The field of criminal justice, with its excellent job prospects encompassing the areas of law and criminology, is no doubt an appealing career field. But it can be tough to break into. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, it will require a degree from one of the reputable criminal justice schools or colleges in the country.
But before you rush off to enroll in a school, you need to decide first whether to apply to an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree program. Either of these criminal justice degrees is enough to get you started in the field, but they’re not the same. Depending on what kind of career in the criminal justice field you’re aspiring for and how far you want to go, one degree may be better than the other.
To help you figure out which academic qualification is ideal for you, here’s more information on both the associate’s degree and the bachelor’s degree.
1. Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice
The associate’s degree is the more basic of the two. It is also the most popular choice for people aspiring to begin a quick career in the criminal justice field. That’s because an associate’s degree in criminal justice can be earned within a short period—about two years—compared to a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years to complete.
What careers can you qualify for with an associate’s degree in criminal justice?
With an associate’s degree under your belt, you can easily become a police officer, which is a very popular career choice for graduates of this degree program. If you don’t prefer to work in the police department, however, you may seek an entry-level position as an assistant to private investigators or other law enforcement officers.
Keep in mind, though, that an associate’s degree may not be enough to get you hired immediately. For instance, if you want to become a police officer, you’ll also have to pass a civil service test and then undergo physical and mental training at a police academy.
As for the earning potential, an associate’s degree holder employed in the criminal justice field can get a salary ranging from $35,000 to $50,000 a year. It all depends on your position. However, with enough experience, you can get promoted to a senior position and earn a salary exceeding $90,000 a year.
What’s the benefit of earning an associate’s degree in criminal justice?
First of all, an associate’s degree program is comfortably cheaper than a bachelor’s degree program. What’s more, it is designed to get you started quickly in the criminal justice field. That is, you can earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice after only two years of study, and that will already qualify you for a decent job with a good salary.
After working in the criminal justice field for some years (or even months), you may already see an improvement in your economic situation. You may then consider seeking higher academic qualifications by earning a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in criminal justice. That will make you eligible for senior or administrative-level government positions, like that of a lawyer, an FBI agent, or a forensic analyst, among others.
Note: If you’re applying to an associate’s degree program in criminal justice now but plan to go on to a higher degree in the future, make sure you choose a school that has regional accreditation instead of national accreditation.
2. Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice
Unlike an associate’s degree in criminal justice, which takes only two years to complete, a bachelor’s degree program requires four years of schooling. That’s because bachelor’s degrees are designed to provide students with more in-depth knowledge on the criminal justice field, as well as valuable skills that will prepare them for careers as experts in the area of criminology.
What careers can you qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice?
As a child, you might have spent a lot of time watching spy movies. You might even have entertained thoughts of becoming a spy and saving your country from terrorists and foreign threats. Well, if that is the case, you should know that a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice might just be the ticket to your dream job.
With a bachelor’s degree, you can be eligible for prestigious government positions, like that of a CIA or FBI agent. Or, you can become a police officer, a forensic doctor, a private investigator, a probation officer, or a parole officer, among many others. Indeed, a bachelor’s degree has a lot to offer. It can open up many opportunities in the criminal justice career field.
If you have dreams of becoming a lawyer, for example, a bachelor’s degree can make you eligible for enrollment in a law school that’s accredited by the American Bar Association.
In short, you can say that a bachelor’s degree is the golden key (whereas an associate’s degree is the silver key) to a career in the criminal justice field. With this degree, you can get into a fulfilling career and earn a handsome salary, ranging from around $60,000 to over $100,000 a year.
What’s the benefit of earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice?
You probably know the saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Well, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is an excellent illustration of this. Although it takes four years to complete, it is still worth your time, money, and effort because it will give you so much in return. With this degree, you’ll have the opportunity to work in any criminal justice area of your choice.
A bachelor’s degree is what you need if you want to stand out from the crowd. It will certainly increase your chances of getting employed in such a highly competitive field. Plus, your starting salary will be comparatively higher than that of criminal justice aspirants with an associate’s degree.
Recommended Criminal Justice Schools!
- Criminal Justice A.A.S.
- Criminal Justice B.S.
- Business Administration Emphasis in Pre-Law B.S.
For over 35 years, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals. Our student-centered approach remains at the foundation of the Keiser University mission and continues to attract students who prefer a more personal learning experience.
- Master of Arts in Homeland Security
- Master of Arts in Criminal Justice-Homeland Security
- Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security
Kaplan University is focused on recognizing the achievements of military and veteran students and offers the flexibility of an online education. Eligible students can receive college credit for prior military experience and coursework—up to 75 percent of the credit needed for a Kaplan University undergraduate degree.*
- MS in Criminal Justice - Law
- MS in Criminal Justice
- BS in Criminal Justice
- And more...
About Brightwood College
Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.
About Education Corporation of America
Education Corporation of America's institutions broaden access to postsecondary educational opportunities.
- Criminal Justice
At YTI Career Institute, we are your beacon—brightening your future outlook and lighting your path to a rewarding career. As a YTI student, you’ll enjoy five advantages:
1. Industry-modeled training in Trades and Technical, Computers, Business, Medical, Culinary Arts or Criminal Justice.
2. Accelerated programs you can complete in as few as 9 months.
3. Energized, student-centered faculty who provide personalized instruction.
4. Financial Aid assistance for those who qualify.
5. Career Services assistance through your Career Services Specialist.
- Criminal Justice & First Response - Associate
- Criminal Justice
As a student at South University, you will have the opportunity to learn from accomplished faculty members who have real-world experience in the subjects that they teach. Our small class sizes allow you to receive personalized attention from instructors, and the encouragement to recognize your goals for the future and the means to achieve them.
- Criminal Justice (MS)
- Criminal Justice (BS)
- Legal Studies (BS)
The Berkeley Advantage®is part of a proven approach to career-focused education that can help students prepare for success.
- AAS in Justice Studies - Criminal Justice
- BS in Justice Studies - Criminal Justice
- AAS, Legal Studies
- And more...
- Criminal Justice - Associate Degree
- Criminal Justice