The criminal justice system is complex, with many different institutions in its mix, so a degree in criminal justice is recommended if you want to work in law enforcement or really any other area of justice. There are a number of career opportunities in criminal justice at the associate level, which provides an introductory education to the field. In the online associate program, students study the basic policies, procedures, practices, laws, and systems that make up the foundational knowledge of law enforcement, corrections, or criminal law.
Why an Associate Degree?
Associate degrees usually take at least two years of full time study to complete, which is half the time of a bachelor’s degree. Fewer credit hours also mean less tuition, an advantage if you want to minimize costs. You will find a wide selection of online associate programs in criminal justice that allow you to complete your degree in your free time without having to disrupt your current job.
In addition, an associate in criminal justice might be the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to career possibilities. Criminal justice has a variety of careers that require applicants to hold a high school diploma or associate degree, making this postsecondary level a strong choice for students eager to quickly break into the field. With an associate, you can work as a paralegal, law enforcement or corrections officer, or security officer.
Inside a Criminal Justice Associate Degree Program
An online associate in criminal justice will include a combination of general education courses and major courses in criminal justice. General education courses are likely to include work in composition, English, basic math, and a selection of social science, history, and life science courses. Major criminal justice courses include a mix of introductory and intermediate courses in topics like criminology, psychology, criminal law, criminal procedures, and crisis intervention strategies. You can expect class lectures delivered in video format in most cases, with assignments delivered electronically. Assignments include research essays and slideshow presentations, along with regular course exams.
Most associate programs require 60 course credit hours or a minimum of two years (four semesters) of coursework. Many schools also permit students to earn their associate on a part-time basis, especially if lectures and coursework can be completed on a flexible, student-set schedule.
What’s Next for Criminal Justice Associate Degree Holders?
With an online criminal justice associate, you can pursue various opportunities in law enforcement. These include positions in corrections, city or state police, and more. Many law enforcement agencies require a high school diploma and some college coursework, while others might require an associate or even a bachelor’s, so it’s important to confirm the job requirements for the agency of your choice.
A criminal justice associate can also lead to a career as a paralegal or administrator. Paralegals work under attorneys to perform research, keep records, and draft legal documents and must have at least an associate degree. A degree in criminal justice is most useful for paralegals working in a criminal law environment.
If you want to extend your education in criminal justice beyond the associate level, you have the option to do so. Bachelor’s, master’s, and even some doctoral programs are available in this field. Some bachelor’s programs allow you to apply your associate degree credits toward your bachelor’s, also known as a degree completion program. Many of these programs are available online. A bachelor’s program may increase your job prospects, allowing you to compete for law enforcement jobs more aggressively and also makes you all the more qualified for positions at government agencies, which tend to have more stringent educational requirements.