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Criminal Justice Certificate: Program Overview

Learn about certificate programs in criminal justice at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Research admission requirements and coursework for programs at both levels.

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Essential Information

An undergraduate criminal justice certificate program can prepare students for employment in police and correctional work. A graduate criminal justice certificate program is intended for students seeking leadership roles or careers in specialized areas of criminal justice.

While an undergraduate program often requires no more than a high school diploma or its equivalent, graduate-level certificate programs are open to bachelor's degree holders only. Program curricula might include internships or online classes, depending on the individual program and school.

Undergraduate Certificate in Criminal Justice

An undergraduate criminal justice certificate may be offered as a stand-alone credential or may be incorporated into a bachelor's degree program. Certificate programs explore the impact of crime on our society, as well as the causes of crime and delinquency. Surveillance, constitutional law, criminology, and family violence are among the topics that may be explored in the curriculum. In addition to classroom lectures, criminal justice certificate programs may include internship opportunities, guest lectures, or a tour of correctional facilities.

Education Prerequisites

Universities generally require a high school diploma for entry into a criminal justice certificate program. Students may be required to meet with an academic adviser in order to select classes that will provide a thorough understanding of the criminal justice system.

Course Topics

Courses in an undergraduate criminal justice certificate program examine the key areas of our criminal justice system, including our nation's courts and prison systems. Universities may offer certificate courses online. Topics covered can include:

  • Political science
  • Sociology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Criminal procedures
  • Principals of criminal justice
  • Criminal law
  • Gender studies

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police and detectives jobs were predicted to grow five percent during the 2012-2022 decade ( Positions in local police departments are most obtainable in areas with high crime rates, such as urban communities.

In May 2012, the BLS reported a median wage of $48,190 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. The annual median wage for correctional officers and jailers was $39,040 for that same time period, according to the BLS. Private detectives and investigators reported a median wage of $45,740 a year.

Continuing Education Information

Some students earn the undergraduate certificate in conjunction with a bachelor's degree in a related field of study. For those individuals, a graduate certificate or a master's degree in criminal justice could be the next educational step.

When an undergraduate certificate is earned apart from a bachelor's degree, earning a full four-year degree in criminal justice would be the logical progression. Courses in the baccalaureate criminal justice program prepare students for careers in law enforcement, security management, and crime protection.

Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice

A graduate certificate program in criminal justice places an emphasis on developing leadership and problem-solving skills. Topics explored in the program can include causes of crime or judicial administration. Programs may offer concentrations such as forensic criminology or domestic violence prevention. A graduate certificate may be offered as a stand-alone program, but credits earned might also be applicable towards a full graduate degree, such as a Master of Public Administration.

Education Prerequisites

While admission requirements are not as stringent for a graduate certificate as they might be for a graduate degree, applicants will need to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. A transcript and a minimum GPA might also be required.

Course Topics

Coursework in a criminal justice graduate certificate program may be offered in a classroom setting or online. Examples of courses offered include:

  • Corrections
  • Health policy
  • Health service administration
  • Substance abuse
  • Community social psychology
  • Child maltreatment

Continuing Education Information

Students may be qualified to move into a Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) program upon completion of a graduate criminal justice certificate program. A Master of Criminal Justice degree may entail further study of law enforcement, juvenile justice, and correctional systems. A master's degree program may benefit those seeking careers in federal government agencies, management, or research.

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