Learners with a high school or GED diploma can pursue an online criminal justice degree. Applicants may need to submit standardized test scores and recommendation letters. Coursework covers criminology theories, communication skills, and challenges criminal justice professionals face.
Popular criminal justice jobs include police officer, private investigator, and criminal profiler. Some careers require a bachelor's degree and professional experience. The following guide to online criminal justice degrees answers frequently asked questions, highlights typical courses, and explores career paths. Before applying to criminal justice schools, learners should contact an admissions advisor about program requirements and outcomes.View Our Rankings List Here
Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Justice
Q. What kind of jobs can I get with a criminal justice degree?
Criminal justice careers include counterterrorism investigator, paralegal, and public policy analyst. Bachelor's degree-seekers prepare for careers through specialization or elective courses.
Q. What are the highest-paying criminal justice jobs?
Some of the highest-paying criminal justice jobs include lawyer, forensic analyst, and private investigator. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), lawyers earn a median salary of $126,930 per year.
Q. What skills does criminal justice require?
Criminal justice professionals need transferable skills in written and oral communication, time management, and critical thinking. Students earning an online criminal justice degree develop these skills in major and general election classes.
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Why Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?
According to the BLS, police officers and detectives earn a median annual salary of $67,290, approximately $25,000 more than median salary for all occupations. Other criminal justice professionals, such as emergency management directors, earn higher median salaries. The BLS projects employment for police officers and emergency management directors to increase about as fast as average from 2020-2030.
Online criminal justice degrees offer flexibility and accessibility. Distance learning allows more learners to access criminal justice careers. Asynchronous learning allows degree-seekers to schedule their education around work and family responsibilities. Additionally, online students can enroll in out-of-state programs without relocating.
How Much Does a Criminal Justice Cost?
Although tuition varies by school, many online degrees offer a tuition rate much lower than what on-campus degree-seekers pay. Students find affordable online criminal justice degrees by exploring in-state public schools. Most public schools charge the lowest tuition to residents. Typical full-time students earn a bachelor's degree in four years. Accelerated degree-seekers may need only three years. Part-time learners may need five years.
Online criminal justice degrees may charge fees, such as a technology fee. Other expenses include textbooks and a graduation fee. Learners should also budget for technology, as they must meet their school's technology requirements. Students may need to purchase a new computer or a faster internet connection.
How Much Do Criminal Justice Majors Make?
Salary potential depends on many factors, such as location. Police and patrol officers living in California, New Jersey, and Alaska earn the highest median salaries, according to BLS data. Washington state and Hawaii also offer high salaries. However, these states' costs of living exceed the national average. Students interested in high-paying criminal justice careers can consider fire inspector and forensic science technician.
Graduates of criminal justice schools often qualify for more career opportunities. The FBI requires all special agents to hold a bachelor's degree. Some specialized law enforcement agents need an academic background in criminal justice and another subject.
Courses in Criminal Justice
Online criminal justice degrees require major courses, general education classes, and electives. Major coursework prepares learners to identify why crime happens and determine appropriate consequences. Students learn how various agencies make communities safer. Many programs feature concentrations aligning with certain careers.
The following sample curriculum highlights three courses that many affordable online criminal justice degrees require. Curricula and student experiences vary by school. Program websites typically provide information about academic requirements and graduates' employers. Prospective students can also explore their school's career center website.
This introductory course covers the relationship between biology and psychology, the human nervous system, and development over the lifespan. Students learn to analyze case studies and draw conclusions about criminals' motivations. The course does not typically require prerequisites.
Essentials of Psychology
Regardless of their career goals, students take this class to understand officers' roles in law enforcement. Coursework explores law enforcement theories, procedures, and types of violence. Learners also examine police corruption's impact on public safety. Degree-seekers analyze a community's law enforcement needs and draft a community policing policy.
Paralegals, lawyers, and judges need advanced research and writing skills. Students in this course improve their information literacy, use research aids, and write memoranda. Learners complete research projects on criminal justice topics such as parental custody. Prerequisites may include a first-year English or writing course.
Legal Research and Writing
Career and Salary Outlook for Criminal Justice
The criminal justice field has dozens of career tracks. Many feature high median annual salaries and strong projected growth rates. Graduates of criminal justice schools qualify for a variety of fulfilling job opportunities.
The following descriptions highlight popular career's responsibilities. Job duties vary by state and employer. Some jobs require professional experience in addition to a criminal justice degree. Career advisors can help students understand specific job requirements.
Police officers and detectives respond to emergencies, make patrols, and arrest suspects. Other typical job duties include maintaining paperwork and testifying in court. Some entry-level positions require only a high school diploma. However, police and detectives must graduate from a police academy. Bachelor's degree-holders may qualify for promotions and additional career opportunities.
These professionals work with recently paroled criminals. They help parolees attain work and access social services, such as psychological and drug treatment. These officers also perform drug tests and update files. Most probation and correctional officers hold a criminal justice bachelor's degree.
Forensic science technicians collect evidence from crime scenes. These professionals may specialize in sketching or photography. They perform laboratory tests and work alongside other scientists. Officers use these technicians' results to arrest and prosecute suspects. Forensic science technicians benefit from an academic background in the natural sciences.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics