Justice Studies Degree and Certificate Program Summaries

Oct 20, 2019

Essential Information

Certificate programs call for less than a year of study, and students often can customize their programs through their choice of electives. Bachelor's programs take four years and may have a built-in concentration, such as community services or homeland security. At the master's level, students develop advanced research, management and analysis skills. They can often create their own plan of study that meets their career goals.

Students could participate in internship opportunities to gain experience in courts, social services departments, or enforcement agencies. In addition, some schools offer online courses for specific career training and master's programs. For admissions, schools often require a high school diploma or GED for undergraduate courses and a bachelor's degree for master's courses.

Undergraduate Certificate in Justice Studies

Justice studies are concerned with protecting citizens, maintaining order, enforcing laws, and reforming people who deviate from the legally allowed range of societal norms. Certificate programs prepare students for entry-level positions in social work and law enforcement by teaching the elements that lead to discord in a society. Criminal justice studies courses teach students about social problems that lead to deviant behaviors and potential violence. Some common coursework includes:

  • Addiction
  • Criminal psychology
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Sociology
  • Terrorism
  • White-collar crime

Bachelor's Degree in Justice Studies

Students in bachelor's degree programs in justice studies learn about terrorism, police actions, and legal ethics. The goal of these programs is to provide an understanding of the relationships among the various parts of the justice system, including the courts, correctional facilities, and law enforcement departments. Programs often offer concentrations, such as criminology, national security, or forensic science.

Depending on a program's concentration, courses could cover topics in homeland protection, correctional facilities, or community services. A few course elective options include:

  • Criminal investigation
  • International drug trades
  • Forensic science
  • Immigration and justice
  • Juvenile justice
  • Sociology of violence

Master's Degree in Justice Studies

Students in master's degree programs in justice studies learn justice theory, legal history, and ethics. Graduates often qualify to work in management roles within drug enforcement, homeland security, police, and corrections departments. A bachelor's degree is required for acceptance into the program, though schools usually accept any major.

Graduate degree programs teach students data analysis and justice theory to better understand concepts related to criminals, victims, and correctional procedures. Students can often concentrate studies with directed electives or follow a specialized course path leading to specializations, such as Internet security or international terrorism. Some core course topics include:

  • Criminology
  • Social conflict
  • Statistics
  • Urban politics
  • Victimology

Popular Careers

Certificates in justice studies provide students with an understanding of the basic principles of conflict that threaten social order. With training specific to a chosen career, graduates of certificate programs find employment in social work and law enforcement. Some examples of entry-level positions include:

  • Police officers and Law enforcement officer
  • Private detectives
  • Records clerks and Legal aides
  • Social services assistant
  • Victim advocate
  • Transportation screening officer

Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics

According to the BLS, the demand for probation officers and correctional specialists was anticipated to experience slower than average change (3% growth rate) from 2018-2028. The top-paying industries for this field as of May 2018 included state and local government agencies as well as other residential care facilities. The BLS reported the mean annual wage of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists at that time was $58,790 per year.

BLS data showed that employment of police officers and detectives was expected to increase 5% from 2018-2028. Police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median annual salary of $61,380 in May 2018. States offering the highest wages included California, Alaska, New Jersey, Washington and Illinois, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

Staying updated on legal issues and correctional procedures is vital to those in positions within the justice system. Advancement opportunities might be offered with further education, and bachelor's degree-holders can earn relevant master's degrees in business administration or justice studies. Depending on a chosen career path, graduate study in criminology, psychology, or counseling could also assist with career promotion.

Those interested in specializing in the theories of criminology and data analysis can continue into justice studies at the doctoral level. Graduates with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree qualify to teach at universities. Alternately, students can choose to enter law school to become an attorney or other specialized professional within the court system.

Degree programs in justice studies are available to students at the certificate, bachelor's and master's levels. After graduating, popular career options include private detectives and social services assistants.

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