In Associate of Science (AS) programs in criminal justice, students learn about the U.S. legal system, criminology and public policy. Most associate degree programs take two years of full-time study to complete and are offered through numerous vocational schools and community colleges. Before students can start working in law enforcement, they must usually complete 12-14 weeks of training at a police academy or similar institution.
Associate in Science (AS): Criminal Justice Overview
Students in these programs can expect to take courses related to law enforcement, communications, ethics and the legal system. They also learn how communities, crime and the legal system influence each other. Course requirements may include:
- Criminal justice system
- Public affairs
- Police systems
- Constitutional law
- Investigation techniques
Individuals with an AS in Criminal Justice can apply for entry-level careers in law enforcement or corrections at the local and state levels. Popular career options include:
- Police officer
- County sheriff's deputy
- Corrections officer
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for police and sheriff's patrol officers are projected to increase 5% from 2014 to 2024, while job openings for correctional officers are expected to grow 4% in the same ten-year period. Reports of wages provided by the BLS in May 2014 indicate that police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a mean annual salary of $61,270, while correctional officers averaged $45,320 per year.
Credits earned in associate's degree programs in criminal justice may transfer to bachelor's degree programs. A bachelor's degree program in criminal justice can take an additional two years of study for students who have completed an associate's degree program. In these programs, students study topics like parole and probation, police supervision and crime scene investigation. Some schools offer online bachelor's degree programs. Master's and doctoral degree programs in criminal justice are also available. Graduate degree programs focus more on research, theories and policy planning.
Associate's programs in criminal justice cover fundamental topics in corrections, law enforcement and justice administration. Graduates of these programs may consider applying for work as police officers or corrections officers, though both career paths require extensive academy training after being hired. Graduates of associate's programs also have the option of pursuing a bachelor's degree in the field.