Types of Criminal Justice Degrees

The criminal justice field is becoming more competitive as qualified applicants take advantage of the growing industry. Nearly every sector of the field, from law enforcement to administrative work, is expected to grow at least 11 percent by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A college degree is now commonly expected for many positions. However, just as with any type of college degree, advanced criminal justice degrees have more marketability because the student who earns such a degree has taken rigorous courses in the subject and are therefore more educated on any particular field than someone who earns a lower-level degree. As a result, those who hold an advanced degree have more employment opportunities. Yet, there are plenty of positions that cater to all degree levels.

Associate’s Degree

Law enforcement positions traditionally only required that the applicant possess a high school diploma, but more and more police agencies are seeking out those with an Associate’s degree in criminal justice as well, according to Penn State University. This change is due to the increasing complexity of law enforcement, and hiring applicants who are already knowledgeable about the criminal justice system makes more sense to employers than having to train those who are unfamiliar with the subject. An Associate’s criminal justice degree program typically covers the fundamentals of law enforcement, court systems, corrections, theories of crime causations, and crime control policies.

Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a Bachelor’s degree shows employers that the applicant is dedicated and willing to work hard, and luckily for degree holders, the Bachelor’s-level degree is the minimum requirement of many criminal justice occupations. In addition to law enforcement positions, degree holders can also work as private detectives or investigators, one of the fastest growing occupations in the criminal justice field. Private investigators work with businesses or individuals to work towards solving any issues or mysteries the client may have, from suspicious employee injury claims to homicide cases. Bachelor’s degree holders can also work as probation officers, FBI agents, in administration positions in judicial courts, and a variety of other occupations. A Bachelor’s criminal justice degree program typically covers the same topics as an Associate’s degree, including law enforcement, court systems, and crime control policies, but a Bachelor’s level of education is more in depth. This allows Bachelor’s degree graduates to take on more complex employment roles.

Master’s Degree

A Master’s degree in criminal justice allows for students to explore and become experts in a particular aspect of criminal justice, such as in corrections or administration. In addition to the opportunities open to those with an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree graduates are also eligible to become instructors in criminal justice, social caseworkers, and officers in court. Typically, those who go on to earn a Master’s degree are involved in social work and use their Master’s education to advance their careers.

Doctoral Degree

Those who complete a doctoral degree program in criminal justice typically go on to teach university-level criminal justice courses. A doctoral degree program is much more intense and concentrated than a Master’s program, according to Austin Peay State University. Students must complete rigorous course work, comprehensive exams, exhibit strong writing as well as verbal skills, as well complete a lengthy dissertation.

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