Criminal Justice Degrees

The list below includes various fields of study and concentrations within the criminal justice field ranging from certificates to master’s degrees.

Computer Forensics

A degree in computer forensics prepares graduates to identify and prevent theft, fraud, phishing scams, and other digital schemes. A bachelor’s degree in computer forensics is usually the minimum requirement to get a job in the field, but master’s and doctoral degrees are also common in the field. Coursework may include Networking Concepts, Computer Forensics, and Digital Forensics.

Corrections

A corrections degree teaches students to work with those in correctional facilities as prison guards, correctional officers, or other roles. Associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees are offered in corrections and coursework may include Correctional Administration, Foundations of Criminal Justice Systems, Issues in Corrections, Introduction to Criminal Law, Theories of Crime Causation, Constitutional Issues in Criminal Procedures, and Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Theory.

Counterterrorism

Counterterrorism degrees equip graduates to identify threats of terrorism originating in the US or abroad and to stop them before anyone is negatively affected. Most people pursuing a degree in counter terrorism get a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher. Courses may include Foundations of Terrorism, Fundamentals of Intelligence, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Weapons, Religious Extremism, Psychology of Violence, and Ethics. Students may also seek concentrations in areas such as Terrorist Operations, Counterintelligence, Threat Assessment, or Intel Operations.

Crime Scene Technician Certificate

A crime scene technician certificate program teaches graduates how to identify and collect evidence from crime scenes like homicides, robberies, and sexual assault, which can be used in a court of law. Certificates may take six to 18 months to complete and could include coursework like Criminal Investigation, Crime Scene Investigation, Homeland Security, and Forensic Chemistry and Trace Evidence Analysis.

Criminal Investigations

A criminal investigations degree is usually a two-year program and prepares graduates to collect, record, and analyze evidence in a crime to lead to the apprehension of criminals involved. Criminal investigations coursework may include classes like Theory and Practice of Investigations, Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Investigations, The Criminal Mind, Investigating Crimes Against Property and the Private Sector, and Crime Scenes, Clues, Forensics and Evidence.

Criminal Justice Administration

A degree in criminal justice administration is usually a Bachelor of Science or a master’s degree in criminal justice, but there may be associate degrees available. Graduates of these programs are prepared for administration positions in law enforcement, courts, correctional facilities, or other areas. Coursework may include Theory and Practices of Law Enforcement, Criminal Evidence and Legal Issues, Judicial Process, Police and Community Relations, Supervision of Criminal Justice Personnel, and Probation and Parole.

Criminal Psychology

Criminal psychology degrees are associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degrees that prepare graduates to understand the criminal mind, social influences on crime, and human behavior in relation to criminal activity. A criminal psychology degree program may include courses like Criminal Justice Research & Writing, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Judicial Process, Behavior Management, and Psychology of Criminal Behavior.

Criminology

A degree in criminology helps graduates to understand why crime exists in society and may touch on a wide range of areas including the criminal justice system, psychology, or ballistics analysis. Criminology degrees can be pursued at the bachelor’s level and beyond and may include coursework such as Theory in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Survey of Criminological Theories, Statistics, and Research Methods.

Cybersecurity

A cybersecurity (or cyber security) degree is sometimes called an information security degree and prepares graduates to help employers protect sensitive information, participate in forensic analysis involving cyber incidents, and secure computer networks. Most degrees in cyber security are at the bachelor’s-level and above, but there are some certificates and associate degrees available. Coursework includes classes like Fundamentals of Computer Troubleshooting, Network Security, Linux System Administration, and Interconnecting Cisco Devices.

Emergency Management

A degree in emergency management prepares graduates to help plan for disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, terrorism, disease, or pollution. Most emergency management degrees are bachelor’s degrees and above and coursework may include Ethics & Critical Decision Making, International Disasters, Natural Hazards & Disasters, Risk Perception Awareness, and Theory & Legal Framework.

Fish and Game Warden

A fish and game warden degree program teaches concepts in wildlife biology, law and conservation enforcement practices, and administrative law. Most fish and game warden degree seekers enter two- or four-year programs and may encounter courses such as Ecotoxicology, Natural Resources Communications, Ichthyology, Principles of Botany, and Principles of Economics.

Forensic Accounting

Forensic accounting degrees prepare graduates to investigate so-called “white-collar crimes,” including banking and financial schemes. Associate of Science degrees, bachelor’s degrees, post-baccalaureate certificates, and graduate degrees are available in the field of forensic accounting, and coursework may include Intermediate Accounting, Fraud Examination, Legal Elements of Fraud, Auditing, and Foundations of Entrepreneurship.

Forensic Nursing

A degree in forensic nursing combines the knowledge of medical practices with crime investigation, preparing graduates to identify possible foul play or negligence and testify in court. Four-year bachelor’s degrees are usually the minimum requirement for forensic nurses, and applicants can expect to see courses like Foundations of Forensic Nursing, Criminalistics, Interprofessional Collaboration, and Forensic Nursing Science Practicum.

