Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Criminal Justice Degree Overview

Associate's degree programs in criminal justice offer a comprehensive overview of the field, alongside general education requirements. Once they graduate, students can enter the workforce or pursue further education.

Essential Information

Two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs in criminal justice emphasize studies in different types of crime, the legal system and the behavior of criminals. They can help interested individuals land jobs in law enforcement, security or corrections fields. Specialization options include corrections, police work, legal process and loss prevention.

In general, prospective students need to have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent, but once they enter the workforce, they'll likely need to meet age, physical and background check requirements.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Criminal Justice

The criminal justice curriculum at the associate's degree level typically includes coursework, lab work, seminars and supervised internships. In addition to general education courses, candidates take core courses in criminal justice and electives pertaining to their specialization track. Common course topics include:

  • Criminology
  • White collar crime
  • Criminal justice research
  • Corrections law and liability
  • Forensic science
  • Criminal investigations

Popular Career Options and Job Outlook

Some popular career options for associate's degree graduates include:

  • Police officer
  • Detective
  • Sheriff
  • Bailiff
  • Correctional officer

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of correctional officers and bailiffs was expected to increase 4% percent between 2014 and 2024. Employment for police and detectives was also expected to grow by 4% during that decade ( Further statistics supplied by the BLS indicate that as of May 2015, police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median annual salary of $58,320, correctional officers and jailers $40,530, and detectives and criminal investigators $77,210.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates who don't seek immediate employment after graduation may pursue further education. While an associate's degree, along with experience, may be sufficient for some criminal justice careers, individuals interested in working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation must complete at least a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice or a related field and possess sufficient professional work experience (

Overall, an AAS in criminal justice is a great way for students who want to work in law enforcement to launch their careers. After finishing this degree, they can enter police training programs or pursue further education in the field.

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