Students working toward a bachelor's degree in criminal justice gain an understanding of not only the different aspects of criminal justice but also of how criminal laws and procedures work. Various degree programs may offer a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in criminal justice, justice administration, or criminal justice administration. To better prepare students for their potential careers, some schools allow students to specialize in disciplines such as corrections, homeland security, and juvenile justice.
Online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice: coursework and overview
Full-time bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice usually last about four years and include a combination of electives and required courses for the major. Although the curriculum varies by school, there are several courses commonly found in criminal justice programs. Below are some examples:
Criminal justice degree courses
- Criminology: Criminology courses examine causes and patterns of crimes and criminal behavior. Students also analyze the policy implications of and society's response to crime.
- Homeland Security: Homeland security courses give an overview of the field and of how government agencies prevent and respond to threats to national security.
- Corrections: Introductory classes may cover the different correctional institutions as well as the history and evolution of the correctional system.
- Policing: Many criminal justice programs offer a policing course that describes the responsibilities of police officers and how law enforcement operates.
- Criminal Law: Students learn about criminal law and legal procedures and how to apply them in different scenarios.
Courses outside of criminal justice
- Psychology: Psychology is the study of human behavior. In psychology courses specifically geared toward criminal justice, students will likely study the psychological reasons for and effects of criminal behavior.
- Sociology: Sociology classes examine various topics such as race, gender, and income disparity in society. Specialized courses in social deviance allow students to discuss crime and criminal behavior in more depth than general sociology courses.
- Legal Studies: Having a thorough understanding of the law is important for law enforcement careers. Introductory legal studies courses can provide an overview of the American legal system and of topics such as court systems and legal procedures.
Potential careers for graduates of criminal justice bachelor's degree programs
Individuals pursuing a bachelor's degree in criminal justice are often interested in pursuing a law enforcement career or career advancement. The BLS notes that a bachelor's degree may be required for certain positions, depending on the occupation and the employer. Below are some examples of common careers that graduates of criminal justice bachelor's degree programs may seek:
- Police officers enforce laws, arrest suspects, testify in court, and strive to protect citizens. Bls.gov reports that individuals typically must graduate from an agency training academy and may need college coursework or a college degree in order to become a police officer.
- Detectives are responsible for investigative activities such as collecting evidence, gathering facts for cases, conducting interviews, examining records, and observing the activities of suspects. Detectives in law enforcement may also participate in arrests. As bls.gov states, college courses in criminal justice and political science can benefit individuals pursuing a career as a private detective or investigator.
- Fish and game wardens enforce laws regarding fishing, boating, and hunting. Their responsibilities include patrolling hunting and fishing areas and investigating complaints and accidents. Wardens need a solid understanding of the laws so that they can educate and interact with the public. Bls.gov mentions that these specialized law enforcement officers may need a college degree, depending on the agency.
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with offenders who are in custody, on probation, or on parole. These specialists may also develop recommendations for rehabilitation plans. According to bls.gov, individuals interested in this career typically need to complete training and earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as criminal justice.
In addition to pursuing the above careers, students may opt for a master's degree in criminal justice. Holding a graduate degree in criminal justice can help individuals expand their career options. For example, a master's degree may be useful or required for supervisors of probation officers or corrections specialists, according to bls.gov. Those who earn bachelor's degrees in the field can find opportunities to apply their knowledge of criminal justice theories and processes as they enter related careers.
More information about bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice is available in the Guide to College Majors in Criminal Justice.
"Correctional Officers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm
"Police and Detectives," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Police-and-detectives.htm
"Private Detective and Investigators," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm
"Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm