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Earning a Criminal Justice Degree Online

Students looking into earning a criminal justice degree online know what it takes to make the world a fair and safe place. When they’re watching their favorite crime show,

Law and Order or CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, perhaps, they can solve the case faster than the on-screen detective.

Yet they also know the types of unglamorous work that might go into criminal justice. Gathering facts, writing reports and filling out forms may all be a part of an academic and professional career in criminal justice.i

Being able to do these tasks, as well as the more dynamic aspects of criminalistics, with empathy, leadership, good judgment, communication and perceptiveness, might be the key to preparing yourself to succeed in this field.ii Looking into your options of online criminal justice degrees might be the perfect way to start your pursuit of this career.

A Wide Variety of Criminal Justice Degree Online Programs

Covering a number of potential fields and potentially preparing students for a wide variety of career pursuits, criminal justice degree programs might be available in many shapes and sizes. Depending on your educational background, your interests and your career goals, you may prefer one type of criminal justice online program to another. Check out some of the potential options you might have when looking at a criminal justice degree online.

Associate-Level Criminal Justice Online Programs

For students without prior experience in higher education that are looking to jumpstart their careers in criminalistics, an associate’s criminal justice degree online might be an option to look into. Associate’s degrees may not often have admission requirements beyond a high school diploma.iiiColleges that offer criminal justice at the associate level might typically have programs in one of two types: occupational degree programs or transfer degree programs.iii The former might be designed to progress into a bachelor’s degree, while the latter may help prepare students to pursue a career in criminal justice after graduation.iii Either might take about two years of full-time study to complete.iii

Bachelor’s Online Criminal Justice Degrees

For a more intensive entry-level degree program on criminal justice, pursuing a bachelor’s might be a good choice for some students. Typically requiring four years of coursework, bachelor’s degrees might be provide both general instruction and the opportunity to dive deep into criminal justice.iv

Earning a Graduate Criminal Justice Degree Online

Students that have already earned a bachelor’s degree may be looking to switch career fields or enhance their education in criminal justice. Pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree in criminal justice online might be a good way to do this. Requiring two to six years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree, graduate degrees may be highly specialized and demanding.v

Concentration Options at Colleges for Criminal Justice

Online schools for criminal justice may not just vary in the levels of degree programs they offer, they may also provide courses of study in different fields within criminal justice and criminalistics. Many programs offer the option to specialize in a particular field. These areas of focus, or concentrations, may differ at each school you look at, and some may not even offer them. If you’re curious as to what potential options for concentrations might be available at different schools, the following could provide some examples:

Other options may be available, and not all schools will offer those listed below, so be sure to request information from your school about the potential paths you can take to an online criminal justice degree.

Coursework at Colleges That Offer Criminal Justice

With so many degree levels and concentrations, it’s no surprise that the coursework offered and available in criminal justice online programs may vary a lot. Depending on your interests, there might be many paths to graduating from a criminal justice degree program.

Associates Degree

While every school’s curriculum may differ, courses to expect at the associate level might resemble some of the following examples.

  • Criminal procedure
  • Ethics of criminal justice
  • Criminal law
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Homeland defense

Bachelors Degree

At the bachelor’s level, you might expect some slightly more advanced coursework, in addition to the introductory classes you’d see at the associate level. Some potential examples of course subjects could include:

Masters or Doctoral Degrees

Graduate-level courses for a master’s or doctoral degree in criminal justice may be even more advanced, and could also offer students the opportunity to conduct their own research.v Some potential class topics at these levels might look something like the following:

  • Theories of criminal justice
  • Psychology of criminal justice
  • Comparing different criminal justice systems
  • Research methods
  • Judicial processes

Offline Learning at Online Schools for Criminal Justice

You may have a pretty fair idea now of what course requirements could look like for an online criminal justice degree program. Keep in mind, though, that class topics may not be the only requirements for some colleges that offer criminal justice. Some schools may require students, even those pursuing an online criminal justice degree, to complete certain aspects of their programs in person. This could mean doing a residency on campus or completing an internship program. Be sure to look into these potential requirements before applying!

What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree

Depending on the level and focus of a criminal justice degree online, you might be able to pursue one of many different careers. One potential option for those with an associate’s degree could be as a police officer. This role has an entry-level education requirement of a high school diploma, but certain employers, notably federal agencies, may require applicants to have completed a college degree.ii Police officers protect the lives and property of civilians, and work to enforce laws, respond to emergencies, and work to solve crimes by pursuing suspects, collecting evidence and investigating crime scenes.i In 2015, they earned a median annual salary of $60,270.vi

Did you know?

The ranks of forensic scientists are expected to grow at a rate much faster than average between 2014 and 2024, with 3800 new jobs expected – an increase of 27%!vii

With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, you may be able to pursue a career as a forensic scientist, provided you studied this field during your program.viii Forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence at crime scenes, using technical processes for evaluating weapons, fingerprints and bodily fluids.ix In 2015, these professionals earned median yearly wages of $56,320.vii

Getting Started

Now that you know a little bit about what it might take to earn a criminal justice degree online, you can start your search for the perfect program for you! Feel free to begin right here on eLearners.com by taking a look at our sponsored listings. If you see any options that look like a good fit, click through to fill out the form and request additional information from each school that catches your eye. We hope you find continued success on your academic journey.


[i] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-2 [ii] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-4 [iii] http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2002/winter/art01.pdf [iv] http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/bachelor.doc [v] http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2008/fall/art01.pdf [vi] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-1 [vii] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm#tab-1 [viii] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm#tab-4 [ix] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm#tab-2

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