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Criminal Justice Certificate: Program Overview

Whether you're pursuing an undergraduate or graduate certificate in criminal justice, you can do so independently or as part of a degree program. These programs prepare students for working in the criminal justice system and address the roots of crime, violence prevention, the legal system and psychology, among other key issues.

Essential Information

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. These programs could prepare students for careers as police and detectives, probation officers, and correctional officers.


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.

In addition to classroom lectures, criminal justice certificate programs may include guest lectures or tours of correctional facilities. Surveillance, constitutional law, criminology, and family violence are among the topics that may be explored in the curriculum. Additional topics may include:

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

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. Applicants will need to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. A transcript and a minimum GPA might also be required. Programs may include the following coursework:

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police and detectives' jobs were predicted to grow 4 percent during the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). Positions in local police departments are most obtainable in areas with high crime rates, such as urban communities.

In May 2015, the BLS reported a median wage of $49,360 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. The annual median wage for correctional officers and jailers was $40,530 for that same time period, according to the BLS. Private detectives and investigators reported a median wage of $45,610 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.

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.

Undergraduate criminal justice certificate programs analyze crime and its place in society, while graduate-level programs focus on more administrative and leadership topics. Both programs offer areas of concentration so that students are equipped to become police officers, detectives, probation officers and other roles within the criminal justice system.

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