If you’d want to work with the public and serve your community, a criminal justice associate’s degree could be the academic program that’s right for you.
An associate’s degree in criminal justice will prepare you to work in law enforcement, courts, correctional facilities and other related areas.
Associate’s degrees are not required in the criminal justice field, but are encouraged. More criminal justice employers in public law enforcement and private security are requiring employees to have completed some form of formal higher education training.
Choosing a College for an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice
Typically, the only requirement to earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice is to have a high school diploma. Many schools have an open enrollment policy, meaning you can apply at any point and start your program as soon as you are accepted.
Strong applicants will have a desire to make a difference in their community by upholding laws and prosecuting criminals. Depending on what line of work you would like to pursue, you may also need to be physically fit. This is especially true if you are seeking to enter the field of law enforcement.
You also may be able to knock off some credits if you have previous experience in the criminal justice field or in the military.
Since the events of September 11, 2001, the criminal justice field has expanded greatly and schools have adapted to the new environment by offering a wide variety of criminal justice degree programs. Earning an associate’s degree in criminal justice may be just the start of your education. Advanced programs at the bachelor’s degree and master’s degree-level are offered around the country.
Criminal Justice Associate’s Degree Curriculum
At its most basic level, a criminal justice associate’s degree program teaches students about the criminal justice system and helps them understand criminal behavior. It is common for programs to combine criminal justice principles with liberal arts and sciences courses. It is a popular degree to pursue now that most employers require those in criminal justice to have a degree.
Some students pursuing this degree have the goal of transferring to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice or a related field. If you plan on working for the government, earning a bachelor’s degree is your best option. But some folks still choose to start their education with an associate’s degree to cut the costs and make sure that it is the right career path for them.
A sample of the criminal justice curriculum:
Core Courses: America’s Court System, Constitutional Law
Specialty Courses: Crime and Drugs, White Collar Crime, Terrorism, Emergency Response
General Education Courses: American History, Psychology, Sociology
Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Jobs
Before deciding on an associate’s degree program in criminal justice, research the specific field of criminal justice you would like to pursue. This will allow you to better tailor your educational experience to your career goals. For instance, if you want to get into corrections, you will take specialty courses that provide you with the knowledge needed to transfer into this career.
Unique fields that have developed recently that may provide opportunities for criminal justice degree holders include corporate security, emergency response and transportation security.
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