What is a Criminology Associate Degree?
What is criminology? This field trains students to analyze criminal activity, profile suspected criminals, and solve cases. The skills gained during a criminology program can prepare graduates for opportunities throughout the criminal justice system, including in law enforcement or the court system. During a criminology associate degree, students can complete coursework in crime analysis, the criminal justice system, and psychological profiling. Those who graduate with associate degrees in criminology typically pursue careers as police officers and detectives.
Students can also transfer into a bachelor's program to complete their bachelor's degree in two years. A bachelor's degree meets the qualifications for advanced roles in criminal justice, including as federal law enforcement agents, federal corrections officers, or forensic science technicians.
Students who choose online criminology associate degrees can complete foundational coursework through an online learning format. The format appeals to professionals looking to change careers, particularly working students who require flexible schedules. Most online criminology programs set no in-person requirements, meaning degree-seekers can attend an out-of-state program that offers specialized coursework in their desired career path.
The career outlook for criminology graduates is strong. As the following sections demonstrate, several career paths in criminal justice show above-average salaries and strong job growth.
Why Earn an Online Criminology Degree?
An online criminology degree can benefit students personally and professionally. The flexible format makes it easier than ever for learners to earn their degrees.
With an online criminology program, students can attend top programs around the country without having to relocate or leave their job. The accessible format helps enrollees complete their degrees.
- Career Advancement
Many law enforcement careers require postsecondary education. Earning an associate degree opens the door for career advancement opportunities.
Online criminology degrees offer convenient schedules and enrollment options, including accelerated or part-time options. Degree-seekers can often attend school while maintaining their jobs.
- Save Money
Online programs can translate into big savings. In addition to saving on transportation and parking costs, many online programs offer tuition discounts for fully online enrollees.
An online program provides flexibility, often letting students arrange their criminology courses around work or family obligations.
Career and Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Criminology
Professionals with criminology degrees can pursue opportunities in all areas of the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, corrections, and the court system. While no degree guarantees a career or salary, this section provides typical career opportunities and salaries for criminology graduates. Some criminal justice jobs may require candidates to earn bachelor's degrees.
The following criminology associate degree salary information demonstrates the high earning potential and strong job growth for the field.
Median Annual Salary: $63,380
Projected Growth (2018-2028): 5%
|Police officers enforce the law and maintain order in communities. Some act as patrol officers, responding to emergency calls and arresting suspected criminals. Others work as detectives, investigating criminal activity and interviewing witnesses. Police officers may also specialize in certain types of crime, such as narcotics or vice.|
Median Annual Salary: $44,400
Projected Growth (2018-2028): -7%
|Corrections officers enforce rules and regulations inside of prisons and jails. They oversee inmates, maintaining security to ensure their safety. Corrections officers check cells for security breaches, inspect mail and visitors, and write reports detailing inmate behavior. Some positions require postsecondary degrees.|
|Forensic Science Technician||
Median Annual Salary: $58,230
Projected Growth (2018-2028): 14%
|Forensic science technicians help solve crimes by collecting and analyzing evidence. They conduct crime scene investigations and laboratory analysis to find evidence. At crime scenes, forensic science technicians collect evidence, take photographs, reconstruct crime scenes, and record observations. Many positions require bachelor's degrees.|
Median Annual Salary: $53,020
Projected Growth (2018-2028): 6%
|Probation officers work with law offenders on probation to assist in their rehabilitation. They interview probationers and their friends or relatives, conduct evaluations to determine a rehabilitation plan, and offer them resources like job training. They may also test probationers for drug use and offer substance abuse counseling. Most probation officers hold bachelor's degrees.|
Median Annual Salary: $50,090
Projected Growth (2018-2028): 8%
|Private detectives, also known as private investigators, uncover information for clients, including legal records, financial information, or personal information. They conduct surveillance, find missing persons, and administer background checks. Private detectives also verify statements and interview people to collect information for their clients.|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Earning an Associate in Criminology Online
Earning an online criminology associate degree can train students in the fundamentals of crime analysis, psychological profiling, and forensics. This section covers the application process, common classes, the length of a criminology associate program, and skills gained during the degree. The specific admission requirements and course descriptions vary depending on the program.
Before starting an online criminology associate degree, each student must complete an application. During this process, the program evaluates the candidate's application, transcripts, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Typically, two-year colleges do not require SAT or ACT scores.
Candidates typically must complete an application detailing their educational and professional experience. Most programs offer an online application, with the option to waive the application fee for applicants who qualify.
A prospective student will often submit a personal statement explaining their prior experience and their career goals after completing a criminology degree.
Most schools require a high school diploma or its equivalent. Candidates can demonstrate their academic preparation by submitting transcripts. Those with transfer credits can also provide college transcripts, which schools evaluate to determine how many credits transfer.
Letters of Recommendation
Some programs require letters of recommendation during the admission process. Applicants typically ask their former teachers or supervisors to write the letters.
Some colleges set a minimum GPA for full admission, with provisional admission for students who do not meet the minimum. Prospective enrollees can reach out to admissions advisors to learn more about the process.
Introduction to Criminology
Many criminology programs begin with an introductory course. Students can explore the nature and causes of crime, including the structure of the criminal justice system. The course covers criminal topologies, criminological theories, and victimization. Enrollees also examine different types of criminality and social and psychological theories of crime causation.
Criminal Justice System
In criminal justice system courses, students can explore the U.S. criminal justice system. They study the history and development of the current system, including the philosophy of the criminal justice system. The course also covers criminal justice agencies, issues in the field, and the current state of the system.
