Timelines, Programs and Resources for Criminal Justice Students
Often times, the first step for those interested in pursuing higher education in the field of criminal justice is to research the different avenues for education, such as traditional and online academic programs. Online programs are often a good fit for students who may be juggling a work schedule or family obligations or who want to attend a program that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. Students aiming at a bachelor's in criminal justice also may want to explore the level of training corresponding to various professional opportunities. Discover available degree programs and associated coursework below as well as possible career opportunities for graduates with an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
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Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice
Before enrolling in an online program, prospective students should research and compare the best available schools offering an online bachelor's in criminal justice. The makings of a good program often are a combination of factors like tuition cost, graduation rates and student-to-teacher ratios. Students may also want to explore a program's graduation requirements and how a specific program aids in a student's internship and fieldwork hours. The rankings list below is a great resource for students exploring the best online bachelor's in criminal justice programs.
4 - Year Colleges
Criminal Justice Degrees By State
Timeline: Online Criminal Justice Bachelor's Timeline
Earning an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice can be a great way for students to deepen their understanding of criminal justice and to learn about aspects of the field like the theories and practices of criminology, ethics, research tactics and investigation strategies. Although each program, its degree timeline and its coursework requirements may vary, many career paths in the criminal justice field require at least a bachelor's degree. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some police departments and most federal law enforcement agencies will require applicants to hold a college degree in order to be employed there. Below is a list of some requirements students can typically expect when applying to an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice program as well as an example of a standard four-year timeline for those pursuing this degree.
Prospective students applying to their preferred online bachelor's in criminal justice program should be sure to understand the specific application requirements set forth by that university. They should take note that requirements will often vary by school, but may include common items like letters of recommendation, additional test scores or essays. Read on to get a better idea of what the application process may involve.
Students should review and understand the program's academic requirements including minimum high school GPA as well as SAT or ACT scores.Transcripts
Whether a recent high school graduate or transfer to a criminal justice program, a student's academic transcripts will need to be provided to the institution in which they are applying.Application Fees
Students may be required to submit application fees along with their paperwork. Be sure to review the desired program's requirements as fees may vary.References and Recommendations
The requirement of letters of recommendation will vary among programs. Typically, letters of recommendation should come from educational and professional references like current or past teachers or employers who can speak to the applicant's knowledge, experience, and skillset related to the criminal justice field.Schedule an Advisor Meeting
Upon acceptance into an online criminal justice program, students should schedule a meeting with their advisor to enroll in the first semester classes and to develop a curriculum map.
Year One Milestones
During the first year of an online bachelor's in criminal justice program, the coursework will typically be focused on completing the institution's required core classes and some introductory criminal justice classes. Students should meet with an advisor to help set goals related to their degree completion.
Core classes are typically the same for most students, regardless of their major. An advisor can help map these out and determine whether previous academic experience may allow a student to bypass certain classes. For example, some students may be able to advance to a higher level math class than the course generally required for first year students.Map out an Academic Plan
Keep in mind that some classes may only be offered in spring or fall semesters, meaning planning accordingly can be crucial to a student's desired degree timeline. For example, if a student hopes to graduate in four years, students should communicate this with their advisor to ensure prerequisite courses can be completed in a timely manner.Complete Lower Division Criminal Justice Courses
Students may be able to begin taking some introductory-level criminal justice classes during their first year. This may help students determine a specific area of interest to pursue within criminal justice.
Year Two Milestones
During their second year, students will typically begin thinking about what area(s) of criminal justice most interest them most and may consider opportunities to gain professional experience through a part-time job or internship. Any remaining core classes to complete should also generally be finished before the end of this year.
There are many areas of focus within criminal justice and students should select a concentration that reflect future career goals following graduation. For example, students may choose to enter law enforcement as a police officer or may decide to continue their education and complete law school.Complete Degree-Specific Core Classes
Within the criminal justice degree program, there will likely be required core classes, such as an introduction to criminology or research methodology. If possible, enrolling in these classes during the second year can help prepare students for upper level classes during the final years of a program.Apply for an Internship
It's never too early to start building a résumé, so as the end of the second year approaches, applying for a summer internship may be a good way to start gaining fieldwork experience.
Year Three Milestones
As a student enters the second half of their academic career, they should begin taking actions to ensure success after graduation. This may include seeking professional assistance with their résumé or networking with professionals working in the field they hope to enter.
Many professional organizations and associations offer discounted rates for students. Students may want to find a criminal justice organization that offers the chance to connect with mentors and peers and provides benefits related to continued education and job opportunities.Investigate Career Options
As students complete more courses, they will usually realize what areas of criminal justice they find most interesting. Students should begin seriously researching what type of work is available that supports those interests. They should also note any additional education or training that may be required for that line of work.Begin Preparing a Resume
Some online colleges and universities may offer a resume preparation service for students. If a program doesn't, students should consider reaching out to a professor or former colleague from their internship for assistance.
Year Four Milestones
The time has come where a student's typically begins to wrap up their online bachelor's in criminal justice degree and begins to lay the groundwork for their professional career. Students will often spend this year busy with final projects and applying for jobs or graduate programs.
