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As long as there is society, there will be crime. And as long as there is crime, there will be jobs for police officers, corrections officers, forensic scientists and other law enforcement professionals.
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There is much more to the criminal justice system than SWAT teams and undercover agents. The system can’t function without an army of behind-the-scenes workers, such as prison guards, administrators and court reporters, who help keep it running smoothly.
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Criminal justice and the law have always been a reliable career: society always needs people working to protect us and to represent our interests in the justice system. But in the post-9/11 world of heightened security, there are more career paths than the field. Not only are conventional options like police and lawyers just as safe, but increasing homeland security involves all new positions (like cybersecurity) and increased needs (like border patrol).
Of course, you can’t walk down the street and become a lawyer, police officer, judge, or court clerk. A solid education is a requirement for all careers in the justice field. There are jobs at all educational levels, but as in any profession, higher education means a path to higher status and pay.
You might be wondering, “Is a criminal justice degree worth it?” or “Is a degree in criminology helpful?” While there are law enforcement jobs that don’t require a degree, there are some that do. A degree in criminal justice or criminology opens up dozens of career options for people who want to protect the innocent from murderers, thieves, and other lawbreakers.
Even if the career you’re looking for doesn’t require a degree, you may find that a criminal justice degree is worth it because of the difference in pay. To encourage higher education, many police departments offer educational bonuses to officers who have earned a high school degree.
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Additionally, having a criminal justice degree benefits job applicants by giving them a competitive edge over other applicants. Employers often prefer applicants with a bachelor’s degree, even if the degree is not required for the position. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or criminology is useful because it gives you access to higher-level careers, such as positions in the DEA or FBI.
Even a criminal justice certificate is better than no criminal justice education. If you have a degree in another field, a criminal justice certificate will give you an overview of the field that can help you understand how your degree applies to the criminal justice field.
So why study criminal justice? Because if you care about law and order, having a criminal justice degree benefits you by maximizing the number and types of opportunities available to you, as well as your lifetime earning potential.
The importance of accreditation to a criminology and criminal justice college, or any other, cannot be overemphasized. The accreditation process ensures that schools meet minimum quality standards. This assures students that they will receive a quality education while pursuing a degree in criminal justice or a degree in criminology.
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When it comes to criminal justice credentialing, the type of credential is important. First, the school must be regionally accredited, not just nationally. This is not negotiable. If you need to transfer to another school, it’s easier to get approved for a credit transfer from a regionally accredited school. Also, if you earned your bachelor’s degree from a school that isn’t regionally accredited, you may find that your options are limited if you want to pursue a master’s degree after graduation.
The best criminal justice schools are not only regionally accredited, but also have specialized criminal justice accreditation. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) offers program-level accreditation for criminal justice colleges. While this accreditation is nice, it is not essential. There are many good schools that offer bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice or criminology that are regionally but not ACJS accredited.
Students can often save money by going to a school close to home. However, the best criminal justice schools are all regionally accredited, and some unaccredited schools are scams. Whether you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminology or a criminal justice certificate, protect yourself by choosing a regionally accredited criminology and criminal justice college.
US: An associate’s degree can be earned in about two years through a community college or university. Associates can open doors to many career paths, such as police officers, corrections officers, paralegals, or evidence technicians.
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BS: A Bachelor of Science is a 4-year degree earned through a college or university. Many municipalities require a bachelor’s degree for police and probation officers, and most technical roles, such as crime scene investigators, require at least a bachelor’s degree.
MS: Any criminal justice job will pay more and open up more responsibilities with a master’s degree, usually a two-year program, although in recent years, accelerated one-year programs have become more common. Government agencies like the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. they prefer teachers to agents.
JD: To become a lawyer, you need a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. JD is what people mean when they have a law degree: it’s just one thing. A JD usually takes three years of graduate study, although you must also pass the bar exam to practice law.
An associate degree in criminal justice typically takes two years to complete and is often the cheapest criminal justice degree available. Many community colleges offer criminal justice associate programs. It’s generally cheaper to get an associate’s degree from a local community college than it is to go to a 4-year college or university, but keep in mind that the cheapest criminal justice degree isn’t necessarily the better
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The biggest downside to earning an associate’s degree in criminal justice through community college is that it is sometimes difficult to transfer credits from a community college if you decide to earn a bachelor’s degree later. According to Lumerit unbound, students lose an average of 40% of their credits when they transfer to college because they didn’t take the right classes while in community school.
This problem can be avoided by looking for a community or college that has a partnership with a 4-year college or university. Small community colleges often partner with larger schools to ensure their programs are compatible and facilitate a smooth transition from an associate’s program at a high school to a baccalaureate program at a college or university older than 4 years.
Jobs available for individuals with an Associate in Criminal Justice include Assistant Asset Protection Manager, Anti-Money Laundering Investigator, Judicial Operations Associate, and Forensic Laboratory Technician.
A criminal justice degree usually takes four years to complete. However, accelerated programs are available, such as Purdue Global University’s online criminal justice degree. These programs are typically designed to appeal to mature students who are trying to juggle school, career and family life.
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Having a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice opens up more career opportunities, as many police departments, as well as organizations such as the FBI, require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. An online criminal justice degree fulfills this requirement in the same way as a degree earned on campus in the traditional way, but allows you to enroll in criminal justice classes online.
Job opportunities for those with a criminal justice degree include CIA Criminal Investigation Inspector Generals, SMI Case Managers, Criminal Justice Specialists, CDCA Caseworkers, Criminal Justice System Specialists, Service Managers prison mental health and criminal justice, paralegals, probation. /probation officers, substance use disorder case managers and juvenile justice specialists.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in criminal justice can help you move up the ladder in your career. While it typically takes two years to complete a master’s degree, there are faster options available, especially if you can take criminal justice classes online.
Some jobs that require a master’s degree in criminal justice include substance abuse clinic, reentry program manager, criminal justice mental health liaison, and criminal justice deputy.
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Earning a PhD opens up more career opportunities, and with that comes higher salary prospects. Jobs available to people with a PhD in criminal justice include investigative researcher, civil rights researcher, assistant professor of criminal justice or criminology, and assistant superintendent of juvenile facilities.
Online degrees in criminal justice are widely available because most jobs in the field are office-based. You can earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice online easily and conveniently, and be prepared to work as a paralegal or clerk directly while working on an online bachelor’s degree to further your career. It’s also an easy way to get started
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