Courses on crime analysis introduce degree-seekers to the skills required to understand and analyze a crime. Students can gain skills in statistics, crime analysis methods, and procedures to understand crime. The course also covers the role of crime analysis in the law enforcement system and the responsibilities of crime analysts.
Learners can explore how to psychologically profile criminals, including the role of crime scene analysis, understanding the modus operandi, and assessing criminal signatures to identify offenders. The course relies on case studies to demonstrate techniques in psychological profiling, preparing graduates for careers in law enforcement.
In forensic psychology classes, students learn about the methods and concepts behind forensic psychology. The course explores theories of crime, the use of forensic assessments, and the impact of forensic psychology on the criminal justice system. Enrollees explore case studies and legal decisions.
Average Online Degree Length
Completing an online criminology associate degree generally takes two years for full-time students. Most two-year colleges require 60 credits to earn an associate degree, including general education requirements and criminology major coursework.
Several factors can impact the length of an online degree. Some programs require an internship or capstone course, which can add time. Many offer accelerated or part-time program timelines to accommodate student schedules. In an accelerated timeline, enrollees can either complete coursework at a quicker pace or take additional classes to earn their degree faster. Part-time learners typically take longer than two years, though flexibility benefits students with significant work or family responsibilities.
Online criminology courses offer a major advantage over in-person classes. Online degree-seekers often complete coursework on a flexible schedule, arranging lectures around their other responsibilities. Many online programs offer generous transfer credit policies to help students finish their degrees more quickly.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
Criminology students focus on topics like the criminal justice system, crime analysis, and psychological profiling. This knowledge prepares them for entry-level opportunities in criminal justice and for bachelor's programs. During a criminology degree, enrollees can also gain valuable skills and abilities that help professionals in multiple fields. The following abilities can help graduates in many different criminology jobs.
These abilities can help graduates pursue careers in criminology and other fields. Students can also specialize their abilities for specific careers after graduation. Some criminology programs offer concentrations like forensics, crime scene investigation, or criminal justice administration to build career-ready skills. Others offer electives in areas such as cybercrime, white-collar crime, or victimology. Students can also pursue internships to gain additional experience in their field.
Accreditation for Criminology Associate Programs
Each prospective criminology candidate should always check for accreditation status before applying to a college. Accreditation benefits students in important ways. Credits earned from an accredited institution will more likely transfer to other schools, which is a significant consideration for associate degree enrollees who plan to pursue bachelor's degrees. Accredited degrees also meet the requirements for more licenses and job opportunities. Finally, accredited institutions meet the qualifications to offer federal financial aid to students.
Accredited colleges must meet high standards of educational excellence. To earn accreditation, institutions submit to review from independent accrediting agencies. During the review, the accrediting agency assesses graduation requirements, student learning outcomes, and faculty qualifications. Accredited colleges must undergo regular reviews to maintain their status.
Criminology students should generally prioritize regionally accredited colleges. Regional accreditation is the highest standard for liberal arts and research institutions, including at the community college level.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Professional organizations help criminology students and professionals stay up-to-date with the field. These organizations provide networking opportunities through conferences and events, professional development resources to build criminology skills, and career centers to help connect interested applicants with job openings. Some associations offer scholarship opportunities and career guidance resources for students.
Joining a professional organization helps criminology enrollees build professional networks and transition from school to the workforce. Many offer membership discounts for students.
As an organization dedicated to criminal justice and criminology, ASC counts students, professionals, and academics among its members. The society publishes journals and newsletters, hosts a career center with information and postings for job seekers, and offers a member directory to network with criminology professionals.
NCJA represents professionals in law enforcement, the court system, and corrections. The association holds an annual conference with networking opportunities, provides professional development support through training sessions and webinars, and organizes regional events. NCJA also advocates for effective criminal justice policy at the federal, state, and local levels.
Dating back to 1948, AAFS represents forensic science professionals in fields such as law enforcement and academia. The academy publishes the Journal of Forensic Science, hosts educational conferences, and provides professional development resources for members. Students can benefit from a membership discount and career resources.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
Many graduates with associate degrees can transfer into four-year colleges or universities to complete their bachelor's degrees. A professional with a bachelor's degree can benefit from higher earning potential and a greater number of job opportunities. This section explains how to transfer into a bachelor's program and some of the best available majors.
Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program
Transfer students with associate degrees often earn their bachelor's degrees in two years. Criminology graduates can pursue advanced training in criminal justice, sociology, psychology, or several other fields, depending on their career goals.
A prospective transfer student can maximize their transfer credits by contacting an academic advisor and researching transfer agreements. By planning ahead, an applicant can save time and money on a bachelor's degree.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
A bachelor's degree in criminology, criminal justice, or psychology can prepare professionals for a variety of criminology jobs, including as a federal law enforcement officer or a profiler. Read on for a few popular four-year degrees available to students who have earned their associate degrees.
- Bachelor's in Criminology: During a bachelor's in criminology, students can complete advanced courses in crime analysis and the sociology of crime. The degree meets the entry-level requirement for many criminology jobs.
- Bachelor's in Criminal Justice: A criminal justice degree trains graduates for careers in law enforcement, corrections, or the legal system. Enrollees can complete classes in juvenile justice, criminal law, and criminal justice administration.
- Bachelor's in Psychology: A bachelor's in psychology trains students in psychological profiling, assessment, and abnormal psychology, which prepares graduates for opportunities in criminal justice or psychology.