Why Pursue a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Why Pursue a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Policewoman standing next to prowler
Policewoman standing next to prowler

Enrolling in one of the best online criminal justice degree programs helps you boost your career as you serve the public. A quality online criminal justice program can build on your experiences, skills, and desire to protect your community. You can develop the tools necessary for 21st century policing through an online criminal justice degree program that is built on a blend of foundational and progressive principles from Central Christian College of Kansas.

If you are a law enforcement professional, you have already shown the mettle required to keep your community safe. Pursuing the best online criminal justice degree expands your possibilities while meeting the needs of an ever-changing field. You can rise through the ranks of your department, move into state or federal law enforcement, or specialize elsewhere in criminal justice.

A good question before selecting one of the best online criminal justice degree programs is how this degree enriches your career. An associate or bachelor’s degree dives deeply into topics that may not be covered during on-the-job training. After graduation, you will be prepared to meet the growing expectations of the criminal justice field.

“A degree in Criminal Justice affords a student to become a force of good in their respective communities,” Tom Greco, Director of the CCCK Criminal Justice Online Program, said. “Criminal justice offers you the ability to use your skills and strength for good, whether through aiding victims of crime, counseling and rehabilitating criminals, or overseeing the progress of a parolee.”

Anticipating Education Requirements in the Field

The Police Foundation and California State University, Fullerton studied education requirements in U.S. law enforcement agencies. This survey concluded that 81.5% of agencies require high school diplomas at the time of hiring entry-level officers. Law enforcement agencies were much less likely to require associate (10.5%) or bachelor’s (1.3%) degrees for these positions.

High school degrees might be the entry point today, but the trend is that growing numbers of law enforcement professionals possess college degrees. The Police Foundation determined that:

  • 51.8% of law enforcement professionals held two-year degrees; 
  • 30.2% of law enforcement professionals held four-year degrees; 
  • 5.4% of law enforcement professionals held graduate degrees. 

The best online criminal justice degree programs place you ahead of departmental hiring changes. Successive generations of college-educated professionals will raise expectations for law enforcement jobs down the road.

Departmental leaders also consider criminal justice degrees as assets when hiring high-level positions. Surveyed law enforcement agencies required associate or bachelor degrees for:

  • Police chiefs (44.1%)
  • Command staff (36.5%)
  • Lieutenants (28.1%)
  • Sergeants (20.5%)

Your current employer may also incentivize pursuing an online criminal justice degree. The Police Foundation found 55.8% of agencies provide financial incentives including tuition assistance and educational pay for college-educated employees.

A criminal justice degree opens career paths that may not be available, or take longer, for those with only a high school degree. A few years of college courses can create a shortcut to better pay and promotions. Law enforcement professionals with bachelor’s degrees earn up to 7.4% more per year than their high school-educated colleagues.

The Police Foundation explored the advantages of college education for law enforcement professionals. Supervisors cited enhanced report writing (61.6%) and technological knowledge (46.1%) as reasons they valued college-educated officers. Finding the best online criminal justice degree program can supercharge the skills you’ve been practicing for years.

Supplementing Police Academy Learning

New officers are placed in weeks of training called police academy. These training sessions focus on the essential skills needed for daily police work. For example, the United States Capitol Police covers topics ranging from arrest techniques to interviewing in its 13-week academy.

A 2019 study, called “New Directions in Police Academy Training: A Call to Action,” found that law enforcement professionals need supplemental training beyond police academy training, to psychological skills, wellness and relationship management. Researchers calculated that the average academy class spends 840 hours on training before reaching the field. Categories of learning in the academy include:

  • 213 hours of operations; 
  • 168 hours of firearms and self-defense;
  • 89 hours of stress management and self-improvement; 
  • 86 hours of legal education; 
  • 10 hours of mental illness training. 

This research found gaps in teamwork, decision making, and adaptability development. Law enforcement professionals looking for work in other states run into the problem of varying training standards. An early-career professional may need additional training to bridge previous academy training with new job standards.

The best online criminal justice degree programs demonstrate the portability of your skills no matter your location. A quality criminal justice program develops a depth of knowledge that often exceeds departmental standards. Your degree plus your professional experience also open career paths for a variety of options in the criminal justice field.

policeman in utility belt

Raising Your Career Ceiling with one of the Best Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

A criminal justice associates degree online or criminal justice bachelors degree online creates opportunities beyond your current track. These opportunities can take you from the field to the courtroom, correction facility, or lab.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated job growth from 2018 to 2028 in a variety of criminal justice careers. Occupations that equaled or exceeded the 5% job growth mark across all jobs included:

You can also use your knowledge by enrolling in one of the best online criminal justice degree programs to seek promotions in your current department. Law enforcement agencies — like other public service positions — use various grades and salary steps for personnel. Your associate or bachelor’s degree creates  an accelerated trajectory to your career goals.

