Associate of Criminal Justice: Degree Overview

There are several degree options for students who want to study criminal justice at the associate level. In these programs, students learn about law enforcement protocols and legal practices.

Essential Information

It's possible to earn either an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or an Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice. These 2-year programs are principally offered by community colleges and technical schools, and require a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) equivalent for admission.

Through classroom lectures and practical experiences, students gain knowledge of the American legal system, correctional systems practices, law enforcement tactics and current social issues plaguing the country. Prior to graduation, students must complete an internship.

Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice

In addition to traditional courses, students may participate in cooperative education, which allows them to put theory into practice. Elective courses typically allow students to concentrate their programs in areas such as corrections, law enforcement, criminal courts and juvenile justice. Some topics of study may include:

  • Criminology
  • Corrections
  • Legal aspects of law enforcement
  • Police systems and practices
  • Criminal investigations

Popular Career Options

Graduates have the theoretical knowledge of criminology and investigative skills to qualify for career opportunities within private security, computer forensics and law enforcement. Some popular career titles are:

  • Police officer
  • Clerk
  • Detective
  • Bailiff
  • Sheriff

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of police and detectives is expected to grow at a rate of 4% from 2014-2024. The mean annual salary of police and sheriff's patrol officers was $61,270 as of May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates may pursue immediate employment or choose to further their education. Aspiring police officers are usually required to complete additional training, usually at academies, prior to starting work. Individuals interested in working as probation officers or correctional specialists can seek a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requires their agents to have at least a bachelor's, according to the BLS.

AS and AAS programs in criminal justice provide a basic introduction to legal studies and the law enforcement field. While this education qualifies graduates for some entry-level positions in the legal system, most law enforcement careers require further training in the field.

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