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Graduate and undergraduate degree programs are available online in criminal justice, forensic science, law enforcement, corrections, homeland security, law, justice administration and more.

Criminal justice careers

The purpose of the criminal justice system is to keep society safe through enforcement of established laws as well as administration and application of the legal system. Because criminal justice embodies every level of law enforcement, there are many career paths to follow. These include:

Criminal Justice
  • Bailiff
  • Border patrol agent
  • CIA agent
  • Corrections officer
  • Court reporter
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Customs agent
  • Detective
  • Drug enforcement agent
  • FBI agent
  • Industrial security specialist
  • Law librarian
  • Legal secretary
  • Paralegal
  • Police officer
  • Postal service investigator
  • Private investigator
  • Probation & parole officer
  • Secret service agent
  • Sheriff
  • U.S. Marshall
  • Warden

Prospective students interested in public safety have a wide variety of potential career and educational options available to them.

Criminal justice career training

Criminal Justice Degrees and ProgramsDepending on your career goals, career training in criminal justice may include earning a certificate, associate's degree, bachelor's degree, or master's degree. Certificate programs include crime scene technician, terrorism and national security management, and criminal justice. Earning a certificate in criminal justice usually requires one year of study.

Associate degree level

Individuals who pursue an associate's degree can study for law enforcement, corrections, private security, court reporting, or paralegal careers. Associate's degrees can usually be completed within two years.

Bachelor degree level

A bachelor's degree program will allow you to receive further training and education in any of the programs offered at the associate's level. In addition, with a bachelor's degree in a criminal justice-related field, you may qualify for jobs as a social worker, probation officer, and correctional treatment specialist. A bachelor's degree can usually be completed in four years.

Master's degree level

Earning a master's degree in criminal justice or related field might increase chances to find advanced positions in law enforcement, including FBI agent, police chief and college instructor. The completion of a master's degree usually requires two years of study after completion of a bachelor's degree.

Most criminal justice schools will allow you transfer credits from one degree program into a higher degree program. For instance, an associate's degree can often be applied toward a bachelor's degree program, and possibly reduce length of study by up to half. Online degree programs are available at all levels of study, allowing students to potentially maintain their current work schedule while taking classes.

To take a career in court reporting as an example, court reporters receive their training through one of the 130 postsecondary vocational and technical schools and colleges that offer programs, or through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). The amount of training required depends on which type of reporting an individual chooses. It is possible to train to be a beginner voice writer within a year, but advancing to be a proficient real-time voice writer generally takes at least two years. According to the BLS, the average time it takes to become a real-time stenotypist is approximately thirty-three months.

Court reporters can move on to administrative, management, consulting, or teaching positions after adequate experience. A court reporting program might include the following courses:

  • Reporting Procedures
  • Medical Terminology
  • Touch Shorthand Theory
  • Punctuation of the Spoken Word
  • Court Reporting Computer Applications

Other careers in criminal justice may have different requirements. When considering which program is right, it's important to take into account one's interests, as well as the amount of school a prospective student can afford and the job outlook and compensation for their desired career path. By thinking about these issues before starting a program, a student can make a decision that aligns with their finances and goals.

What can I do with a degree in criminal justice?

Generally speaking, opportunities in criminal justice will depend on the area of work and possibly one's level of education. Here's a breakdown of annual salaries and projected job growth for a few potential avenues:

Discipline2013 Median Annual Salary*2012-2022 Projected Job Growth
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers $56,130 The BLS forecasts growth of 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. However, demand is expected to vary widely by location.
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $74,300 5 percent
Correctional Officers $39,550 The BLS predicts 5 percent growth from 2012 to 2022, which is slower than the average for all occupations.
Court Reporters $49,560 Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Online degrees in criminal justice

Online degree programs in law and criminal justice from accredited universities and colleges:

Court Reporting

Court Reporting, Realtime Reporting, Captioning Programs

Law and Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Administration

Justice Administration

Administration of Justice

Law Degree

Juris Doctor, LL.B, LL.M, Health Law

Paralegal and Legal Services

Legal Studies, Court Process

Online degrees in law enforcement

Online degree programs in policing and investigation from accredited universities and colleges:

Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement Skills, Police Science, Police Leadership

Crime Scene and Forensics

Crime Scene Technology, Crime Scene Technician

Forensic Accounting

Fraud Management, Economic Crime Management, Forensic Accounting

Forensics Science

Forensic Nursing, Digital Forensics, Forensic Science

Online degrees in security and corrections

Online degree programs in homeland security, corrections and loss prevention from accredited universities and colleges:

Corrections

Corrections Management, Corrections majors, Correctional Administration, and more

Public Safety

Homeland Security, Terrorism, Public Safety Management

Security & Loss Prevention

Private Security, Security Management, Business Security

* All median salary figures are according to 2013 numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sources

"33-9032 Security Guards," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339032.htm

"33-1011 First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes331011.htm

"33-3012 Correctional Officers and Jailers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333012.htm

"Correctional Officers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm#tab-1

"33-3051 Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm

"23-2091 Court Reporters," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232091.htm

"Court Reporters," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/court-reporters.htm#tab-1

"21-1092 Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211092.htm

Pursue your Criminal Justice major today…

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