Forensic Psychology

Degrees in forensic psychology prepare graduates to apply their psychological training to criminal cases. To become a registered forensic psychologist, a doctoral degree is required, though degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels are also available to those who wish to work in the field without being registered psychologists. Coursework may include Foundations of Graduate Study in Psychology, Abnormal Behavior, Intersection of Crime, Psychology, and the Law, Understanding Forensic Psychology Research, and Understanding Violence, Risk, and Threat Assessment.

Forensic Science

A forensic science degree focuses on teaching graduates to identify, investigate, and analyze evidence from crime scenes. Forensic science degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels. Courses may include Analytical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Metabolic Biochemistry, Instrumental Analysis, Expert Witness Testimony, and Forensic DNA Analysis.

Homeland Security

Homeland security degrees impart graduates with a broad knowledge base including counter-terrorism, intelligence, border security, and emergency management. Associate degrees in homeland security are available, though most governmental positions (where the majority of these jobs are found) require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or above. Coursework may include Research Methods in Homeland Security Studies, Critical Infrastructure Protection, Border and Coastal Security, and Homeland Security Legal and Ethical Issues.

Law Enforcement

A degree in law enforcement is a broad degree preparing graduates to work as police officers, detectives or investigators, or in corrections. Degrees offered range from certificates to associate degrees to bachelor’s degrees and above. Coursework in a law enforcement degree program may include Introduction to American Court System, Crime Victim Studies, Constitutional Issues in Criminal Procedures, and Research Methods & Statistics for Criminal Justice.

Legal Nursing

A legal nursing degree is most commonly a graduate degree that allows current registered nurses (RNs) to combine their knowledge of nursing with the legal expertise necessary to provide medical advice in legal matters. Legal nursing programs may include courses like Theoretical Bases for Nursing Practice, Advanced Informatics, Epidemiologic Methods in Health Care, Theoretical Basis for Nursing Practice, Legal Aspects of Health Care, and Liability of Health Care Organizations and the Health Care Professionals.

Legal Studies

A legal studies degree prepares graduates to become paralegals or legal assistants by providing them with information about the legal process, the philosophy of law, and the criminal justice process. Legal studies degree programs may include courses like Theories of Law & Society, The Supreme Court & Public Policy, Punishment, Culture & Society, Law & Sovereignty, and Sociology of Law.

Paralegal Certificate

A paralegal certificate prepares holders to work as paralegals or legal assistants at law firms. Paralegal certificate programs typically include classes such as Essential Paralegal Studies, Paralegal Authority, Research, and Writing, Paralegal Contract Law, Paralegal Family Law, and Paralegal Tort Law.

Paralegal

A paralegal degree can be an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or graduate degree in legal studies that prepares graduates to work in the legal system as paralegals or legal assistants. Paralegal degree programs may include courses such as Advanced Legal Research & Writing, Advanced Litigation & Trial Practice, Intellectual Property, Corporate Law, Legal Project Management, and Legal Technology.

Public Administration

A degree in public administration can be a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree that prepares students to work in nonprofit, advocacy, or government agencies, often addressing social issues and public policy. Public administration degree programs may include courses such as Public Organization and Management, Research Methods, Introduction to Public Policy Analysis, Governmental Fiscal Decision Making, and Human Resources in the Public and Nonprofit Sectors.

Security Management

Degrees in security management, or private security, teach students to protect business assets by preparing for emergencies, analyzing risks, managing a team of security guards, or identifying possible threats to an organization. Security management degrees are offered as undergraduate degrees and graduate-level degrees and may include courses such as Theory and Practice of Security, The American Criminal and Civil Legal Systems, Infrastructure Security and National Defense, Risk Analysis, and Principles and Practices of Effective Emergency Planning.

Sociology

A sociology degree teaches graduates to understand human behavior in a group context, preparing them for careers in business, government, public service, or counseling. Sociology degrees can be two-year associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or graduate degrees. Coursework in sociology programs may include Social Problems, Global Social Change, Intro to Social Research, Modern Sociological Theory, Race Relations, Gender, and Industrialization and Social Change.

Degrees by Level

In order to select which degree you need, you should first determine the profession you intend to pursue. Some occupations require a two-year associate degree, while others require the more rigorous course of study offered by a master’s degree program. As you browse the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree pages on this site, you’ll learn about some of the jobs you’ll be qualified to apply for after earning each respective degree.

