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Associate of Science (AS): Criminal Justice Degree Overview

An Associate of Science (AS) program in criminal justice provides students with a basic understanding of criminal behavior and the operation of the legal system. These programs are widely available at community colleges and technical schools.

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Essential Information

Through lecture sessions and hands-on experiences, students in a criminal justice associate's program develop insight into police strategies, types of crime, and methods of research. Some programs offer concentrations in areas such as corrections, security or law enforcement. First-time students and professionals already working in law enforcement may enroll in these programs. A high school diploma or its equivalent is generally required for admission.


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Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice

Within a criminal justice program, students learn biological and sociological theories, criminal law principles, and decision-making skills. Many AS programs in criminal justice are available at community colleges and technical schools. They can lead to a bachelor's degree or entry-level jobs in law enforcement and related occupations. Some professions in the criminal justice field may require further training.

In addition to general education courses, students complete required courses such as:

  • Criminology
  • Criminal justice
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law

Popular Career Options

Graduates of an AS in criminal justice program have the investigative skills and research methods to work within local, state, and federal law enforcement organizations. Program graduates may work as:

  • Police officers
  • Correctional officers
  • Security personnel
  • Probation officers
  • Criminal investigators

Employment Outlook

From 2014-2024, police officers were projected to see a 4% increase in job opportunities, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Mean annual wages were $61,270 for police and sheriff's patrol officers in May 2015. The top-paying industry for police officers was the state government that year.

Continuing Education Information

Completion of an associate's degree program in criminal justice can be a step toward completion of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. These programs teach theoretical and practical knowledge about crime and the criminal justice system, helping students broaden their understanding of complex societal issues and increase their career opportunities.

Bachelor's holders may continue their educations by enrolling in graduate programs in criminal justice or related areas. Within a master's degree program, students learn theoretical and specialized knowledge, along with basic research methods and analytical techniques used to understand the effectiveness of the current legal and justice systems. Ph.D. programs emphasize scientific research methodology and high-level specialized knowledge, preparing students for careers in academia or research.

An associate's program in criminal justice can prepare students for entry-level careers in corrections, security, or probation, among other options. However, students should be aware that training academies or extensive on-the-job training are typically required for these positions. Graduates may also continue on to a bachelor's program in the field.

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