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Associates in Criminal Justice Degree Program Overviews

Criminal justice is becoming an in-demand field, and in some cases, college coursework is required for law enforcement positions. Learn about the curriculum of an associate's program in criminal justice, as well as career and continuing education information for graduates.

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Essential Information

Students interested in two-year criminal justice associate's programs have a couple of different academic paths. An Associate of Arts (AA) in Criminal Justice degree program has general education requirements that involve more English, language and writing courses. Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice studies are anchored in the humanities, science, and math. Applicants to criminal justice degree programs need to provide high school transcripts and some schools request ACT or SAT scores.


Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Corrections Admin
  • Corrections, Probation, and Parole
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  • Criminal Science
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  • Juvenile Corrections
  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Police Science and Law Enforcement
  • Securities Services Mgmt
  • Security and Theft Prevention Services

Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice

A criminal justice associate's degree program teaches students to navigate the legal system, examine evidence, work with juvenile offenders and handle prisoners humanely. Additional training may need to be completed for some positions in the criminal justice field. The concentration options for an AA degree in criminal justice versus an AS degree in criminal justice are similar. Both cover loss prevention and policing. Students learn about theoretical and practical approaches to criminal corrections and legal processes. Some classes students can expect to find in a criminal justice program include:

  • Corrections and juvenile delinquency
  • Constitutional law
  • Criminal investigation and criminal procedures
  • Criminal law and evidence laws
  • Forensic science
  • Legal research

Popular Career Options

Graduates of criminal justice associate's degree programs can find entry-level positions in law enforcement and security. Some positions may require additional training or certification.

  • Corrections officer
  • Police officer
  • Private investigator
  • Special investigations
  • Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) screening officer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Police officers are projected to see 5% growth in employment opportunities from 2014-2024, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary for police and sheriff's patrol officers was $58,320 in May 2015. It's important to keep in mind that police officers complete extensive training academies as part of the hiring process, and a degree isn't always required for employment.

Continuing Education Information

Bachelor's and master's degree programs in criminal justice are available for those wishing to further pursue a career in law enforcement. A bachelor's degree is required for admittance to law school and opens up career opportunities in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Criminal justice associate's programs can prepare students for entry-level positions with law enforcement agencies. Graduates can also pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in order to go to law school or increase their career prospects.

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