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.

Essential Information

Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice programs provide a comprehensive introduction to the field. In some of these two-year programs, students can select a concentration such as law enforcement, private security or corrections. In addition to lecture-based courses, police academy training or internships may be incorporated into these programs. A high school education is generally required for admission. Some schools also require students to undergo a criminal background check before they can begin an internship or field experience.

Associate in Applied Science in 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 may be incorporated into the curriculum. In total, students must complete 60 credit hours prior to graduation. Typical course topics 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 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 4% between 2014 and 2024. According to the BLS, demand for security guards is likely to increase by 5%, and private detectives and investigators may also see a 5% increase in demand over the 2014 to 2024 decade. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including parole officers, may see an employment increase of 4% over the same period, based on data from the BLS. In 2015, police and sheriff's patrol officers were paid a median annual salary of $58,320, while security guards earned a median of $24,630, as shown by the BLS' data. The median annual salary for private detectives and investigators was $45,610 in 2015, and the median annual salary for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $49,360 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 further 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.

Associate of Applied Science programs in criminal justice provide an adequate education for students who want to enter into the field of law enforcement. Graduates are prepared for immediate employment, or they may enter police academies or enroll in bachelor's degree programs for additional study in related subjects.

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