Criminal Justice Degrees Guide – Criminal Justice Degree Schools

The criminal justice discipline contains three primary branches or systems: law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. Each of these includes several fields, such as homeland security, cybersecurity, and policing, while the court system employs professionals in fields such as law, forensic psychology, and court administration. Corrections, meanwhile, features careers in prison administration and social services.

Criminal justice offers an unusually diverse array of degree concentrations and career paths. Often lucrative, varied, and stimulating, most criminal justice careers enjoy a positive job outlook, as indicated by career data in the guide below. These degrees also help graduates increase their job security, given the growing demand for criminal justice professionals. Criminal justice (CJ) degrees can increase job opportunities, raise salaries, and improve job performance.

This degree guide serves aspiring and current criminal justice students by surveying the various criminal justice degree levels, concentrations, benefits, and career paths available in this discipline.

Featured Online Programs

Explore program formats, transfer requirements, financial aid packages, and more by contacting the schools below.

What Is a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice programs support students passionate about justice and public service by helping them to become competent, knowledgeable professionals who protect and serve their communities. Certificates typically serve students seeking introductory education, which does not demand a formidable investment of time and money.

Many certificate graduates obtain entry-level positions and work their way up the ladder by accumulating experience and education as needed. Entry-level careers in CJ include court clerk, fire and police dispatcher, and parking enforcement officer.

Associate degrees serve a similarly introductory purpose. CJ associate programs cost more and take longer, but they enable transfer to CJ bachelor’s programs. Bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice meet educational requirements for CJ careers, such as correctional treatment specialist and probation officer.

Some academically inclined CJ students pursue master’s or doctoral degrees, which support careers in research, forensic psychology, and postsecondary teaching. Postsecondary CJ teachers earn a median annual salary of $72,390, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees

Learners can study criminal justice at many levels, from undergraduate certificate to doctorate. Graduates of undergraduate certificate and associate degree programs usually qualify for entry-level criminal justice positions. According to PayScale, CJ certificate-holders earn an average of $48,000 per year, while associate degree graduates earn an average $49,000 annually. Students seeking higher pay rates often use these programs as a foundation for bachelor’s degree programs.

Depending on degree specialization, CJ bachelor’s degrees meet or exceed educational requirements for most CJ careers. Bachelor’s graduates make about $54,000 annually, according to PayScale. Students who earn graduate degrees stand the best chance of qualifying for leadership positions and earning higher salaries. See below for descriptions of CJ program levels, timetables, curricula, and career paths.