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A Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice generally offers a more comprehensive education than a certificate or associate’s degree and takes longer to complete. While most associate’s degree programs are designed to last two years or less, it typically takes four years to earn your bachelor’s degree. There are also some programs – specifically online criminal justice programs – that allow you to earn your bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in criminal justice simultaneously over a period of five years.
Why a Bachelors in Criminal Justice?
In a four-year program, the first two years are spent completing basic education requirements and the last two are focused on coursework specific to the degree program. The curriculum varies from one program to another but criminal justice majors can expect to take classes in criminal law and criminal procedure, juvenile justice, criminology, research methods, corrections, police procedure, and constitutional law. Completion of a five-year program combining the bachelor’s and master’s degree typically requires additional coursework as well as the completion of a thesis.
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Career Opportunities in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice agencies are always looking for qualified candidates, and a bachelor’s degree may give you an advantage over applicants who only have an associate’s degree or certificate. Getting your bachelor’s degree can also be beneficial if you’re interested in a specialized career, such as crime scene investigation. At the local level, a bachelor’s degree can be helpful if you’re interested in becoming a police officer, public safety officer, jailer, or sheriff’s deputy. You may also be able to find employment as a security officer for a private company.
At the state level, a bachelor’s degree can also give you an edge if you’re interested in working as a state trooper, correctional officer, probation and parole officer, or counselor within the corrections system. If you’re interested in working for a federal criminal justice agency, such as the Department of Homeland Security of the Bureau of Prisons, a bachelor’s degree is considered the minimum in terms of education requirements.
Beyond the Bachelor’s Degree
For many students, a criminal justice degree is just the starting point for further study. If you’re interested in conducting research in the criminal justice field, a bachelor’s degree can prepare you for programs at the master’s or doctorate level. An undergraduate degree in criminal justice can also be a good choice if you’re planning on pursuing a law degree or a paralegal certificate.
Some that graduate with a Bachelors of Criminal Justice choose to enter the workforce. Others continue on to earn their Masters in Criminal Justice Degree.
Highly specialized fields such as forensic psychology, forensic pathology, and forensic accounting generally require additional education at the graduate level. Certain positions may also require you to be certified or undergo additional training as a condition of employment. For example, the American Probation and Parole Association and the American Correctional Association provide professional certification and training for probation officers and correctional officers.