Types of Criminal Justice Degree Programs

When you’re interested in expanding your knowledge within the criminal justice industry, then you’ll find that this field features a wide array of degree options. For example, you may receive an education in criminal justice in the form of a certificate all the way to a dynamic and complex PhD. The exact type of program you enroll in depends on the type of career you wish to fall into. If you’re planning on working in a professional-level position you may need to go after an advanced degree; however, there are many well-paying career options for those with a standard certificate or degree.

The most important factor when choosing the best program for you is to have a decent idea of what your immediate career goals may be. It’s only when you identify these goals, you’re able to seek out appropriate schooling levels.

Educational Options

The following is a brief rundown of the various criminal justice degree programs you may choose from. You’ll notice that this list begins with the easiest, least time consuming, options and progresses to the more complex and advanced degree programs. While certifications aren’t technically degrees, a certificate in criminal justice can open up a host of entry level job opportunities that are challenging and decently paid.

  • Criminal Justice Certificate Programs – Generally, a certificate program in criminal justice lasts anywhere from a few weeks up to 12 months. Certificates are an excellent way to “test out” this industry without the financial and time commitment of a degree field. However, if you do decide to get a degree in criminal justice, most credits earned during a certificate program cannot be applied toward a degree. This is definitely a factor worth considering.
  • Associate Degree in Criminal Justice – After you advance from certificate programs, next comes two year associate degree programs. These basic level degree programs typically require 60 credit hours to obtain. If you’re not sure this is the field you wish to enter, but you desire a higher education than certificate programs, then an associate’s degree is your ideal choice. Upon entering the workforce, you may pursue more advanced degrees without having to start from scratch.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice – Bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice then to require 120 credit hours to obtain, which breaks down to a four-year study program. If you’re interested in pursuing a professional-level career in a criminal justice position, then this is the first stepping stone to achieving this goal. However, if you wish to stop your schooling after obtaining a bachelor’s degree, you’ll still be able to secure a relatively high-ranking career.
  • Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice – A master’s degree in criminal justice further expands the knowledge cultivated during the four-year bachelor’s program. These programs are typically highly concentrated on a specific subject matter. Therefore, upon graduation you’re in a much better place to secure a high-ranking position in this industry.
  • Doctoral Degree in Criminal Justice – Those who wish to delve deep into the world of criminal justice, and work alongside some of the most influential people in this industry, then you’ll want to obtain a doctoral degree in criminal justice. These professionals typically work in the analytical, policy and theoretical portions of criminal justice.