Online degrees in criminal justice build a student’s understanding of the criminal justice system in the U.S. by exploring all of its major components, including law enforcement, the courts, and the correctional system. Since criminal justice is such a broad field, many online schools allow students to specialize in a particular area, such as police studies, homeland security, cyber security, or forensic technology, depending on the career path they are most interested in.
Common course work in an online criminal justice program includes criminology, criminal law, policing, corrections, and juvenile justice, and upper-level courses might involve police and security administration, research methods in criminal justice, and statistical analysis. Elective courses may tackle specialized topics like gang activity, white-collar crime, and violence toward women. While online programs aim to provide a flexible schedule for working adults, the best programs require or encourage internships in a criminal justice setting so that students can gain hands-on skills in an area of interest.
While careers in criminal justice do not always require a degree, postsecondary education is considered desirable in the field, and many who are employed in law enforcement or corrections are eligible for tuition reimbursement for courses and programs that are relevant to their line of work. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice may be the most logical step for experienced criminal justice workers who wish to advance to a position as an administrator or director.
Popular careers for those who have completed criminal justice degrees include police and detectives, private detectives and security, border patrol, corrections officers and jailers, and probation/parole officers. However, other careers might include case managers, criminal justice professors, forensic scientists, crime analysts, and even program directors for recreational activities at youth correctional boot camps and similar facilities.