In a two-year criminal justice associate's program, students develop an understanding of the legal system and learn self-defense tactics. Students can also expect to learn about human behavior, improve their written and verbal communication skills, and study why people commit crimes. Some programs allow students to choose an area of interest, such as corrections, security or law enforcement. Students can gain real-world experience through internships and field trips. To enroll in an associate's degree program, a high school diploma or its equivalent is generally required.
Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice
Students often work on class projects and case studies as part of a group. Required courses might include variations of the following:
- Criminal law
- Probation and parole
- Crime and society
- Criminal courts and procedures
- Juvenile delinquency
Popular Career Options
Upon graduation, students can select from a variety of corrections positions in prisons, juvenile centers and related institutions. Certain positions may require that applicants be U.S. citizens at least 18-21 years of age. Individuals may also have to pass oral, written and psychological examinations as well as criminal background checks. Possible career titles may include:
- Correctional officer
- Probation officer
- Parole officer
Employment Opportunities and Salary Information
Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is predicted to grow by 4% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also projected that employment of correctional officers and jailers would increase slower than average, by 4%, during that same time. As of May 2015, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists made a median annual salary of $49,360, and correctional officers and jailers earned a median amount of $40,530, per the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
An associate's degree program may qualify graduates for immediate employment in the field, or it can be used as preparation for 4-year bachelor's degree programs. Although individuals who possess a high school diploma and complete training may be hired as correctional specialists, some states only hire individuals who have completed college coursework. Most states require that probation or parole officers hold a bachelor's degree in psychology, criminal justice or a related area. FBI agents need to possess at least a bachelor's degree as well. In addition to academic training, most law enforcement agencies require employees to complete additional training at academies before beginning field assignments.
While associate's degree programs in criminal justice provide a broad introduction to the field, students who want to pursue related careers may need to get additional training before they seek employment.