Certificate in Criminal Justice

The most basic degree that can be earned in the criminal justice field is the Criminal Justice Certificate. Students are typically awarded a certificate with the completion of a specialized training program. Certificates can be used in a specific criminal justice career, such as crime scene photography, or as a stepping stone for a more advanced degree. Other types of careers that can be obtained with a certification in criminal justice include police and sheriff’s patrol officers, corrections officers and bailiffs, law enforcement, and security services. Due to the competitive nature of these fields, candidates are advised to enroll in specialized programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for those in careers that typically require a criminal justice certification is between $31,170 and $60,270.1,2,3,4,5

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

Many law enforcement careers only require the applicant to possess a high school diploma. However, more and more agencies are seeking applicants with an associate degree in criminal justice due to the rising complexity of the criminal justice system. A criminal justice associate’s degree typically focuses on law enforcement, theories of crime causations, court systems, corrections, and crime control policies. Common professions that graduates of criminal justice associate degree programs pursue include police officer, border patrol agent, transit and railroad police, paralegal, immigration and customs inspector, bailiff, and corrections officer. The median salary earned for those in the aforementioned criminal justice jobs typically requiring an associate degree is between $31,170 and $60,270.1,2,3,5,6,7

Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree

The criminal justice bachelor’s degree level not only shows potential employers your willingness to work hard, but it is also the minimum requirement for many criminal justice professions. In addition to law enforcement careers, bachelor’s degree holders can also work as fraud investigators, private detectives, DEA agents, first-line supervisors of correctional officers, probation officers, criminologists, computer forensics, information security analysts, immigration services officers, homeland security agents, fish and game wardens, and FBI agents. Most government and federal agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, and the Secret Service, require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The median salary of these careers in the criminal justice field that usually require a bachelor’s degree is between $18,343 and $77,210.1,2,7,9,10,11,12,13,14,15

Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree

A master’s degree in criminal justice allows students to explore particular aspects of criminal justice, such as administration and leadership. These candidates are also eligible to become social caseworkers and instructors in criminal justice. Areas of study that may be included in a master’s criminal justice program may include forensic behavioral analysis, psychology, criminology, and sociology, issues in juvenile crime, criminal law, and criminal justice theory. Possible career opportunities for a master’s degree include criminal investigators, social workers, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, and management of forensic science faculties. The median salary for those in the above criminal justice careers, which typically require a master’s degree, is between $45,900 and $77,210.13,16,19,20,21

Doctorate in Criminal Justice Degree

A doctoral degree in criminal justice is designed for those who have already obtained a master’s degree and would like to advance their career. Opportunities for those with this highly-regarded degree are able to obtain a leadership, private, academic, policy making, or governmental research position with various agencies. The most common careers for those with a doctoral degree in criminal justice include criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, criminology researchers, criminal justice process and policy, forensic psychologists, lawyers, judges or magistrate judges, and those in criminological theory. The median salary of a person in one of the above careers typically requiring a doctoral degree in criminal justice is between $58,770 and $126,930.21,22,23,24,25

Question: Is this a good time to enter the field of law enforcement?

Answer: This is probably the best time to become a police officer. -Sue Rahr, former King County Sheriff (Seattle, WA)

Criminal Justice Degree Required for Typical Jobs

The government employment site O*Net Online provides data on the level of education of the following criminal justice professions:

  • Bailiffs: 53% have a high school diploma, 32% have some college, and 13% have a post-secondary certificate.
  • Correctional Officers and Jailers: 57% have a high school diploma, 22% have some college but no degree, and 15% have a post-secondary certificate.
  • Court Reporters: 41% have a post-secondary certificate, 34% have an associate’s degree, and 10% have some college but no degree.
  • Criminal Investigators and Special agents: 42% have a high school diploma, 24% have some college but no degree, and 16% have a post-secondary certificate.
  • First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers: 78% have a high school diploma, 11% have some college but no degree, and 7% have an associate’s degree.
  • Fish and Game Warden: 74% have a bachelor’s degree, 9% have a high school diploma, and 9% have an associate’s degree.
  • Immigration and Customs Inspectors: 39% have a high school diploma, 27% have a bachelor’s degree, and 14% have some college but no degree.
  • Information Security Analysts: 65% have a bachelor’s degree, 19% have a post-bachelor’s certificate, and 10% have a post-secondary certificate.
  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants: 44% have a bachelor’s degree, 30% have an associate’s degree, and 12% have some college but no degree.
  • Police Detectives: 45% have a high school diploma, 21% have an associate’s degree, and 16% have some college but no degree.
  • Police Patrol Officers: 42% have a high school diploma, 24% have an associate’s degree, and 22% have some college but no degree.
  • Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: 86% have a bachelor’s degree, 7% have some college but no degree, and 7% have a master’s degree.
  • Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs: 55% have a high school diploma, 21% have a post-secondary certificate, and 19% have an associate’s degree.
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors: 30% have a master’s degree, 19% have a bachelor’s degree, and 16% have an associate or professional degree.
  • Transit and Railroad Police: 80% have an associate’s degree, 8% have a post-secondary certificate, and 4% have a high school diploma.