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!
As the largest private university in North America, University of Phoenix has locations nationwide, and is available online in most countries around the world. Whether you're seeking a college degree at an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral level, we can help you reach your academic goal and sooner than you might think.
- A.A. in Criminal Justice
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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.*
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Earn your degree online with Grand Canyon University. We offer approximately 100 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs that can be completed 100% online. Degree programs are available in the fields of education, nursing and health sciences, business, fine arts and production, and liberal arts.
- M.S. in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
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Pioneering distance education since 1985, Liberty University is now the nation’s seventh largest university. With more than 300 online and residential areas of study, Liberty offers programs from the certificate to doctoral level.
- BS in Criminal Justice
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DeVry University provides quality education that employers respect, and is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (ncahlc.org), the same organization that accredits many other well-known public and private schools.
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Keiser University offers accredited degree programs in today's in demand careers: Healthcare, Technology, Paralegal, Business, Nursing and Legal Studies.
- Criminal Justice, MA (Online)
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Argosy University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs to students through its seven colleges: Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Business, Education, Health Sciences, Undergraduate Studies, The Art Institute of California and Western State College of Law as well as certificate programs in many areas.
- Criminal Justice (BS) (Online)