The study of criminal justice examines the policy and practice of enforcing the law. In a criminal justice bachelor’s degree program, you will learn how law enforcement officers and agencies enforce the law, how the system works, and why certain policies and procedures exist. This degree examines different areas of the law as well as ethical and theoretical issues at play in a criminal justice environment. It is a great degree program for those who want a career in the justice system with room for growth.
Why a Bachelor’s Degree?
An online criminal justice bachelor’s degree is a good choice if you want some flexibility and mobility in your law enforcement career. An associate degree, or even a high school diploma, is sufficient for many entry-level law enforcement positions. However, high level positions usually require a combination of experience and education, giving preference to bachelor’s degree holders. Bachelor’s degrees can make you eligible for management positions and those with high-ranking law enforcement agencies with heftier job requirements. Also, budget restrictions and increased interest in law enforcement careers have made for a competitive job market in this field. A bachelor’s degree can make you a more desirable candidate.
Getting Into a Bachelor’s Degree Program
Admissions requirements for bachelor’s degree in criminal justice are similar to those for other undergraduate programs. Most require education and testing materials, but typically, you do not need law enforcement experience:
- High school diploma or its equivalent
- Passing SAT or ACT score
Inside a Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Program
Online bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice usually take four years of full time study to complete. They require at least 120 credit hours of course work in most cases, even though some accelerated programs might be available. Some programs allow you to enroll on a part time basis with flexible scheduling. A part-time program may take longer to graduate, but may be a benefit if you can keep your current job while you study.
During your first semesters, you can expect to take mostly general education courses with some introductory major courses. While you complete classes in writing composition, English, history, math, and science, you will also take a few classes in law, corrections, criminology, and policing. In later semesters, you will take intermediate and some advanced level courses in the field, like ethics in criminal justice, juvenile justice, alternatives to incarceration, criminal justice administration, statistics, and research methods, among others. Most of your classes will involve video lectures or lessons paired with readings and assignments, like research essays or presentations. Some online programs also require you to complete an internship with a local criminal justice agency to earn the degree.
What’s Next for Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Holders?
With an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, you can be eligible for high level law enforcement positions. This degree level can lead to a career as a police detective, which usually requires extensive experience in law enforcement and a bachelor’s degree. You might also consider a career with a federal agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). FBI agents are typically required to have at least three years of law enforcement experience and a bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s degree can also lead to an advanced education in criminal justice. Criminal justice degrees are available at the master’s and even doctoral degree levels. Online master’s degrees in criminal justice are designed to prepare you for career in leadership, program design, and administration in the criminal justice system. A doctoral degree will prepare you for further academic research in the field.