whether the offered curriculum aligns with your particular interests related to criminal justice.
How can I know if a criminal justice degree program is a good fit for me?
Again, it’s important to read the details of each program closely. You can ultimately walk away from a number of programs with a criminal justice degree. But your academic experience, and the specific skills and knowledge you gain, can vary from program to program.
Some programs may focus more on law enforcement practices, for example. Therefore, they may be a better fit for those interested in being a police officer, detective, or warden.
Other programs may focus more on victimology, social work, counseling, and other victim-focused practices. This might be a good program for someone interested in being a social worker, counselor, criminal caseworker, or paralegal.
Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the more practical and logistical aspects of criminal justice degree programs. Below are some questions to consider when looking at programs:
- Is there a specific area of criminal justice that you want to focus on?
- Does the school seem like a good cultural fit?
- Have you fulfilled the requirements for the programs you are interested in applying to?
- How expensive is the program?
- How are you planning to pay for it?
- What type of program is important to you (e.g. traditional, online, hybrid, etc.)?
- Do you have to attend a local school or could you relocate to attend a program?
- Will you need to attend a program that allows you to work full-time or part-time?
- What type of real-world experience do the professors in the program have?
- How long will the program take to complete?
Some criminal justice degree programs may offer courses that align with your career goals. Others might offer you more flexibility and leeway with your busy work schedule. And others may offer a more values-aligned or faith-based approach that is appealing to you.
As you’re considering these things, it’s usually worth reaching out to an admissions counselor or admissions advisor. They can help you solidify what types of programs make the most sense for you. And you can ask an admissions counselor or admissions advisor to connect you with a current student or professor to learn more.
What different program formats are available to earn a bachelor’s in criminal justice?
Full-Time Face-to-Face or Hybrid Programs
The most common program is a full-time face-to-face or hybrid program. Hybrid is a term within higher education that means the coursework entails both face-to-face and online instruction.
These programs can take four years if you’re starting in a traditional program without college credit. They can take less time if you enroll in an accelerated program or have previously earned college credit. Some fast-track criminal justice degree programs might even take you as few as 15 months to complete.
Part-Time Face-to-Face or Hybrid Programs
These programs require less class time per week and therefore are ideal for students with part-time or full-time jobs. They are also good for students with considerable family obligations as well. Since they require less class time per week, they do take longer to complete than a full-time program.
The exact length of the program will depend on how part-time it is (half-time versus three-quarter time, etc.). It also depends on how many previously-earned credits (if any) you can transfer. That’s why a program could take anywhere from two to six years to complete, possibly even longer.
An online criminal justice program is for students who want to earn a degree without physically attending class. While an online criminal justice program can be either full-time or part-time, it allows the most flexibility. It’s a popular choice for those with work and family responsibilities or those geographically limited.
For example, Central Christian College of Kansas offers an online criminal justice degree program that requires students to only take one course or more at a time. The program also lets students enroll at various times throughout the calendar year.
What is the job outlook for those with a criminal justice degree?
The degree offers the flexibility to pursue a number of criminal justice careers in several fields. Therefore, it allows for a solid job outlook since there are several career paths available.
Here are some of the career paths available to those with a criminal justice degree. Each listing includes a projected job growth rate between 2018 and 2028 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Police and Detectives: 5 percent - As fast as the average rate of job growth
- Social Workers: 11 percent - Much faster than average
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: 3 percent - Slower than average
- Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers: 4 percent - As fast as average
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants: 12 percent - Much faster than average
- Lawyers: 6 percent - As fast as average
- Forensic Science Technicians: 14 percent - Much faster than average
- Private Detectives and Investigators: 8 percent - Faster than average
- Correctional Officers and Bailiffs: -7 percent - Decline
As listed, the job growth depends on the specific career area. For instance, paralegals, legal assistants, and forensic science technicians enjoy above-average growth rates, whereas police officers, detectives, and security guards enjoy average growth rates.
What kind of salary can someone with a criminal justice degree expect?
Similar to growth rates, the median salary for careers available to those with a criminal justice degree will vary. Salaries can vary depending on years of experience, geographic location, and other factors.
Below are some available careers with median salaries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Police and Detectives: $65,170 per year
- Social Workers: $50,470 per year
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: $54,290 per year
- Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers: $29,710 per year
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants: $51,740 per year
- Lawyers: $122,960 per year
- Forensic Science Technicians: $59,150 per year
- Private Detectives and Investigators: $50,510 per year
- Correctional Officers and Bailiffs: $45,300 per year
What do some careers in criminal justice entail?
While there are many more careers in criminal justice than included here, below are some popular ones.
Police and Detectives
- Police officers are ultimately responsible for keeping communities safe. This can include handing out traffic tickets, completing case-related paperwork, and neutralizing criminals in high-risk situations.
- Detectives conduct extensive investigations, collect data, and apply critical thinking to help solve criminal cases.
Social workers help individuals live more integrated lives within their communities. They may help crime victims as well as individuals with other mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. They can help children and adults going through difficult life transitions (unemployment, loss of parents, etc.). Related to criminal justice specifically, they aid crime victims and offenders in living healthier and more productive lives.
Probation, Parole, and Correctional Officers
Probation, parole, and correctional officers each work directly with offenders.
- Probation officers work with those who haven’t been sentenced to prison but are on probation. They may be responsible for checking in on offenders and ensuring they are fulfilling their probationary terms.
- Parole officers have similar roles, though they work with those who have already been to prison. They help ensure offenders are integrating smoothly back into society and keeping their terms of parole. The terms of parole will vary depending on the specific case but may include not drinking alcohol, remaining in the state, etc.
- Corrections officers work within prisons and correctional facilities in order to ensure safety and maintain order with inmates.
Many entry-level security guard jobs do not require a bachelor’s in criminal justice. However, those with a degree can often move more quickly into management positions or roles with greater responsibilities. Security guards work to keep those at banks, malls, government buildings, schools and universities, and many other places safe.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers with an assortment of tasks to help facilitate legal and administrative processes. Some tasks include managing relationships between clients, interviewing witnesses, doing case-related research, and helping with court-related paperwork.
Forensic Science Technicians
Forensic science technicians play a vital role in criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing data. They may obtain data or samples from a crime scene and then present findings to detectives and police officers. Since they often work in a laboratory, a certain knowledge level of chemistry and biology is necessary.
Criminal Case Manager
Criminal case managers help facilitate the administrative process of handling criminal cases. They also help with integrating offenders back into society and the various administrative processes required to do so. They are often adept at managing multiple administrative tasks and facilitating relationships in order to meet various case-related goals.
What can I do next if I want to earn a criminal justice degree?
Are you ready to earn a criminal justice degree? If so, check out the Central Christian College of Kansas online criminal justice program. You can also connect with an admissions counselor to see if a criminal justice degree is right for you.
- What does a parole officer do?
- What Does a Criminal Case Manager Do?
- Why More Women Are Opting for a Degree in Criminal Justice
- Do Women pursue Law Enforcement Careers?
- Can You Be a Social Worker with a Criminal Justice Degree?
- Why Get an Online Criminal Justice Degree?
- What Can You Do With A Degree In Criminal Justice?
- Is Criminal Justice a Difficult Field to Enter?
- What are the Benefits of a Criminal Justice Degree vs. Law Degree?
- What are the Criminal Justice Careers Outside Policing?