Associate's degree programs usually prepare students for entry-level positions in corrections facilities. In a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice, students explore criminal justice theories and the role of the legal system in society. Bachelor's programs may include a corrections concentration. Both associate's and bachelor's programs require a high school diploma or its GED equivalent for admission.
Master's degree programs allow students to conduct research in the field, looking at issues such as juvenile crime and how prisons handle aging inmates. Graduate admission requirements include a bachelor's degree in a related area of study, typically in the social sciences. Other requirements include satisfactory scores on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test and letters of recommendation.
Associate of Applied Science in Correctional Science
The curriculum explores corrections in the United States, including corrections administration, juvenile correction, and inmate supervision and rehabilitation. Students learn methods for maintaining a safe work environment in corrections facilities, deterring crime and developing plans to reintroduce inmates to the population.
A course in corrections laws examines legal issues facing corrections officers and administrators, including the human rights of inmates and a survey of the United States Constitution. Coursework in criminalistics introduce students to methods of obtaining and preserving evidence at a crime scene.
Coursework covers a broad range of criminal justice courses, including temporary corrections facilities and adult education in corrections. Topics of discussion in coursework include:
- Operations management
- Civil liability
- Court procedures
- Elements of crime
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
Offered with the option to choose corrections as a concentration area, a criminal justice bachelor's program explores the criminal justice system in the United States and the role of corrections in the deterrence, prevention and punishment of crime. Subject areas include criminal justice theories, philosophies, management and research. Other areas of focus include issues in juvenile justice, the planning of crime deterrence programs, United States criminal laws and community-based corrections. Courses in the corrections concentration cover penal law and the management of corrections facilities.
Students learn to manage the daily operations of a corrections facility through coursework in administration, management, planning and evaluation. Other course topics include:
- Philosophies of punishment
- Civil rights
- Case management
- Juvenile delinquency
Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Designed to educate leaders in the criminal justice system, the program includes studies in criminal justice policies, procedures and program planning. The criminal justice curriculum includes an examination of the causes of crime, including socioeconomic and psychological factors that contribute to crime, and intervention methods that deter crime. Topics of discussion include the juvenile justice system, social control, criminal behavior and a survey of jails in America. Students might complete a research project or thesis and comprehensive examinations towards the close of the program.
The corrections track prepares students to take on leadership positions in corrections facilities, including managing inmates and leading continuing education, counseling and rehabilitation programs. Course topics might include:
- Criminal justice ethics
- Aging populations
- Re-entry programs
- Transformational leadership
- The death penalty
Popular Career Options
Careers for graduates range from jobs in law enforcement to managerial positions in correctional facilities. Graduates also find jobs in corrections facilities, non-profit organizations, government agencies and more. Possible job titles include:
- Corrections officer or administrator
- Youth corrections administrator
- Police department administrator
- Parole or Probation officer, or Law enforcement officer
- Truant officer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job decline of 7% percent for bailiffs, correctional officers and jailers from 2018-2028. As of May 2018, bailiffs earned a mean annual salary of $49,870, and corrections officers and jailers as a group earned a mean of $49,300.
According to the BLS, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists could expect a 3% increase in job openings from 2018-2028 The BLS reported a median annual salary of $53,020 for these professionals as of May 2018.
Graduates can enroll in police academies and corrections training programs to pursue careers as a law enforcement or corrections officer. Graduates of bachelor's or master's programs who want to pursue a career in research or teaching at the college level can enroll in a doctoral (Ph.D.) program in a related area. Degree options include a Ph.D. in Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Criminology, Law and Society.
Graduates are also eligible to sit for credentialing examinations offered through the American Correctional Association (ACA). The ACA offers adult, juvenile, provisional and security threat group certifications. In all, the ACA offers certification in 12 areas, including the certified corrections executive, certified corrections manager/juvenile and certified corrections officer/provisional designations.
Correctional science degree programs at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels prepare students for numerous criminal justice careers. While associate's and bachelor's programs cover essential topics and can lead to entry-level positions, master's programs are more research-oriented and may qualify graduates for leadership opportunities.