Students should meet with their advisors at the beginning of their final year to ensure they have completed all of the necessary classes up to this point, to review their GPAs and to review upcoming graduation requirements.Capstone Project or Paper
A capstone project or paper typically requires a student to investigate a problem or current debate within the field. Students will often conduct research and work with a faculty member who will oversee their project or paper. Requirements for capstone projects or papers may vary by program.Apply for Graduation
Students will typically need to submit a graduation application, along with any necessary fees, by the deadline set by the university.Contact Professors for Letters of Recommendation
As graduating students apply for jobs, it's helpful to have letters of recommendation on hand or a list of individuals who can provide them as needed. Students should connect with professors, advisors and mentors regarding letters of recommendation.
Students who have been in regular communication with their academic advisor and maintained the coursework track developed when they began school are typically well prepared to begin the last steps leading up to graduation. Although graduation requirements may vary among online bachelor's in criminal justice programs, there are several general requirements students can typically expect to encounter.
A minimum GPA is typically required for graduation. Students approaching graduation should generally have a good understanding of their academic standings. If a student plans to enter a graduate program, they will likely need a GPA higher than the minimum GPA required for graduation.Capstone Paper or Project
If required, students will need to complete their capstone paper or project in order to graduate. These projects typically take place over the last two semesters of school and may require a presentation of their work.Faculty Approval for Graduation
The dean of the college in which the criminal justice program resides may need to sign off on a student's graduation application. While this seems like a simple step, students should be sure to account for the time it will take to obtain this.
What Can I do with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
Individuals with a bachelor's in criminal justice degree typically can work in several different fields. In the private sector, occupations range from detectives to security personnel, and in the public sector, professional paths may include police officers, government agents, correctional officers and correctional treatment specialists. Although opportunities tend to be more numerous at the local and state level of government, options at the federal level also exist. The following is a list of common criminal justice careers, their average salaries, expected job growth and a description of what that job often entails:
Browse Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Careers
Detective or Criminal Investigator
Detectives usually work for police departments or other government agencies and help to collect evidence relating to a suspected crime. They may specialize in certain areas of crime like homicide or narcotics. Their work may also require them to keep meticulous notes and to testify in court.Job Growth (2014-2024)
4%Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
Fish and Game Warden
Game, fish and wildlife wardens typically help enforce laws and regulations that affect environmental management. They typically work for the state or local government. Wardens may also respond to emergency calls and investigate accidents, and regularly patrol wildlife areas to assure the public is following the rules when it comes to hunting, fishing and natural habitat preservation.Job Growth (2014-2024)
1.6%Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
Judicial Law Clerks
A judicial law clerk primarily focuses on legal preparation tasks for judges before they enter the courtroom. This may include conducting research and preparing legal documents, much like a paralegal does for a lawyer. Judicial law clerks are typically employed by local governments, working within city and county court systems.Job Growth (2014-2024)
-6.5%Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
Working within the field of corrections, probation officers guide and monitor parolees or probationers-people who have committed crimes and have served time or are being supervised as part of their rehabilitation program. The goal of a probation officer is to help prevent their clients from repeating offenses, and they typically work for state and local government.Job Growth (2014-2024)
3.6%Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
- Learn more about game wardens
- Learn more about becoming a police officer
- Learn more about bailiffs
- Learn more about court reporters
Core Principles Learned in an Online Criminal Justice Bachelor's Program
Bachelor's in Criminal Justice
- Applied Criminal Justice Ethics Students will often study and gain an understanding of the ethical issues that arise while working in the criminal justice system by dissecting the many practices of criminal justice in law enforcement and exploring different philosophies on morality.
- Policing and Law Enforcement Graduates will typically understand the role of police and other law enforcement agents by learning about the limitations imposed by the Constitution, the differences between community policing and problem-oriented policing, communication barriers faced in this role and how problem solving can play a crucial role in the success of police officers.
- Criminology Coursework in criminology and criminological theory often help build a foundation of knowledge so students can understand not only criminal behaviors, but also the criminal justice practices in place.
- Research Methods in Criminal justice Graduates with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice will typically acquire an understanding of how to conduct both qualitative and quantitative research with a special emphasis on research design, instrument construction, data analysis and reporting.
PHD in Criminal Justice
Master's in Criminal Justice
Associate in Criminal Justice
Online bachelor's in criminal justice students have several professional organizations they can join to help further their knowledge of the field and grow their network. These organizations also benefit students in that they can often help determine what criminal justice career best suits an individual's interests. Some organizations are broad, while others cater to specific fields. Below is a list of professional organizations for criminal justice students.
This organization provides resources for education, research and policy analysis. Members have the opportunity to network, share ideas and stay up-to-date on current policies and trends.
This association works to provide research and analysis to help in the decision-making process in criminal and juvenile justice. In addition to publications and newsletters, students can also take advantage of discounted rates for conferences and training classes.
This organization strives to build criminal justice policy and works with state, tribal, and local governments to help prevent crime. They also offer webinars, networking opportunities and conferences for their members as well as discounted rates for association events to their student members.