Criminal justice is a field that encompasses several disciplines, including law, corrections, and law enforcement. Online college degree programs in criminal justice introduce students to the laws that govern citizens and the processes by which citizens are held responsible and rehabilitated after breaking those laws. Students in a criminal justice online degree program will be prepared for a broad range of careers. Many graduates choose to go into law enforcement, government, law, criminal investigation, or corrections. As diverse as career choices are, the level at which one chooses to pursue their academic career is just as diverse. Below are the various academic levels criminal justice degrees are offered at for those who find themselves interested in this field.
Online Associate Degree Programs for Criminal Justice
Those in criminal justice online college degree programs at the associate level learn the basics of the criminal justice system, public policies, and law enforcement. Students typically take courses like Criminal Law and Juvenile Justice, submitting assignments and completing exams through online tools. People choose this academic path for a few reasons. First, they wish to enter their careers in two years; most students at this level go into law enforcement and corrections. Second, they wish to pursue their bachelor’s degree in this subject in the future. Third, students are already working in the criminal justice field and wish to further their career through academics. Luckily, many online associate degrees in criminal justice are offered for those whose schedules demand distance education. For instance, both ITT Technical Institute and Remington College offer online associate degrees in criminal justice.
Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Criminal Justice
Online bachelor degree programs in criminal justice require students to complete two more years of study than associate degree programs. Bachelor’s level degrees enable students to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice field than associate degrees. Students take courses such as Political Science and Forensic Psychology, and use online tools to complete their degree requirements. As with associate degrees, people choose bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice for a number of reasons. First, as opposed to an associate degree, students have a better chance of achieving higher paying, higher ranking careers. Second, as opposed to a master’s degree, students find that bachelor’s level online criminal justice degree programs are a less expensive and time-consuming route to their careers; master’s degrees can take an additional two years of study or more. Third, many pursue criminal justice degrees because they are, in a sense, online pre law degree programs. Those who wish to become lawyers find bachelor’s level criminal justice degrees give them a competitive edge when applying for law school.
Online Master’s Degree Programs for Criminal Justice
Online masters degree programs in criminal justice prepare students for advanced careers in the field. Students commonly take courses such as Justice Administration Theory and Criminology. Most students pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice because it opens up their chances of climbing the ladder in their careers. Master’s degrees in this discipline are usually sought by those who’d like to obtain management positions, which enables them to gain more job responsibilities and larger salaries. Moreover, though the typical master’s degree takes two years, some schools offer a dual bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice. These accelerated online degree programs enable students to graduate with both degrees in five years instead of six. One example of such a school is George Washington University, which offers a five-year Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts degree program in criminal justice.
Online Doctoral Degree Programs for Criminal Justice
An online doctorate in criminal justice prepares students for high-level careers in the public and private sectors of the field. The best online degree programs at this level give students a deep understanding of criminal justice in terms of policy, law, and psychology. Many pursue criminal justice degrees at this level in order to obtain careers, for example, at criminal consulting agencies or as criminal justice professors. Doctoral degrees are not pursued by the majority of those in the criminal justice field as they require a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and take an additional three to seven years beyond a master’s degree. The availability of online programs at this academic level reflects this, with few being offered. Moreover, most are offered as degrees in related disciplines with a concentration in criminal justice. For instance, Capella University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Safety with a Criminal Justice specialization.
Online Degree Programs in Criminal Justice in the Work Place
Careers for those with criminal justice degrees are very broad. Some positions in the criminal justice field do not require a degree, such as those working as security guards. Others, such as those in management positions, often require at least a master’s degree. Most positions beyond those that are entry-level require advanced degrees and/or professional experience. A few common ones are listed below with salary estimates, which cannot be guaranteed as they are simply estimates based on national data collected and analyzed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); salaries are dependent on several factors, including work experience, education level, and location.
Private detectives earn, on average, about $42,870 annually, while forensic psychologists see an annual salary of $68,640, according to the BLS. Meanwhile, the typical criminal justice professor earns about $59,480annually, and lawyers earn $112,760.