Online bachelor's and master's degree programs in criminal justice are available. Bachelor's degree programs typically focus on criminology and the justice system through didactic coursework. While many programs are available completely online, some may require an in-person practicum or in-person exams. Master's degree programs are typically more research-intensive than bachelor's degree programs; some graduates may go on to teach at community or junior colleges.
The requirements for becoming a police officer or law enforcement worker, including any educational requirements, vary by police department or agency. Check with your local department before choosing an educational program.
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degrees
Many universities offer bachelor's degrees in criminal justice or justice administration. These programs teach students the history of criminal justice, the practice of law enforcement and the scientific techniques used in criminal justice.
Program Information and Requirements
With a minimum of 120 credit hours required for completion, these programs include general education requirements, like mathematics, science and English courses, in addition to courses specific to criminal justice and law enforcement. Some programs require that students travel to a specified location for completion of proctored examinations.
Criminal Justice Courses
These programs help students to explore the nature of crime, the psychology behind criminal behavior and victimology. Online courses include an overview of institutionalized corrections, research and data analysis.
This course helps students to identify the various categories of crime, from white-collar to organized crime, as well as those involving property and crimes of a violent nature, including sexual crimes. Students learn about the methods used in explaining and measuring crime rates.
Students taking courses on the corrections side of law enforcement learn how institutionalized handling of corrections and other trends affect how corrections personnel do their jobs. From treatment philosophies to techniques used in corrections, students gain an understanding of the sociological factors that affect the field of corrections.
Research Methods in Criminal Justice
In the study of research methods, students explore the design and measurement of social science research projects. Students study interpretations of these projects and how they relate to crime and justice.
Law enforcement personnel, including police officers, are often required to have, at the very least, a high school diploma, although many agencies require applicants to have degrees. An online bachelor's degree program prepares a student for employment at the local, state or federal levels in policing, community corrections or in the court systems. Police and sheriff's patrol officers earned an average of $61,270 per year according to May 2015 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
Master's degree programs in criminal justice are available online and in face-to-face format. Earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or criminology can help prepare students to earn a law degree and start a career as a lawyer. Graduate-level programs may be available online, although most are offered in the traditional format. Students may be able to complete their studies within two to four years.
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Master of Science in Criminal Justice Degree Programs
A Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree includes courses in white collar and violent crimes, policy making and theory that work to explain why crimes are committed. In many schools, a Master of Science degree in criminal justice or justice administration may be available either online or on campus. Such programs may take anywhere from one to two years to complete.
Criminal Justice Courses
Online law enforcement courses are largely lecture-based. Some of these courses may require students to complete group projects as they learn to analyze statistics and theory to gain an understanding of the legal system.
Criminal Justice System Overview
Students begin an examination of the societal forces at work in the criminal justice system in this course. Students look at the relationships between police, courts, offender rehabilitation and other systems involved in the criminal justice system.
Crime and Delinquency
An exploration of the factors involved in the commission of criminal acts, from a psychological and sociological perspective. Students learn how theory applies to offender treatment, and efforts to prevent and control crime.
White Collar Crime and Justice
Some courses focus on white collar crime, giving students an overview of the nature of the crime, liability and the history of law enforcement's attempts to reduce corporate crime. This course includes an examination of regulations and theories meant to control and explain why white-collar crime occurs. Students examine topics like political corruption and securities fraud.
Graduates with a Master of Science in Criminal Justice may find employment in administrative positions in law enforcement or may be qualified to teach at the college level after earning of a graduate teaching certificate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2015, there were 14,560 post-secondary teachers and professors of criminal justice and law enforcement. The average annual income for those instructors was $64,460 (www.bls.gov).
Fully online programs in criminal justice can be found at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Courses offered typically include criminal justice, institutional corrections, criminology and research methods. Depending on their education level, graduates might find work as law enforcement and corrections officers or postsecondary teachers.