Boosting Prospects in Your Current Job

We’ll use the pay scale offered to Kansas City Police Department officers to illustrate the magnifying power of a degree. The base salary for a patrol officer ranges from $45,319 in the first year to $79,198 after 19 years. Monthly longevity pay added to the salary starts at $46.03 after five years and caps at $194.88 after 19 years.

The department provides monthly college incentive payments to officers with college credits. This scale includes:

  • $50 for officers with 12 credit hours completed; 
  • $100 for officers with associate degrees; 
  • $125 for officers with bachelor degrees.

An online criminal justice degree also provides theoretical grounding to become a specialist. Kansas City Police Department offers monthly specialist incentives like:

  • $30 for CSI specialists; 
  • $75 for bomb technicians; 
  • $100 for undercover officers; 
  • $250 for training officers.

These incentives are typical for modern police departments, thanks to rising expectations for officers. The BLS found that the median salary for police officers and detectives in 2018 was $65,170 without considering incentives. You can build a long and fulfilling career in law enforcement by attending one of the best online criminal justice degree programs.

Seeking New Paths in Criminal Justice

Your interest in an associate or bachelor’s degree might be born out of a desire for a new career. Criminal justice is a broad field with plenty of opportunities for experienced and skilled practitioners. Augmenting your job history with an online criminal justice degree eases career transitions.

The Best Schools compiled a list of high-paying jobs requiring a criminal justice degree. You can shift from a police department to the following jobs after graduation:

  • Information security officer ($92,482 median salary)
  • Prison warden ($88,264 median salary)
  • Forensic accountant ($68,347 median salary)
  • FBI agent ($65,383 median salary) 

You can also look for jobs outside of law enforcement that require specific skills. Fire inspectors draw on investigative skills to determine the causes of fires. Government agencies and companies look for law enforcement professionals to serve as background investigators for job candidates.

An online criminal justice degree lets you stay on the job as you consider your options. Experienced instructors and interesting coursework can guide you toward your next challenge.

criminal justice student sitting at laptop

Preparing for the Future of Criminal Justice

Finding the best online criminal justice degree program leads to dividends beyond your next job. The criminal justice field changes constantly due to technological advancements, legal changes, and new challenges. 

Deloitte’s “The Future of Law Enforcement” provides a glimpse into the future of criminal justice. This report summarized what professionals should keep in mind amidst sometimes sudden changes: 

 “The future of law enforcement work does not lie with any particular tool or new technology, but rather with adapting the culture of both police and society to the new world.”

An online criminal justice degree program keeps the field’s mission in mind while teaching new techniques. We can use key points made in “The Future of Law Enforcement” to show how a degree future-proofs your career.

Evaluating New Crimes and Criminal Behaviors

Police officers, investigators, and specialists most often focus on personal and property crimes in their work. Property theft, vandalism, and public nuisances are more common than assaults and homicides. Enrolling in one of the best online criminal justice degree programs prepares graduates to deal with age-old crimes as well as illicit innovations.

Growing dependence on e-commerce has led to increased concerns about cybercrimes. Gallup found the following crimes raised at least occasional concerns by respondents:

  • Financial information theft by computer hackers (71%) 
  • Identity theft (67%)
  • Burglary (40%) 
  • Car break-ins and theft (37%)

We see that traditional concerns for average Americans have been eclipsed by newfound concerns over information security. Cybersecurity Ventures quantified this concern by estimating $6 trillion in annual cybercrime losses by 2021. This estimate doubled the $3 trillion estimate made by the organization in 2015.

Deloitte describes the sudden emergence of digital currency laundering as a new frontier for criminals. The pace of technology growth means law enforcement professionals have to stay ahead of trends. You can stay nimble in your criminal justice career by completing an online criminal justice degree.

Balancing Enforcement and Community Policing

The Future of Law Enforcement” describes a recent tension between advocates of traditional enforcement and supporters of community policing. Deloitte concludes that law enforcement professionals should not consider these practices as adversarial. The report notes that “to meet the challenges of a changing world, the new policing strategy must involve both.”

An online criminal justice degree teaches students the latest trends in enforcement techniques. Proactive policing — a law enforcement strategy that focuses on crime prevention, opposed to reacting to crimes committed — is an example of current practice. Your coursework and classes explain the benefits and limits of enforcement practices.

