A criminal justice degree is designed to prepare students for careers in law enforcement, corrections, and the U.S. court system. Through a criminal justice program, you will learn the ins and outs of the correctional and legal systems in America, as well as the investigation and deterrence of crime.
There are several types of criminal justice degree programs out there today. For example, you can pursue a degree at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree level. In some criminal justice schools, you can pursue dedicated concentrations in criminal justice, such as homeland security or paralegal studies. So, how can you decide which degree path is right for you?
Most commonly, those entering the field will choose to pursue a general degree in criminal justice, either at the associate or bachelor’s level:
- An associate degree in criminal justice is a typically a two-year program that covers the basics of criminal justice education. An associate degree is great for anyone launching a career in criminal justice, as coursework covers fundamental topics in communications, psychology, investigation, and criminal law.
- A bachelor’s in criminal justice is usually a four-year program that is designed to provide a more in-depth or specialized education in criminal justice. If you are seeking an advanced leadership position in the field, a bachelor’s degree is recommended.
With an associate in criminal justice, you will walk away with fundamental skills in grant writing, investigative reporting, communication, problem-solving, ethical thinking, and full knowledge of the U.S. criminal justice system. You will also gain an in-depth understanding of criminal procedures, corrections, juvenile justice, law, and criminology. Associate degree students at Goodwin University are required to complete an internship, too, where they gain hands-on experience working in the criminal justice field.
A bachelor’s in criminal justice is designed to build on the fundamentals listed above, by providing a deepened knowledge of topics like criminology and modern ethical perspectives. Bachelor’s programs also aim to hone developing skillsets in research, analysis, public speaking, and cultural competence. Simply put, more time in college means more education. Often, you will find different paths, or concentrations, in a bachelor’s degree program. For example, at Goodwin University, students earning their bachelor’s in public safety can choose between:
- Criminal Justice, which emphasizes criminal investigation, criminal procedure, and the development of the criminal justice system.
- Homeland Security, which emphasizes emergency planning, incident management, and personal and physical security.
The question now remains, do you need an associate or bachelor’s degree to work in criminal justice? Which degree will best qualify you to enter this in-demand field?
As you might have expected, it depends.
Whether you decide to pursue an associate degree or a bachelor’s in criminal justice, will depend on your career goals. Is there a certain occupation you have your eye on? Do you dream of working for a specific agency, such as the DEA, or within a certain branch of the criminal justice system, such as corrections? Your career aspirations will ultimately dictate which level of degree you need to get there.
Generally speaking, however, most criminal justice careers today can be achieved with an associate degree in hand. For example, you may qualify for careers as a police officer, detective, or crime scene investigator. Many graduates of Goodwin’s associate degree in criminal justice go onto pursue jobs as:
- Correctional officers
- Probation officers
- State and local police
- Crime investigators
- Crime scene technicians
- Forensic scientists
- Fire inspectors
- Security agents
This means you can enter the field of criminal justice in less than two years’ time.
Of course, some positions require more advanced education, and that is where a bachelor’s degree will come into play. To work for many federal agencies, or to advance to senior positions, it may be required that you have at least a bachelor’s degree. For example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers jobs at both the associate and bachelor’s level. You can become a TSA security officer with an associate degree in hand. However, more senior positions, such as a Federal Air Marshal or a Canine Handler, will require a bachelor’s level education. Other careers that require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field, like homeland security, include:
- DEA Agent, via the Drug Enforcement Administration
- Customs and Border Patrol Agents
- Federal Bureau of Prisons Corrections Officer
- Canine Enforcement Officer
Another consideration when weighing your degree options is the investment each will take. An associate degree requires less time (and money) than a bachelor’s program – which will allow you to get into the workforce faster, with less financial stress. However, a bachelor’s degree is a great option for those who have the time to commit to a longer-term education. Due to their supplemental education, bachelor’s graduates may qualify for more job prospects and advancement opportunities down the road. Many students choose to pursue an associate degree as a starting point, gain experience in the field, and then put their credits towards a bachelor’s degree later on.
At Goodwin University, students have the option to pursue a criminal justice education at the associate or bachelor’s degree level. Our associate degree in criminal justice will position you for exciting career opportunities in corrections or law enforcement. Whether you wish to work with inmates – helping them rehabilitate or overseeing their day-to-day – or you wish to be out on the frontlines, protecting the public as a law enforcement officer, you can get there with an associate in criminal justice. If you wish to further your education, you may also pursue our bachelor’s degree in public safety and take the criminal justice path. Through this, you will qualify for many bachelor’s requiring career paths, such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Are you ready to take the next step towards your career? Contact Goodwin University at 800-889-3282 to learn more about our criminal justice school in Connecticut. Or, visit us online to request more information.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.