Earning an Online Criminal Justice Associates Degree

You’re looking into earning a Criminal Justice Associates Degree Online because you’re interested in jumpstarting a career in a field that involves community leadership, problem solvingi and decision-making.ii Or maybe you’re fascinated by the workings of the legal and justice systems in America.iii

Some students are interested in this field because criminal justice workers help protect citizens and their property. Regardless of your specific motivation, you’re looking for a career that helps make the world a safer and more just place for everyone. Earning a criminal justice associates degree online can be a great way to prepare yourself to pursue this kind of career.

Criminal Justice Associates Degree Online Essentials

An associates degree is a good way for students to jumpstart their education with a commitment to just about two years of full-time study, which generally works out to about 20 courses.iv

In criminal justice, there are a few ways these programs might be laid out. A transfer associate’s degree could be fairly common for this field. In this type of program, students might take general education classes with some criminal justice coursework mixed in. Students are then set up to transfer into a full-scale bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice with many of their requirements already fulfilled. Transfer degree programs may often be given the titles Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice, Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, or something similar.

Another type of program you might come across when looking into associate criminal justice degrees is the occupational degree. Occupational degrees focus on preparing students to pursue careers, rather than another degree, after graduation. You might see these programs listed under titles such as Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice – “applied” or “occupational” may indicate a program with a focus on career preparation. Rather than focusing on general education, courses in these programs may correspond to the roles and responsibilities of specific criminal justice careers.

Coursework for an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

There may be a number of different pathways you can take to earning a criminal justice associate degree online. Criminal justice is a far-reaching field, and could include topics that might prepare you for a number of different academic or career pursuits. Be sure to look at the curriculum of each school you’re considering to see what options they might offer their students. Potential examples of some class topics could include one or more of the following:

  • Criminal procedure Ethics of criminal justice
  • Criminal law
  • Homeland defense
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Criminology
  • Systems of policing
  • Correctional systems
  • Criminal justice for juveniles
  • The American court system
  • Law enforcement

If you choose a transfer degree program, you may also have to take general education requirements. These could help you become a more well-rounded student and might include some of the following:

  • Writing
  • Public speaking
  • Computer science
  • Decision-making techniques
  • Leadership
  • Personal finance
  • Mathematics
  • Psychology

Keep in mind that curriculums vary from program to program, so if there are any specific classes you’d like to take while earning a criminal justice associate degree online, be sure to contact the schools you’re considering before applying.

Offline Learning for a Criminal Justice Associates Degree Online

While most online degree programs in criminal justice may use mostly virtual instruction, some schools may offer the opportunity for some in-person learning. This could take the form of activities such as the following.

  • hands-on work in a prison
  • interactive work in a forensics lab
  • participation in a courtroom
  • or an internship with a state or federal agency

If this is something you’re interested in doing, don’t hesitate to reach out to schools to see what their options might be. You may want to do this regardless, as some schools feature offline aspects of their programs as requirements. If this might affect your ability to complete a degree, you may want to know about it before applying.

After Earning Your Associates Criminal Justice Degree

As mentioned earlier, career paths after earning an associates degree may be varied. Depending on your personal goals and the path you take to earn your degree, there may be a number of career paths that you’d prefer to look into.

One potential career pursuit might be as a police officer or detective.i Police officers generally patrol a certain area, arrest suspected criminals, and issue warnings or citations.iii Detectives may investigate crimes, assembling evidence in order to convict criminals.ii People in either role must have good judgement, communication skills, and physical fitness.i

Keep in mind that not all police officer and detective roles require an associate’s degree. Some may simply require a high school diploma as entry-level education, though, others, notable federal agencies, may prefer candidates with collegiate experience. Potential detectives and police officers may typically have to pass a training academy before entering their role.i In 2015, the median annual wages for police officers and detectives were $60,270.v

Another potential career pursuit might be as a private detective or investigatorvi Similar to police officers, these workers may be qualified with a high school diploma, but may sometimes need to earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Depending on the state, private detectives may also need to be specially licensed.vi In 2015, they earned a median annual salary of $45,610.vii

Some careers in criminal justice might require education beyond an associate’s degree, so be open-minded about the potential to transfer your associates degree in criminal justice into a bachelors degree program. This might help prepare you to pursue careers such as forensic science technician.viii

Starting Your Search for a Criminal Justice Associates Degree Online

Now that you’ve got an idea of what it might take to complete a criminal justice associates degree online, you can start looking into what your options might be. You can begin right here on eLearners.com by taking a look at our sponsored listings. Check them out and, if you see any you think might be a perfect fit for you, feel free to click through to learn more. You can even fill out a form to request more information directly from the schools and wait for school recruiters to reach out to you. Be sure to ask what course-related and other requirements they might have so you can find what you’re looking for!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-4 [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.01#WorkActivities [iii] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-2 [iv] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2002/winter/art01.pdf [v] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-1 [vi] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm#tab-4 [vii] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm#tab-1 [viii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm#tab-4