Associate's Degree

The popularity of careers in criminal justice has made earning a degree more important than ever. However, individuals who want to pursue these jobs do not need to spend four years in school in order to break into the field. A person can earn an associate's degree in criminal justice in just two years. An associate's degree will give you the basic knowledge needed to succeed in these jobs. Police departments, federal agencies, and corporations build on these basic concepts through their own academy or training programs. Just think how much better your job prospects will be with this degree. You have the basics down and will be able to walk in and immediately contribute to an organization.

Many community colleges and technical schools offer an associate's degree in criminal justice. Online colleges also offer this degree. However, before enrolling in an associate's program, make sure to do a little research on the school. Check to see that the school has received a valid accreditation and is not just a "diploma mill". Most organizations will only accept degrees from accredited schools.

Required Prerequisites

Community colleges have a more relaxed application process than traditional four year colleges. You will have to fill out an application and prove that you have earned a high school diploma or GED. These schools do not typically require a minimum GPA in order for students to be accepted into their degree programs. Many of these schools will not even require a traditional standardized test score from the SAT or ACT, but other placement tests may be required.

Each school has the ability to set their own prerequisites. Some schools only require a high school diploma, while others will ask you to demonstrate some level of proficiency. Schools may have their own placement tests that you must pass in order to enroll in their programs. Many criminal justice programs will require you to show that you are proficient at a certain level in Math and English.

Do not wait until the deadline to submit your application. Criminal justice programs are very popular and can fill up quickly. The earlier you send in your application, the better your chances of being accepted into their program.

Typical Coursework

An associate's degree in criminal justice is made up of two parts: general academic classes and core criminal justice classes. Initially, you will be required to take general classes in English, Math, and Social Sciences. It does not matter if you are pursuing a criminal justice degree or a business degree. Every student is required to take these classes. Then, you able to dive into the subject matter you came here to study, criminal justice. These classes will teach you about law enforcement, the legal system, and corrections.

Students will be able to take classes like Introduction to Criminal Justice, Police Administration, Criminal Evidence and Procedure, Juvenile Delinquency, Introduction to Law Enforcement, Introduction to Corrections, or Criminal Law. Students will also be allowed to take other criminal justice electives tailored to their specific career goals.

Example: Community College Associate Degree Program

Advantages of an Associate's Criminal Justice Degree

Time is one of the biggest advantages of an associate's degree. You will only be spending two years in school. After graduating, you will be able to find a criminal justice job and start earning an income immediately. Also, these classes may be offered during evenings or on the weekends. Many of these students work during the day, so schools will schedule their classes to help make learning more convenient for their students.

The cost of an associate's degree is also a huge advantage. Earning an associate's degree is significantly cheaper than earning a bachelor's degree. Estimates put the cost savings between 30% - 40% for each year you spend in community college or technical school. You can always go back and earn your bachelor's degree in criminal justice if your career plans require it. However, you will need to have an associate's degree from an accredited program. Many universities will allow you to transfer credits as long as they were earned from an accredited school. It will just take you two more years to earn your bachelor's degree.

Last Updated: 04/29/2014