Associate Degree Programs in Criminal Science: Program Information

Criminal science is a field of study devoted to the scientific processing and analysis of evidence to reconstruct and investigate crime scenes. Learn more about the associate's degree program, common courses and job information.

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Essential Information

Many schools offer associate's degree programs in criminal justice that include courses in criminal science. These programs usually take around two years to complete and give graduates the necessary education needed for police academy training or bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. To enter an associate's degree program, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. Before graduating, students may be required to participate in an internship. In the associate's degree program, students can choose several areas of concentration such as criminal science, criminal investigation or police evidence technology. Most states mandate that law enforcement personnel complete special training programs and be hired through the civil service system. Requirements for work in this field vary by agency.

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Associate Degree in Criminal Science

Students learn to investigate crime scenes through collecting, preserving and analyzing evidence. Some of this training is completed in laboratories with simulated crime scene evidence. Criminal science programs usually have liberal arts requirements in public communications, psychology and the natural sciences. Specific evidentiary techniques covered in most programs include firearms and ballistics identification, fingerprinting and crime scene photography. Some programs also train students in case preparation, criminal law and police communications. Courses include:

  • Legal documentation
  • Evidence collection
  • Criminal justice technology
  • Fingerprinting
  • Forensic science
  • Interview and interrogation techniques

Popular Career Options

Careers in criminal science usually fall under the general umbrella of law enforcement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detectives in most states must be appointed in accordance with civil service regulations ( Furthermore, many professions in this field require applicants to be certified as law enforcement officers by completing a police academy training program. Popular entry-level titles include:

  • Crime scene investigator
  • Insurance and fraud investigator
  • Detective

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS reports that employment for private detectives and investigators from 2014 to 2024 will increase by 5%, which is as fast as average compared to other occupations. In May 2015, the BLS reported that detectives and criminal investigators earned an annual median salary of $77,210.

Continuing Education Information

Those wanting to start a career in criminal science can usually take fewer general education classes and more professional courses through an Associate of Applied Science program. With an associate's degree, students can choose to transition to a four-year bachelor's degree program in related fields, such as criminalistics or criminal science. Alternatively, some associate's degree programs specifically prepare students for transition directly into a police academy program.

Students interested in becoming detectives, investigators or law enforcement can first earn an associate's degree in criminal science before pursuing a bachelor's program or entering a police academy program. Graduates will have the foundational knowledge of forensic science, criminal justice and public communications required to work entry-level jobs.

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