Administration of Justice Degree Program Overviews

Oct 20, 2019

Administration of justice programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Explore each program, common courses, career options and employment outlook.

Essential Information

An associate's degree program in Administration of Justice prepares participants to enter police academies. The program covers the basics of the U.S. criminal justice system and may offer areas of specialization. Students of a bachelor's degree program could expand their practical criminal investigation skills through the study of criminology and forensic research. Some programs allow students to focus on specific areas, such as forensic investigation, counterterrorism, juvenile justice or criminal counseling. An internship or work seminar may be required. Applicants to a bachelor's program need a high school diploma or equivalent.

A master's degree program is research-focused, and it prepares students for careers in upper management or university instruction. Master's programs may include concentrations in several areas, including management, criminal behavior or international security. This advanced program might require professional experience, in addition to a bachelor's degree, as a condition of admission. The above programs could prepare graduates to pursue careers that include police officers or detectives, federal agents, sheriffs or correctional officers.

Associate of Applied Science in Administration of Justice

Administration of justice is a broad term that encompasses law enforcement, the U.S. court system, corrections and homeland security. Academic programs through college departments of criminology or social sciences prepare students for entry into these fields.

A 2-year degree program may be designed to allow graduates to segue into police academies or law enforcement training. Other options offer specialty tracks, such as legal procedures or forensics, as pathways for continuing academic education.

Due to the inherent risk of danger for many careers in justice administration, coursework may include training in self-defense and firearms. Other topics of study may include:

  • Drug enforcement
  • Juvenile justice
  • Investigation and documentation
  • Criminal law and court procedure
  • Psychology and communications
  • Corrections and social rehabilitation

Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice

While the skills of a detective, commanding officer, federal agent or correctional officer are honed in academy training and work-related experience, these positions usually require a bachelor's degree to ensure strong foundational knowledge and practical skills in areas such as criminal investigation and enforcement, legal justice, security and rehabilitation.

In addition to general education in math, science, writing and communication, administration of justice curricula emphasize sociology, behavioral psychology, cultural studies and foreign language. Core classes center on criminology, the justice system and corrections. Other courses may include:

  • Forensic research and analysis
  • Security and surveillance
  • Global, ecological and cyberterrorism
  • Organized crime and corporate corruption
  • Narcotics investigation and enforcement

Master of Science in Administration of Justice

Advanced positions in criminal justice, security or corrections may require a graduate degree, particularly for positions in highly-specialized fields. While master's programs in criminology, social work or forensic science may be relevant, administration of justice fields of study focus on organizational management and interdepartmental leadership.

Graduate classes focus on research and advanced criminology studies, such as security risk assessment or forensic psychology. In addition, students are also exposed to public administration duties and topics, including:

  • Financial management
  • Human resources
  • Organizational behavior
  • Media relations and communication

Career Options

Special agents are found in a variety of settings ranging from the U.S. Secret Service to State and National Parks Departments. The U.S. Department of Justice statistics reported that of all full-time officers employed by federal agencies, a majority work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or U.S. Immigration Enforcement (

Advanced degrees in administration of justice are primarily designed to advance a career into executive management, political or law enforcement professions. With a foundation in leadership training, master's programs provide qualifications for private, public and governmental positions, including supervisors, directors or chief administrators.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Qualifications of police officers vary by department, state or agency; some need only a high school or GED diploma to be accepted into a police academy, while others require undergraduate coursework or a degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police and detectives will have a predicted average job growth of 5% for the years 2018-2028. Police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median annual salary of $61,380 annually in 2018.

Continuing Education Options

While graduates of an associate degree program may qualify for entry-level positions in several fields, such as administrative support, those looking for specific career options may require further training or education in a particular field. Some positions or employers may demand a bachelor's degree. Graduate studies may assist with those interested in management or academia.

There are associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in administration of justice that give students the skills and knowledge necessary to work in law enforcement. Graduates will have mastered topics like criminal law and investigation methods to prepare for their career.

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