Bachelors In

Criminal Justice Degrees

The complete guide on what you’ll learn, job prospects, university programs, and saving time and money.
on February 19, 2024

Why We Love It

  • $79,620
    Potential Avg. Salary*

* Salary & growth data is based on the recent Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for 33-3021 Detectives and criminal investigators 11/2021. Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

With a bachelor of science in criminal justice, you’ll have the advanced qualifications needed to take senior-level positions in law enforcement offices. Students study the law, criminal justice, sociology, and criminology topics, which help them prepare for working as detectives, crime scene investigators, prison administrators, and more.

It’s also a good starting point for a career as a defense lawyer or prosecutor.

What is a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Law enforcement officials—police officers, detectives, crime scene investigators, and police chiefs—must all complete police academy, but most also have college degrees as well. While police officers commonly pursue associate’s degrees, those who aspire to get promoted into more senior-level positions often hold bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice.

Studying for a bachelor of science in criminal justice provides you with the education you need to enforce the law effectively and ethically.

By studying criminology, law, sociology, and psychology in a criminal justice program, you’ll have the education needed to understand criminal motivations, investigate crime scenes effectively and in detail, and manage a police office and force that is effective and ethical.

Additionally, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is often a great starting point for aspiring lawyers who are interested in criminal law. By pursuing a law degree after graduation, you can find work as a defense attorney or prosecutor.

Recommended Schools

What Courses Would I Take For a Major in Criminal Justice?

  • Introduction to Corrections
  • Domestic Violence
  • White Collar Crimes
  • Criminal Justice Crime Control Policies and Practices
  • Courts and Sentencing
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Introduction to Policing
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Crime

What Jobs Can You Get with a Degree in Criminal Justice?

It is an unfortunate reality that crime is always a concern in communities across the U.S. and world. However, because crime is always occurring, there is always a demand for police officers to stop in-progress crimes, protect the public and their possessions, and catch criminals who’ve committed crimes.

Additionally, there is a need for effective detectives, crime scene investigators, and law enforcement leaders to manage police staffs and prisons and ensure an effective police force.

How Long does it take?

A bachelors in Criminal Justice will have a typical length of 4 years in a full time schedule. That said, there are many ways to speed up the timeframe by either taking more units via online coursework, community college, or taking free classes at that could transfer to universities in the US.

Online Criminal Justice Degree

Studying criminal justice should certainly be among your choices if you consider working in safety and security. The study is commonly easier for busy adults than other types of studies as it is not writing or reading intensive.

Online criminal justice degrees are commonly available but it’s still important to find programs offered by universities that are built for adults.

What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Criminal justice is a field of study that is focused on the delivery of justice to people who were charged with crimes. The criminal justice system consists of a number of governmental institutes including police, courts, prosecution and defense lawyers, and prisons. Criminal justice has three main objectives which are rehabilitation of offenders, prevention of crimes and providing moral support for victims.

Criminal justice as a field of study belongs to social sciences. It involves studies related to crimes, criminals’ psychology, and law among other fields. The studies prepare students to work in various aspects of the field which have a direct impact on making the community better and safer.

What does a criminal justice student learn?

Criminal justice students learn a variety of courses covering topics related to crimes, law, psychology and society. The study can be challenging to complete and mentally engaging. It is an exciting field although it may not look like TV series related to crime investigations. The following courses are commonly offered in criminal justice study programs:

  1. The foundation of criminal justice systems: it is an introductory course that presents the principles to help students analyze and evaluate the nature, sources, purposes and limitations of the criminal justice system.
  2. Theories of Crime Causation: the course introduces the three main sociological theories and delinquency which are called strain, social learning and control theories. Knowing the cause and motive of a crime is a critical step for solving a crime as well as the rehabilitation of the criminal.
  3. Introduction to criminal law: this course introduces the legal definition of a crime and the penalties based on it. Laws can vary significantly from one country to another or from one state to another.
  4. Introduction to law enforcement: this course introduces the steps and agencies for the enforcement of law including various levels of police forces including city, state and federal police forces. Police activities are also explained including patrol, traffic and criminal investigations.
  5. Introduction to the American court system: this course explains the court system used in the United States which is divided into three levels: district courts which are also known as trial courts, criminal courts and the Supreme Court of the United States which is the final level of appeal in the United States.
  6. Foundations of corrections: this course introduces the work and objectives of correctional institutions including jails or prisons that function to rehabilitate criminals.

Now I have the criminal justice degree…where can I work after graduating?

Working in criminal justice is exciting however it can also be mentally and physically demanding. You will have the chance to leave a positive impact on the community, criminals and victims. The following are examples of jobs that you may consider after earning your degree in criminal justice:

  1. Lawyer or paralegal associate: studying criminal justice will provide you with important legal knowledge. However, you will probably need to complete more law studies to qualify as a lawyer.
  2. Officer or agent at governmental agencies such as the FBI, CIA or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  3. Forensic psychologist: the role of this job is to help understand the motives of crimes in addition to helping criminals reintegrate into the community. You can also work with victims to maintain their normal life.
  4. Criminal detective: the role of this job is to investigate crimes based on pieces of evidence from the crime site or other related places. Graduates of criminal justice have integrated knowledge that qualifies them to work in this field.

Should I choose a criminal justice degree?

Working in criminal justice is personally rewarding when it comes to the positive impact that you can have on the community and people’s lives. However, some crimes may be emotionally devastating and you can easily get affected if you do not set clear boundaries between your personal and professional life.

There are a number of skills that you will develop by studying and working in the criminal justice field:

  1. Active listening and learning: criminal justice workers should always listen carefully to victims, suspected people and criminals. You also need to communicate effectively with judges, policemen or other people involved in a case.
  2. Critical thinking and decision-making: criminal justice workers are commonly responsible for important decisions affecting the lives of people. Accordingly, they should carefully analyze and consider all the information and details available.
  3. Time management: criminal justice jobs are commonly stressful and highly demanding which requires efficient time management to fulfill the time-sensitive tasks.
  4. Public speaking: criminal justice workers commonly need to speak to the public regarding important cases or people.
  5. Written communication: criminal justice workers need to maintain complete accuracy when writing as their writings are commonly considered legal documents. They should pay attention to details, structure of the writing, grammar and spelling of words.

Recommended Schools

Best Jobs for Criminal Justice Degrees

A bachelor of science in criminal justice prepares you for a variety of careers in the law enforcement industry. Graduates work as police officers and have the credentials needed to earn promotions into detective, police captain, and police chief roles later in their careers.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is also a great degree to earn for aspiring defense attorneys, prosecutors, and district attorneys.

How to save time and money

Our mission is to help you to avoid paying full price for college. We want your Criminal Justice degree to be affordable and accessible. Here’s how you could save:

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Earn an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice First

To enter a police academy, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree. You just need an associate’s degree and to be at least 21 years old. By earning an associate’s degree first, you can enter a police academy and begin earning professional experience as a police officer while you pursue your bachelor’s degree.

Best of all, the credits you earn in an associate’s degree program usually transfer to reduce the number of classes you have to take to complete your bachelor’s degree program.

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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