Associate in Applied Science (AAS): Criminal Justice Degree Overview

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program in criminal justice teaches students about the basics of the U.S. government, the legal system and law enforcement. Graduates qualify for entry-level positions in criminal justice agencies, local police departments or related organizations.

Essential Information

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program typically consists of 60 credit hours and takes two years to complete. In some programs, students can select a concentration such as law enforcement, private security or corrections. In addition to lecture-based courses, police academies or internships may be incorporated into these programs. A high school education is generally required for admission to an associate's program. Some schools also require students undergo a criminal background check before they can begin an internship or field experience.

  • Prerequisites: High school diploma, criminal background check
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Specializations: Law enforcement, private security, corrections
  • Other Requirements: Police academy training, internship

Associate in Applied Science: Criminal Justice

Criminal justice students take various social sciences classes, in addition to courses that teach government and law fundamentals. Practical training such as investigating mock crime scenes or completing internships can be combined with classroom lectures. Typical courses include:

  • Sociology, psychology, criminology
  • Forensic science
  • Criminal law and investigations
  • Evidence
  • U.S. government
  • Judicial system

Popular Career Options

Graduates of an associate's degree program in criminal justice can enter into law enforcement, corrections, security or investigations jobs. Criminal justice career options are available in the private and public sectors. Some career options are:

  • Police officer
  • Security guard
  • Private investigator
  • Parole officer
  • Sheriff

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports job availability for police and detectives may increase by 5% between 2012 and 2022. According to the BLS, demand for security guards is likely to increase by 12%, and private detectives and investigators may see a 11% increase in demand over the 2012 to 2022 decade. However, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including parole officers, may see employment decline by one percent over the same period, based on data from the BLS. In 2014, police and sheriff's patrol officers were paid a median salary of $56,810, while security guards earned a median of $24,410, as shown by the BLS' data. The median salary for private investigators was $44,570 in 2014, and probation officers and correctional treatment specialists received median salaries of $49,060 that year, as reported by the BLS.

Continuing Education

Although an AAS degree is intended for students who want to find employment immediately after completing the program, students may decide to pursue their studies in a baccalaureate program in criminal justice. After earning a bachelor's degree, students can also earn a master's degree in criminal justice or apply to law school to obtain more advanced or managerial positions within law enforcement agencies or the legal system.

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