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Criminal Justice Bachelor Degree


Learners with a passion for fairness and protecting others should consider studying criminal justice. Graduates with a bachelor's in criminal justice can work as police officers, detectives, emergency response managers, and forensic laboratory technicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for police officers to grow 5% from 2018-2028.




criminal justice bachelor degree


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In 1916, a police officer in Berkeley, California, collaborated with the University of California to create the very first academic program in criminal justice. The officer realized a need for a formal education in order to prepare graduates to serve as expert witnesses to testify in court. The program began as a simple training program for officers and evolved into a full baccalaureate degree.


A vast number of people work in criminal justice positions around the country. The BLS reported 813,500 jobs in police and detective work in 2019 alone. Other criminal justice professionals may work in prisons and corrections facilities, for private investigation firms, or as paralegals in law firms.


Those working in law enforcement often report a high level of job satisfaction and feel their jobs hold high meaning. People interested in service positions may also enjoy careers in public safety and criminal justice.


Many jobs in criminal justice require a bachelor's degree. Holding a bachelor's in criminal justice provides the foundation many employers look for in job candidates and helps applicants stand out. Emphasizing skills and knowledge in sociology and psychology, this degree also prepares graduates for careers outside of law enforcement and the justice system, providing skills applicable in a variety of industries.


It takes full-time students an average of four years to complete a criminal justice bachelor's degree, and most programs require around 120 credit hours. These numbers vary based on additional requirements, such as internships and capstones. Degree length also depends on how many credit hours each student takes per semester.


Students who value flexibility should consider an online bachelor's in criminal justice program that features asynchronous courses. These programs allow learners to complete their coursework and watch pre-recorded lectures on their own schedule. Check out our ranking of the best online criminal justice bachelor's programs.


Undergraduate criminal justice students can choose from a variety of degree options to fit their goals and interests. The BA and BS serve as the most common degrees that offer majors in criminal justice.


Within the BA or BS in criminal justice, many schools offer concentrations to further specialize the program. Some concentrations include homeland security, juvenile justice, and forensic investigation.


Pursuing a concentration may incur more required credits and could lengthen the overall program. However, concentrations also allow students to focus their learning toward their career goals and specific interests. Not all programs include concentration options, but many allow students to pursue a minor alongside the criminal justice major.


Online versus in-person learning, school prestige and reputation, public versus private institutions, and in-state versus out-of-state residency can all influence the total cost of earning a degree. Prospective criminal justice students should also consider additional costs to earning a degree such as books and materials, room and board, and technology costs.


Fortunately, students can take advantage of a variety of funding and financing options for their criminal justice degree. All students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to help their school determine their financial need and aid eligibility. Scholarships, fellowships, and grants provide funding that doesn't require repayment. Student loans, both private and federal, require repayment upon graduation.


Bachelor's in criminal justice graduates can join a workforce of passionate individuals ready to protect others. Those who prefer behind-the-scenes work should consider becoming forensic science technicians. Graduates who love coordinating and function well under pressure might work as emergency management directors. Finally, aspiring professionals who want to work on the frontlines may pursue careers as police officers with this degree.


Regardless of their professional aspirations, criminal justice professionals benefit from job security. For example, the BLS projects the need for forensic science technicians to grow by 14% from 2018-2028, much faster than the national average for all occupations.


Graduates with a criminal justice bachelor's degree can work in diverse roles, such as forensic science technician and police officer. We cover several common roles and potential salaries for graduates below.


Analytical people excel in this career, which involves collecting and studying evidence to aid criminal investigations. Forensic science technicians typically work in labs and must possess a strong understanding of chemistry and biology. These professionals usually need a bachelor's degree.


This career involves the analysis of body fluids, tissue, and other substances. These professionals work in hospitals or diagnostic laboratories, performing tests and collecting samples for criminal investigations. Most laboratory technologists need a bachelor's degree. Some states also require special licensure.


Probation officers work with law offenders in custody or on parole to help them rehabilitate and successfully transition back to life outside of prison or jail. They may test clients for drugs and offer substance abuse counseling, write reports and maintain case files, and connect probationers and parolees with community resources. These professionals typically need a bachelor's degree.


Although our rankings list offers a great place to start, choosing the best criminal justice bachelor's program for you involves careful research and consideration. Prospective criminal justice students should consider the factors below.


All of the schools featured in our rankings hold regional accreditation, meaning the academic programs at those schools meet rigorous academic and quality standards set by a regional accrediting body. In addition to looking for accredited programs, learners may also consider schools that hold programmatic accreditation for criminal justice; which is most commonly provided by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.


Students with prior earned college credit, including those with an associate degree, should consider how much additional time it would take to complete the bachelor's degree in criminal justice. First-year students might consider whether they want to enroll part or full time in order to complete the program within a set time frame.


Online criminal justice bachelor's programs offer learners the opportunity to maintain their careers while they earn their degree. However, online learning may not suit all learners, and prospective students should consider whether the platform fits their needs.


Collapse AllExpand AllWhat can I do with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice?Graduates with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice can work in roles such as police officer, detective, and forensic technician. They can also pursue jobs as emergency responders, probation officers, and emergency management directors.How many years does it take to earn a bachelor's in criminal justice?On average, it takes four years of full-time study to complete a bachelor's in criminal justice. Part-time study may extend the degree by one or two years. Some programs feature accelerated programs that allow students to expedite graduation.How do I get a bachelor's in criminal justice?Students must first apply to prospective programs. Application requirements vary by institution but typically include letters of recommendation, transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and a resume. After gaining admission to a program, students complete general education courses, covering topics like math and English, before advancing to criminal justice coursework.What are the highest-paying jobs for graduates with a bachelor's in criminal justice?Emergency management directors rank as some of the highest-paid professionals in this field, earning $74,420 per year, on average, while private detectives and investigators earn $50,090 per year.How many credits do I need to earn a bachelor's in criminal justice?Bachelor's in criminal justice programs typically comprise 120 credits of general education, major, and elective courses.


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