Many schools offer degree programs in the study of justice and security, or the related fields of homeland security and security management. Students in associate's and bachelor's degree programs learn about the criminal justice system, examine law enforcement practices and look at how legal proceedings work.
Master's degree programs offer preparation for administrative and leadership roles in law enforcement and justice agencies. Most students are already working professionals who study and conduct research to increase their knowledge of topics such as crisis management and crime prevention.
Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice
An Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice encompasses courses from other disciplines, such as the arts and humanities, while an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice has a more concentrated focus on criminal justice studies. Students are introduced to the criminal justice system on a national, state and local level. They study court policies and procedures, the role of attorneys and judges, court documents, criminal proceedings and the sentencing and appeal process. A high school diploma or the equivalent is typically required to apply.
The program usually covers law enforcement, the judicial system and the corrections system, along with general education requirements. Internships may be required, although students who are pursuing an associate's degree in criminal justice while working in the field may have their internship requirement waived. Students study:
- Criminal law
- Criminal behavior
- Forensic evidence
- Homeland security
Bachelor's Degree in Homeland Security
Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security programs cover basic issues, principles and practices of state, local and federal homeland security and emergency preparedness. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving abilities while studying contemporary theories and concepts related to terrorism, emergency management, legal and ethical issues unique to homeland security, risk assessment, infrastructure and cyber crime. There may be some opportunity for specialization in subfields like terrorism studies, emergency preparedness and management and cyber security and management. Students who apply to the program typically already possess a high school diploma.
In addition to general education requirements, coursework includes core classes in policy, intelligence gathering and information sharing, infrastructure and disaster preparedness. An internship may be required. Students take classes in:
- Fundamental concepts in homeland security
- Homeland security law and ethics
- Emergency planning
- Homeland security technologies
- Introduction to cyber security
Master's Degree in Security Management
Students can earn a Master of Science in Security Management or a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in security management. Both programs train students to be leaders in crisis situations. Preventing physical harm to customers and employees, avoiding theft of physical or intellectual property, damage assessment and accurate reporting in the event of security breaches are at the heart of the degree program. Degree programs stress intensive classroom instruction and are typically intended for working professionals with leadership roles seeking advanced knowledge and skills in emergency planning and preparedness. Students applying to graduate school to study security management should already have a bachelor's degree in a related field like criminal justice or homeland security.
Students complete coursework in informational and organizational security, disaster planning and preparedness and homeland security. A master's thesis or capstone experience may be required. Course topics include:
- Security program assessment
- Analysis and assessment of risk
- Security management fundamentals
- Terrorism and fundamentals of homeland defense
- Security management in theory and principle
Popular Career Options
Students with an associate's degree in criminal justice may qualify for entry-level employment with judicial, corrections or law enforcement agencies. Graduates can seek internships or employment in a number of fields, although for some, additional steps like completing civil service exams may also be required. Career possibilities include:
- Probation officer
- Custodial supervisor
- Parole officer
- Law enforcement agent
- Private security officer
Graduates of justice and security programs may find employment in the fields of loss prevention, law enforcement, homeland security or criminal justice. These are typically roles with some level of leadership or managerial capacity. Career choices include:
- Facility security manager
- Risk analyst
- Intelligence analyst
- Infrastructure analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that police and detectives are expected to have a 4% job growth from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In May 2015, police and sheriff's patrol officers made the median annual salary of $58,320, according to the BLS.
Justice and security degrees are available for students at various degree levels. A student's educational and working background will help determine which programs they can apply for, and their career goals may dictate if they choose a specialization of some sort.