The U.S. Department of Justice lists the following components as critical to community policing:

  • Community partnerships
  • Organizational transformation
  • Problem-solving

Community policing engages residents of each neighborhood in activities and actions that diminish conditions conducive to crimes. You can develop the toolkit for community policing by completing one of the best online criminal justice degree programs.

Magnifying the Impacts of Your Work with Technology

New technology in law enforcement aids in collecting data, crime scene evidence and other information, but is not designed to replace humans. Deloitte explains the proper use of technology in criminal justice:

“Digital technology can crunch massive volumes of data to pull out clues a human could never find, while the human can adapt it for context, understand circumstances, and interact with other humans.”

“The Future of Law Enforcement” points to text and video analytics platforms as examples of the human-technology interface. A separate report from Deloitte identified smart sensors and augmented reality headsets as helpful technologies in the field. 

Smart sensors programmed to track sounds and motion gather valuable data from gunshot concentrations to recent vehicle locations. AR headsets train officers on real-world situations and can be programmed to add case-specific details. A skilled law enforcement professional makes the most of these technologies. 

Let’s look back to The Police Foundation report on education in criminal justice. Agency supervisors preferred college-educated candidates because of their comfort with new technology. You expand your knowledge base in a high-tech setting by pursuing a criminal justice associates degree online or criminal justice bachelors degree online.

criminal justice student studying at laptop

Finding the Best Online Criminal Justice Degree

The best online criminal justice degree programs use industry expertise and specialized coursework to boost your career prospects. A trusted leader in online education builds a degree program around your schedule. Central Christian College of Kansas (CCCK) checks these boxes with its Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice programs.

An Online Degree Designed for the Real World

Your law enforcement career does not need to be put on hold to complete your degree. CCCK is the best online criminal justice degree for working professionals because of its flexibility with no mandatory long-in times, meaning you can log in to study whenever and wherever works for you. You learn from the best in the business around your schedule.

The online criminal justice associate and bachelor’s degrees  are completed one course at a time. Each six-week course allows greater focus on the subject at hand. Every class is available online for your convenience.

CCCK also emphasizes real-world experiences through its online criminal justice programs. You can earn credit for community college coursework, police training, and military experience at admission. These credits reflect the value of your experiences to the program.

Broadening Your Horizons in a Virtual Setting

Experienced law enforcement professionals teach CCCK’s online curriculum. The online criminal justice associate degree is ideal for maintaining certification and gaining promotions. You can dig deeper into the following topics with this degree:

  • Criminology
  • Introduction to Courts
  • Social Psychology

Leadership and specialist positions in law enforcement often require a bachelor’s degree. This degree provides a full view of the justice system not found in standard police training. CCCK’s criminal justice bachelor’s degree online option will build your competency with exposure to specialization in:

  • Juvenile Justice
  • Terrorism and Counterterrorism
  • Victimology

Learning from a National Leader in Online Criminal Justice Education

CCCK advances student careers through an innovative approach to online education. The college has received multiple recognitions for its criminal justice bachelor’s degree online option including:

  • No. 2 in the Grad Reports 2020 Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs, based on median salary after graduation
  • No. 12 in the Best Degree Programs 30 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, based on ranking and affordability

U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings show CCCK’s reputation extends beyond online degrees. The publication placed CCCK No. 55 in Regional Colleges Midwest. A focus on students of various backgrounds also lifted the college to No. 13 in Top Performers on Social Mobility.

“CCCK’s online Criminal Justice degree is a multidisciplinary, multi-faceted degree demanding understanding and skills in psychology, ethics, sociology, psychology, science, and human behavior,” Greco said. “Our multidisciplinary approach provides our students unique opportunities to explore many different aspects of the criminal justice field.”

Your career isn’t ordinary, nor should you limit yourself by selecting the closest program to you. CCCK is the best online criminal justice degree for ambitious law enforcement professionals who want valuable degrees.

Accelerate your career with an online degree in criminal justice from CCCK

man in suit

About Central Christian Online

With a remarkable history that dates back to 1884, Central Christian College of Kansas offers education focused on professional development and character, for students of all faith backgrounds. Through our global online learning environment, Central Christian College of Kansas is dedicated to providing a world-class education that equips you to serve with distinction. Students from around the country benefit from our top-ranked and accredited 100% online programs, enjoying the flexibility to balance their professional and personal lives. To get curriculum details and download a free program guide, visit: myonline.centralchristian.edu.